Time for our first double feature movie blog! These great horror classics will keep you on the edge of your seat this Halloween season. Today's movie blog is written by me, Dianne. There are behind the scenes things I want to share about these movies, as I actually have a personal connection to one of the actors, and it would not make a lot of sense coming from Stephen. I have been a long time fan of Hitchcock's films and today I am going to introduce you to two of my favorites, Psycho and The Birds.
The horror classic stars Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin, and Martin Balsam. Psycho was thought of as a departure for Hitchcock from his earlier style. It was filmed on a low budget, in black-and-white, he used a television crew.
The movie was considered very controversial, but audiences flocked to see the psychological thriller. The film's box-office returns were credited with bringing about a reversal of many critical reviews.
Psycho received four Academy Award nominations, including Best Supporting Actress (Leigh) and Best Director (Hitchcock). Psycho has since been deemed one of Hitchcock's best films and praised as cinematic art by film scholars and critics. It is often listed among the greatest films of all time. Psycho is credited with setting new standards in American films for sexuality, violence, and deviant behavior. It is also widely considered to be the "father" of the slasher film genre.
Psycho follows Marion Crane (Leigh), a female embezzler on the run from the police. She stops for the night at a roadside motel and meets the shy owner, Norman Bates (Perkins). Norman invites Marion to join him for a bite to eat at his home, the gothic manor on the hill overlooking the motel. She agrees, but as she settles into her room she overhears Norman and his mother arguing about her.
Norman changes plans and brings the food to the parlor in the Motel office. The two eat while Norman tells her about his mother. He says she is mentally ill and forbids him to socialize with anyone but her. After hearing how lonely Norman is, Marion decides to return the stolen money in hopes she can reclaim her own life.
Unfortunately, Marion never leaves the motel. As she showers before bed, Marion is attacked by a shadowy figure and stabbed to death. Norman comes running into Marion's room in a panic. He finds her lifeless body and assumes it is his mother who killed her. He cleans up the crime scene and puts the corpse and her belongings (unknowingly, including the stolen money) in the trunk of her car. He then drives the car into the swamp near the motel.
Marion's sister, Lila, has been looking for her since she found out she was accused of embezzlement. She confronts Sam, the man Marion had been involved with, and asks where her sister is. Marion's employer hired private investigator, Milton Arbogast. The P.I. approaches Lila and Sam. He informs that that he had been hired to bring Marion in to face charges.
When Sam and Lila can't help him, Arbogast traces Marion's escape and ends up at the Bates Motel. After questioning Norman, Arbogast was more than a little suspicious of the inn keeper. When Norman refuses to allow the P.I. to speak to his mother, Arbogast checks in with Sam and Lila. He tells them he found a lead and promised to check in again soon.
Arbogast breaks into the Bates' home to speak to Norman's mother. He is caught at the top of the stairs by a shadowy figure who promptly stabs him to death. When Sam and Lila do not hear from Arbogast again, they decide to check things out for themselves. At the motel, Sam sees someone in the house he assumes must be Mrs. Bates. The pair decide to visit the local sheriff for help, and learn that Mrs. Bates died ten years previously in a murder-suicide.
The sheriff is convinced that Arbogast lied to Sam and Lila so he could go after Marion on his own and collect the reward for her capture. Sam and Lila are not convinced and believe that something has happened to Arbogast. As Sam and Lila drive to the motel, Norman hides his mother in the fruit cellar.
When they arrive at the motel, Sam distracts Norman while Lila sneaks inside the house. Norman becomes suspicious and attacks Sam. Lila decides to hide in the cellar and discovers the mummified corpse of Mrs. Bates. When Norman hears Lila's scream, he runs to the cellar wearing his mother's clothes and a wig, and wielding a large knife. Sam comes to the rescue just in time and manages to apprehend Norman.
Later, a psychiatrist explains what had happened to Norman. Ten years ago he murdered his mother and her lover in a jealous rage. Being unable to live with the guilt, he took her corpse and began to interact with it as if she were still alive. Eventually "Mother" becomes an alternate personality for Norman. As Norman sits in jail, Mother's voice can be heard placing all the blame for the murders on Norman while the police are towing Marion's car from the swamp.
The western tie in here is from Anthony Perkins. His filmography includes two Westerns in 1957, The Lonely Man with Jack Palance and The Tin Star with Henry Fonda. He would also later star with Jane Fonda in her first screen roll in the 1960 film Tall Story, though that was not a western.
