Classic Scene: ‘Shower Scene’
Dir. Alfred Hitchcock
The Scene: After stealing $40,000 from her employer, Marion Crane has taken a break at the out of the way Bates Motel. She has been wrestling with her conscience throughout the past few scenes and as she prepares to step into the shower, she finally resolves to come forward and do the right thing. As she stands under the hot water, you get a sense she is feeling rejuvenated as her conscience begins to clear. Abruptly Bernard Hermann’s classic score cues up and the shower curtain are ripped back. An unseen figure is has intruded into Marion’s peaceful moment and begins repeatedly stab the young woman in a tense, disorienting, and downright terrifying moment. In the end Marion Crane lies dead with her lifeless eyes staring right at the viewer as the camera slowly pans out.
The Deconstruction: This scene shows the brilliance of the Master of Suspense in so many ways. First and foremost, Janet Leigh had billed top billed as playing Marion Crane, thus audiences had gone into the movie expecting her to be the main character. And here in the first act of Psycho she is already the victim of “Ms. Bates”. As if the act of killing Marion was not shocking enough, Hitchcock had spent hours meticulously plotting out the scene to truly leave a lasting impression. The editing comes at a rapid pace as we see quick glimpses of the knife, the victim, the killer, and blood dripping down the drain. It is disorienting and the audience is not quite sure what they are seeing at any given second. One film censor cited Hitchcock one nudity he swore he saw in this scene, even though Leigh was wearing a body suit, so no such exposure was possible. This combined with the quick punches of Bernard Hermann’s music, keeps audiences on the edge of their seat until it’s finally over and we see the carnage left in the wake of the murder.
Best Bit: Blood mixed with water circling down the shower drain as the scene finally allows the viewer to catch their breath. In a way we can kind of relax that it’s over, but this serves as a reminder of the horror we just witnessed. Every filmmaker and make-up artist in the business has their own recipe for blood, but in the case of Psycho, Hitchcock opted for chocolate syrup as it showed up as the correct color shade for the black and white film.