PSYCHO 3 AND PSYCHO 4: THE BEGINNING- A TWO-FOR-THE-PRICE-OF-ONE JOINT REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
PSYCHO 3. 1986. BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY ROBERT BLOCH. DIRECTED BY ANTHONY PERKINS. WRITTEN BY CHARLES EDWARD POGUE. STARRING ANTHONY PERKINS, JEFF FAHEY AND DIANA SCARWID.
PSYCHO 4: THE BEGINNING. 1990. BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY ROBERT BLOCH. DIRECTED BY MICK GARRIS. WRITTEN BY JOSEPH STEFANO. STARRING ANTHONY PERKINS, C.C.H. POUNDER, OLIVIA HUSSEY AND HENRY THOMAS.
The late great director Alfred Hitchcock kicked off this whole hoop-la in 1960 when he brought Robert Bloch’s novel PSYCHO to the big screen in spectacular style. The original movie famously marked a new beginning for cinema in terms of how much gore, violence and sexual deviancy directors were allowed to show the viewers in their work.
The sequel, filmed three years after Alfred Hitchcock’s death in 1980, is a fantastically fun romp of which I’m convinced Hitchcock would have whole-heartedly approved. It even stars the lovely Vera Miles, reprising her role as Marion Crane’s younger sister Lila who’s hellbent on making Norman pay for his crimes. I can honestly say it’s the most fun I’ve ever had watching a sequel, and one of those rare occasions on which, for me, the sequel actually surpasses the brilliant original.
PSYCHO 3 takes up the story literally only a month or so where PSYCHO 2 left off. Norman is still living in the big creepy house above the Bates Motel. He has a new ‘Mother’ installed in the front bedroom and she’s bossing her little Normie around just like he’s used to (and comfortable with, haha.) He also has a nosey reporter shadowing him and trying to ferret out the whereabouts of a missing old lady about whom I shall say nothing further, heh-heh-heh…
Norman has a new temporary motel manager too, the handsome Duane Duke, and a new tenant-slash-friend in the form of mentally-disturbed runaway nun Maureen Coil. Maureen is ably played by Diana Scarwid, who is also known for portraying Joan Crawford’s grown-up daughter Christina in the famously uncomplimentary biopic, MOMMIE DEAREST (1981).
The funniest scene in this film is when suicidal Sister Maureen thinks that Norman, all dressed up as his Ma with a big old glinty knife in his hand, is the Virgin Mary come to save her. Boy, is she way off…! Another hilarious scene is when Mother goes missing after a police raid on the Bates house. Norman’s running around the house frantically searching for her when he finds a note from her telling him that she’s in Cabin Twelve of the motel. What the hell does Norman find when he gets to Cabin Twelve? You’ll have to watch the film to find out…
PSYCHO 3 may not reach the dizzying heights of the original film or the first sequel but it’s still a terrifically fun scary watch and I absolutely loved it. The lovely old sheriff from PSYCHO 2 is in it again: ‘I was FOR you, Norman. I believed in you. They’ll never let you out again…!’ The staff of the diner are back again too and overall, the whole film is perfectly in keeping with the feel of the second one to which it’s a direct follow-up.
PSYCHO 4: THE BEGINNING is a different story. It’s a completely different kettle of fish, you might say. We’re expected to believe that Norman is out of the mental institution once more, for good this time. Not only that, but he’s living in a lovely home far away from the Bates Motel and he’s got a wife too, who works as a psychiatrist which is how they met, and they have a baby on the way…! And he’s managed to achieve all this in just a few short years. Excuse me for being just a teeny bit sceptical. Norman Bates as a productive, normal member of society, making love normally and in a way conducive to begetting an offspring? Do me a favour…!
Norman is telling his story through a series of flashbacks to Fran Ambrose, a radio talk-show host who’s doing a show on Men Who Kill Their Mothers. Naturally, as Norman is the poster-boy for this particular group of degenerates, the producers are creaming themselves (excuse my French!) over their new caller and his grim tale of child abuse, gender confusion and double murder by strychnine-poisoning.
The most unbelievable thing about Norman’s story is the casting of Olivia Hussey as Norma Bates. From everything we’ve ever known about Norman’s Mumsie, she is not stunningly beautiful with fabulous long silky hair straight out of a shampoo commercial, she does not sit around the house in silky lingerie and kimonos sipping Long Island Iced Teas in the middle of the day when there’s work to be done and she does not talk in that annoying, phoney-baloney British accent. There, I’ve said it. Also, if Norma is supposed to be so sexually repressed and the product of her practically Victorian-style upbringing, why then is she being portrayed as the biggest slut in Christendom…? Riddle me that, screenwriters…!
The film-makers had a real chance here to portray Norman’s messed-up childhood and show us exactly why Norman ended up as he did. Instead, they went down another route entirely and the resulting film is a bizarre, sometimes baffling mish-mash of vignettes and flash-backs that frequently don’t make sense and that have more than their fair share of plot-holes.
Still, a PSYCHO sequel is a PSYCHO sequel and I’m still glad we have it. C.C.H. Pounder does a good job as the sympathetic radio-show host and I’m always happy to see Anthony Perkins portray Norman Bates, even if the film is a trifle inferior to its elder siblings. I hope one day to see a film that shows us what happens when Norman’s son or daughter grows up. Will he or she be as flawed and dysfunctional as the genes that spawned them? How could they not be? No-one seems to have committed to this project as yet but maybe one day they will. What fun and games we’ll have then…!
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
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2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
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