Musings on Psycho Idea for a comedy sketch that probably wouldn’t work: It’s the intro of the megapopular

80’s sitcom Cheers, and it opens with a woman walking – or falling – down the basement stairs that lead to the bar where Sam and the gang are watching the drama from inside, when the door flies open and in staggers Anthony Perkins, complete in wig, skirt, and heels, dressed as his mother as in the 1960 movie, Psycho, clutching the knife above his head, and as Bernard Hermann’s Shostakovich-inspired music shifts into that characteristically menacing and repeated chord, everybody shouts; Norm! Note; The screenplay, based on the novel by Robert Bloch, was written by Joseph Stefano who also produced, wrote and collaborated on a number of the scripts for the original series of The Outer Limits, seen in the UK in 1964 on ITV, when Granada Television screened the first 34 episodes. BBC2 transmitted all 49 episodes in 1981-82. And I missed them all because I was 22 and didn't have a TV and didn't know they were on. ...Then he kills Frazier before he can go off and star in his own offshoot series with his equally annoying psychiatrist brother, Niles, and Daphne Duck, the home help. There’s a dark undercurrent of black humour in that movie that is easily missed, such as Janet Leigh responding that ‘Every man needs a hobby,’ when Perkins/Bates tells her about his liking for taxidermy – scooping out the insides of small birds and stuffing them with sawdust – along with his dead mother. Of course, when I saw the movie as a kid in the late 60’s and later, as well as reading the novel, the overt connection between cruelty to animals and serial killers hadn’t yet been made, which is intriguing – (though Norman’s rather macabre pastime is more indicative of his preoccupation with death and putrefaction); nor had the term ‘serial-killer’ been coined. The weird thing about the film is that in the scene where the private detective – dick – climbs the stairs inside the large creepy mansion on the hill where Norman Bates’ alter ego lives, and ‘his mother’ darts out of her bedroom and stabs the detective in the chest with her big knife and he falls backwards down the flight of stairs and she follows him and crouches down and bends over him and stabs him to death, she has a woman’s hips.

Now that’s what I call creepy (I wonder if Ed Gein had a sense of humour... Somewhere along the line he lost it. Or it got blacker and blacker along with his mind). What’s even creepier is that the movie opens with Janet Leigh having an illicit affair of sorts – she’s in a man’s bedroom and it’s clear they’ve spent the night together or consummated the latest dirty deed shortly before. The implication is she’s a bit of a ‘good time girl', a woman of the world; the impression further reinforced when she takes off with $40,000 from her boss’ safe. Later, when her sister and dull honest and worthy but hunkadelic bo have tracked her down to the Bates Motel, they’re just as mundanely worldly in their interpretations, believing Bates/Perkins has bumped her off for the money, whereas he is of course, far more interestingly, nay, spectacularly criminal/screwed-up. But it’s still as if the undercurrent, the unspoken subtext is that if you carelessly, blithely, indulge in sex, this is what could happen to you, as well as what you deserve and that women who indulge in sex are also more likely to be thieves and murderers who may also get what is coming to them. Sex is seen as sex-crime and criminals deserve to die, and Norman – who is also a voyeur, another sex-maniac, a crazy perv, with his hole in the wall, watching her as she strips for her shower, is just the unhinged fruitloop to do it, and put her out of our misery and resentment over her wasted, self-centred, amoral life. Or as Jack The Ripper might have put it, ‘Die, filthy bitch whore.’ As she lies dead in the shower, the close up of her eye makes it look almost alien, like some beautiful and exotic insect, as alien as we now see her in all her unknowable, tragic deadness as the camera pans out from her. To her sister and one-dimensional bo, she’s just dead, in the same way that money is money and people’s motivations are plain, simple, and transparent; murderer, thief, and good upstanding folks alike.

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