31 Days of Horror: 78/52

The new documentary 78/52 dives deep into the technical aspects, meanings, anecdotes, and impact of Alfred Hitchcock’s notorious shower scene from his landmark 1960 film Psycho. (The film’s title refers to the 78 camera set ups and the 52 cuts in that scene.) Many industry luminaries lend their opinions and insights  in the film, like Peter Bogdanovich, Elijah Wood, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Danny Elfman, Bret Easton Ellis, Mick Garris, Richard Stanley, and even Janet Leigh’s body double Marli Renfro.

Across the hour and a half run time, writer/director Alexandre O Philipe squeezes almost every bit of thought and comment out of Marion Crane’s untimely demise, and for the most part it’s fascinating, although I found some of the commentary either dry or just downright unnecessary. This isn’t a consistent problem, but an occasional one, which goes away halfway through the film, particularly when Philipe gets into the actual technical side of the shoot and the way Bernard Herrmann scored the death. I’m not unfamiliar with many of the behind-the-scenes stories about Psycho, so there was a feeling of redundancy, but for someone who is new to the film, 78/52 is like one-stop-shopping for invaluable detail.

Psycho is one of my all time favorite films, I have no idea how many times I’ve watched it and it’s obvious that the people involved on both sides of the camera in 78/52 are passionate about it as well. Psycho is a proto-slasher that would influence the biggest names in horror to this day. If any film—if any scene—deserves a documentary with such a level of detail, it’s Psycho. The movie is available on VOD from IFC Midnight.

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