Murder and Mother, darling – “Psycho” by Robert Bloch
Having read the book, I now know exactly what he meant.
As good of a film as “Psycho” is (and yes, it’s an amazing one) it owes everything to the original novel. Bloch’s “Psycho” laid the groundwork for what would become one of the most revered movies of all time – as well as for a string of less-successful sequels, in both novel and film form.
Hitchcock was smart enough to know a good thing when he read it.
Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates is a chilling cinematic monster, but Bloch’s novel delves deeper into the psyche of Norman Bates, as well as more into his backstory. The death of Mother Bates isn’t heavily focused on in the film, but her living domination of her awkward son, as well as her death and “second life” are brought to startling life here. We also get glimpses into his thoughts, and the struggle taking place in him between the personalities trying to take over his mind. In addition, the reader gets to know more about Mary Crane (the character played by Janet Leigh in the film) as well as the characters of Sam Loomis and Lila Crane, who are pretty one-note in the movie.
Probably the biggest difference between the book and the movie is the description of Norman Bates himself. In the novel, Norman is an overweight middle aged man who drinks when he’s under pressure. As you can see in the still below, the film Norman (though still awkward and incredibly creepy) was more normal, and dare I say – gasp – attractive? (My husband disagrees with me on the “attractive” part, and says Norman Bates is just creepy all-around.)
The other big difference involves a certain infamous shower scene, but… I’ll stop there and make you read it for yourselves.
Though I’m a lifelong fan of the movie, I have to say I think I enjoyed the book even more. It felt like a richer experience. Much like the Stanley Kubrick version of “The Shining,” Hitchcock’s stamp is so evident on the film that sometimes the actual story gets lost in the shuffle. Reading the novel made me pay attention to people and events, and I saw the story in a slightly different way.
(Isn’t it horrifying to know that “Psycho” was originally inspired by Ed Gein, who in 1957 was arrested for three murders, as well as for grave-robbing? When the police searched his house, they found loads of body parts and other horrifying paraphanelia. Gein also served as the inspiration for Leatherface, of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, as well as Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. Ew.)
Sometimes the line between real horror and fiction horror is thin, and blurry.
To end this post happily, I was delighted to hear that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will be playing the score to Psycho along with a showing of the film on November 19th as part of their “Friday Night at the Movies” series. Imagine hearing the famous shower scene music played by a live orchestra! Shazam!