Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1960: Anthony Perkins in Psycho

Anthony Perkins did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Norman Bates in Psycho.

Psycho, aside from the psychiatrist monologue, is a masterpiece of horror. The beginning of the film depicts a woman Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) who steals money from her employer's client, she goes on the run to meet up with her lover, but on the way is stays at the secluded Bates motel.

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.


Anonymous said...

I agree completely. One of the greatest performances and films of all time.

RatedRStar said...

is there a reason tht he didnt get nominated, because im surprised Janet Leigh did and not Perkins.

Anyway I truly love this performance and Anthony Perkins seems like such a lovely guy tht ud never believe him as a killer and thats what I think works the best about the film, good work as always Louis =).

Louis Morgan said...

Well Perkins was not very popular with the few precursors of the time. I think it was actually a case of probably being to good, and the academy did not wish to vote for such an unsettling character.

As for the other nominees they each had their place, Lancaster was the favorite, Lemmon was the best picture winner lead, Tracy and Olivier were both academy favorites. Howard was in a best picture nominee as well, and the academy probably figured they should nominate him some time.

Tanvir Bashar said...

Do u think psycho deserved best picture

Louis Morgan said...


Tanvir Bashar said...

In ur opinion wat r the top ten best horror movies of all time tht u watched

Louis Morgan said...

1. Jaws
2. Alien
3. The Night of the Hunter
4. Psycho
5. I Saw the Devil
6. 10 Rillington Place
7. The Innocents
8. The Exorcist
9. Halloween
10. Bride of Frankenstein

Antonio Djordjevic said...

what are your thoughts on Janet Leigh, did she deserve to win that year or some are saying that she deserved a lead nomination...?

Tanvir Bashar said...

Which directors wud u say r hitchcock contemporaries

Louis Morgan said...

Antonio: She would have been a fine winner, although I do think she was technically lead.


Hitchcock almost stood alone as no other director was likely as known by the public as he was. His focus on one main genre, while being extremely popular in that genre, also makes him really stand out alone. Directors like Billy Wilder and Stanley Donan did Hitchcock like pictures but that might have been one of out of so many. I'd say his truest contemporary would have to be Henri-Georges Clouzot.