There has been countless film homages dedicated to the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, the most recent being the documentary Kent Jones’ HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT made in 2015. But 78/52 is the first on that concentrates on just one little aspect of Hitchcock’s career – the iconic shower scene in PSYCHO. The film is so called because PSYCHO’s famous shower scene is made up of 78 set ups (or shots) and 52 cuts.
This is a documentary that film cineastes MUST see as well as anyone interested in the art of the cinema.
This is the “man behind the curtain” (or shower curtain) and the screen murder that profoundly changed the course of world cinema. This famous shower scene – that comprised the opening of the bathroom door; the water streaming from the shower; the curtain slowly pulling apart; the repeated stabbing; the image of the blurred woman’s face, the blood flowing down the bath; the slump of the body on the tub. Sound plays a major part as well – the screeching sounds, the sound of the big thud as the body slumps down the tub; the curtain ripping apart; the blood draining down the hole. The contribution of both Edward Hermann to the music and George Tomasini to the sound effects are detailed in the film, providing more insight and pleasure to the cineaste.
O. Philippe recognizes Hitchcock’s use of ‘the eye’ in PSYCHO. The eye is emphasized from the look on the cop stopping Marion as well as the eyes of Norman Bates, Marion herself, the hollows of mother’s skull etc. Voyeurism is also examined. Bates removes an old picture of voyeurism to become the voyeur himself, peeping through the hole in the wall watching Marion undressing.
The entire scene’s storyboard with the script is read aloud (and also the pages of the novel of the same name by Robert Block, illustrating the differences) to the audience as the scene, unfolds one step at a time, offering a fresh insight.
Director Alexandre O. Philippe’s film is exhaustive in its treatment of the subject. I cannot think of anything else that could have been added. O. Philippe also puts the film into perspective – of the political unrest (the atom bomb; the cold war) and other films that came out during that time, and pretty good ones too (ANATOMY OF A MURDER, SOME LIKE IT HOT, SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER). Clips of other older horror flicks with women murdered are also shown. A few clips of other Hitchcock mystery classics (SABOTEUR, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, THE 39 STEPS, LIFEBOAT, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, THE BIRDS, NORTH BY NORTHWEST) are added for good measure.
Interviewees on display include directors Peter Bogdanovich and other directors of horror films like SAW and HOSTEL, Jamie Lee Curtis (daughter of Janet Leigh), Osgood Perkins (son of Anthony Perkins) as well as the model who did the body double for Janet Leigh.
The result is one of the best, pleasurable and most insightful documentaries on the techniques of the Master of Suspense.