This nifty little fact-based story of Alfred Hitchcock, his wife Alma and their collaboration on Psycho is a tasty confection that’s part behind-the-scenes snooping, part battle of the sexes with a touch of depravity.
The sun soaked Los Angeles studio environment and Hitch’s flower garden, azure blue swimming pool, a character and symbol, don’t mesh with the darkness of the film he was about to make, based on one of the most vile murderers in US history – Ed Gein.
It’s meant to be the story of Hitch and Alma. Their bond formed in the twenties when she worked with him on his films as his assistant director, screenwriter and editor before marrying him in 1926.
They were together professionally and personally for sixty-odd years, a feat in itself and he absolutely depended on her astute judgment in overseeing his films. Alma advised him strongly not to make Psycho.
She thought the all-out bat craziness of Psycho would cheapen Hitch’ brand and diminish his relationship with his audience and the studios. Ed Gein’s crimes are too hideous to be repeated here but a computer search will fill in the blanks.
It would take Hitch and his sterling reputation down a new kind of dark road. The studios were even less interested. But Alma knew he was passionate about it and eventually agreed to finance the venture.
The film goes into zany areas like an affair Alma supposedly had with a manipulative screenwriter and Hitch’s well known fascination and cruelty towards his cool blonde stars. He peeps through venetian blinds at women passing the studio offices and through holes he made in walls.
While he’s on the Psycho set, tormenting the women, Alama’s doing rewrites with a man at a secluded Malibu beach cottage.
What’s more interesting than their story is new insights into the film. Star Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson) was able to do great work for him, immune to his tricky nature, staying professional, pleasant and businesslike.
Vera Miles (Jessica Biel) her co-star, didn’t fare so well with Hitch. She refused to become one of his “blondes” and was cast aside; playing the secondary female role only so Hitch could fulfill their contract.
The studio’s interference on the film was endless. The bosses were scared to death of it and of Hitch’ financial independence. When the film became a massive success, of course, they were all smiles and he was back on top of their Christmas list. So many juicy backstage tidbits, and so many famous walk-ons and a golden tinged, nostalgia tinged Hollywood dreams.
Who knows how true any of the story is true and who cares? It’s a fun movie with a hell of a backdrop about one of the most famous films ever. It’s no documentary, and there’s a heapin’ helping of cheesy fun.
If you’re a film historian looking for the ultimate psychological study of Hitch and Alma, this ain’t it. This is a fun story without grandiose dreams of being the final word on what makes anyone tick and what really happened.
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Written by John J. McLaughlin, Stephen Rebello
Directed by Sacha Gervasi
Runtime: 95 minutes
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for some violent images, sexual content and thematic material