Anthony Perkins did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Norman Bates in Psycho.
I suppose I should say that there will be spoilers in this review but really I should say just watch the film already. Also I would say this is one film that is quite difficult to go in completely fresh due to its constant examination. I would say that the original time I did watch the film I somehow or another was actually not aware of the twist of the film.There is not point in discussing this performance without discussing the twist of film though as Perkins's whole performance is intertwined with the revelation so completely. The revelation being of course that it is Perkins's Norman Bates who is the titular Psycho the film refers to.
This is a performance that very much only improves on initial viewing as the true nature of his character comes to life there is an even greater effect to Perkins's portrayal of Norman. When we first see Norman in the film almost thirty minutes in as Marion Crane accidentally ends up on an off rode where the Bates motel resides. Norman's entrance to the proceedings is pretty unassuming as he runs down from his rather eerie looking house to help Marion check into the motel. Perkins is certainly not his charming young man as he was in films like the Actress, and Friendly Persuasion, he is not completely opposed to those parts in just this first scene though.
Perkins is excellent in his first scene in that he shows Norman not to be necessarily something seriously wrong with him. Yes Perkins does not act as though Norman is perfectly normal though either as there is just the right amount of nervousness in his performance. Perkins makes Norman nervous and shy here, but it does not appear that there really is anything particularly wrong with him other than he probably does not talk to many people often, and certainly not very often to a beautiful woman. Perkins's properly gives no reason to suggests that here Norman is a murderer, making the revelations later on far more effective because of this.
Quickly though when Norman sits down with Marino for a meal after having a fight with his "mother" do we see more to Norman. Perkins is absolutely outstanding in his delivery of Norman's discussion about his hobby of taxidermy as well as his feelings about his mother. Perkins in regards to Taxidermy has the strangest glint in his eyes about stuffing dead things that enjoys to look at that is quite off putting, what makes it even more remarkable though is that Perkins still does well in suggesting that well Norman may be a bit odd he is not necessarily dangerous. This comes from the moment in which stuff as dog or cat portraying a softness to Norman.
Of course that is not the case when he speaks about his mother where Perkins is absolutely brilliant. Here there is the darkness that is Norman in his very unhealthy relationship to his mother. Perkins's performance here is layered in a way in which it comes off as really two both distinctly effective ways in both the initial viewing as well as any viewings after knowing all about the film. In the initial film Perkins is excellent in his depiction of Norman's love hate relationship with his mother. He shows a fierce connection to her that is quite off putting. Perkins suggest Norman is very much his mother's son and loves her deeply, to the point of over protection, but at the same time there is venom of the way he speaks of her that is hateful.
On the initial viewing is able to portray Norman as having a strange connection with his mother, but still he gives nothing away. On the other hand after watching the film this scene is made even more chilling by knowing exactly what his true relationship is with his mother. Norman has in fact already murdered his mother some time ago and has developed a split personality with half of himself being his mother. His lines such as "A Boy's best friend is his mother" or "We all go a little mad sometimes" with his slight smile have a whole extra level of terrifying implication in that he speaking of his own psychotic half. When it seems he is almost ready to become violent over talk of institutions, Perkins cleverly shows us Norman almost becoming the psychopath right there.
Perkins is quite incredible in the role by never being just a villain as Norman, and at times even becoming somewhat sympathetic in the scenes where Norman discovers people has killed while believing that it was his "mother" who in fact killed them. Perkins is authentic is portraying Norman's fear over what his "mother" has done as well as that the police will be coming for his mother. Perkins is great in the scenes where he tries to avoid questions regarding to Marion, and he effectively portraying the tension within Norman as he attempts to keep them away from finding out the truth of what has occurred.
The amazing thing about this performance is that although the character is commonly mentioned as one of the most memorable cinematic serial killers. The thing is you never really see Perkins kill anyone, and you only see him twice as the killer side of Norman. Perkins is flawless in his depiction of the man who has the killer within him, and through this subtly creates an unforgettable psychopath. Although most of his scenes are as the "normal" Norman he does have his two scenes that are very particular the first being quite brief but the second might be his strongest scene in the whole film. It is a silent scene for Perkins as he stares forward in what appears to be a look of confusion and fear of his fate. This slowly becomes a devilish smile. In this scene Perkins goes from the man to the psychopath in a truly horrifying moment. His final stare is truly the final statement on the terrifying nature of Bates, and a perfect end to this flawless performance.