The Birds is an American horror film produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Released in 1963, the story is loosely based on a story by Daphne du Maurier. The story follows a series of unexplained bird attacks in Bodega Bay, California
The film stars Tippi Hedren in her screen debut, as well as well-known actors, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette, and Veronica Cartwright in one of her early roles. In 2016, the United States Library of Congress selected The Birds for preservation in its National Film Registry, stating it was "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
The story is set in the early 1960s. Socialite, Melanie Daniels (Hedren), is in a pet store in San Francisco where she meets lawyer, Mitch Brenner (Taylor). Brenner is looking to buy lovebirds as a birthday gift for his sister, Cathy (Cartwright). Recognizing Melanie from an unflattering newspaper article, Mitch pretends to mistake her for a shop employee.
When Mitch finally admits he knows who she is and that he doesn't approve of her behavior, the pair argue and Mitch leaves the shop without buying the birds. Melanie wants to make up for the argument, so she buys the lovebirds and delivers them to Mitch's apartment. Unfortunately, she learns he is not home. He has left town for his family's farm in Bodega Bay. Not wanting to leave the birds in the apartment hallway for days, Melanie drives to Bodega Bay to deliver them. One of the first people she meets is the local school teacher Anne Hayworth (Pleshette). Annie had previously dated Mitch, but called things off because of his overbearing mother.
In town, Melanie rents a boat and crosses the bay to discreetly leave the lovebirds at the Brenner farm. Mitch spots Melanie sitting in her boat in the bay as she heads back to the dock. Mitch jumps in his car and drives into town to meet her. As Melanie approaches the dock, she is a attacked by a seagull.
Over the next few days the bird attacks on people in town become more frequent and vicious until Mitch's family is forced to flee with Melanie in her car. As they slowly drive through swarms of birds gathering in the area, the car radio plays. The radio announcer reports bird attacks in other communities. They expect the military to be called in if things do not let up soon. Will humanity survive or will they fall prey to the birds?
Tippi Hedren is more than just a beautiful face and a great entertainer, she is also a long time, passionate, animal activist. Tippi created the Roar Foundation which supports The Shambala Preserve. (<--- click here to check out their website)
Their mission statement: to provide sanctuary to exotic felines - who have suffered from gross mistreatment and neglect - so they can regain their physical and mental health and live out their lives in dignity; to advocate no buying, selling, breeding or trading of exotic felines; to educate the pubic about exotic felines; and to advocate for legislation to protect them. P.S. and elephants too!
I had to add in the information about Shambala because it is a cause close to my own heart. When I was in college, back in my 20s, I was the advertising manager for a few years for a small press newspaper in Kansas. It served the Wichita State University campus but was a business and not a lab paper like at many universities. Teachers did not run the paper, the students were completely responsible for all aspects of the paper's operations.
The sales staff I had assembled did such a great job bringing in advertising that we often didn't have enough editorial content to fill the pages. I began looking for nonprofits I believed in and started offering them free advertising campaigns to fill up our empty spaces. Shambala was one of the places I contacted.
You can imagine my surprise when I actually got to speak on the phone with Tippi Hedren. She was completely devoted to her preserve and oversaw all aspects of their advertising. I got to work with her as I designed an advertising campaign for Shambala. I was completely in awe of her as I was a life long fan of The Birds. It was such a thrill being able to work with her for her foundation. I promised myself, I would stay professional and not become all fan girl when speaking with her. I did a good job until our last conversation.
The last time we spoke, I broke down and told her I had promised myself to be professional with her but knowing this was our last conversation, I did really want to ask her about another actor. She laughed a little and said, you want to know about my son-in-law.
I felt awful, because for a moment, I had no idea who she was talking about. Then it finally dawned on me that her daughter, Melanie Griffith had recently married Antonio Banderas. Unfortunately I did not remember that fact before a confused, "Who?" came out of my mouth (sorry Antonio, I really do love your work too). I quickly recovered and added "oh no, he's great but I wanted to ask you about Rod Taylor."
Tippi laughed and indulged me for a moment as we talked about Rod, then she told me she was actually going to be with him the following week for a special screening of The Birds for an anniversary celebration. I told her to feel free to tell him that a 23 year old college girl in Kansas is still madly infatuated with him and his movies. She laughed and said, he will love that. I still hope to one day be able to visit Shambala and take one of their tours.
And as to how this movie has a western tie in, in case you didn't know, Rod Taylor is an Australian actor who appeared in more than 50 movies including The Glass Bottom Boat (with Doris Day), The Time Machine, and Chuka, an American western released in 1967 that not only starred Rod Taylor, but he also worked on the screenplay and was a producer. I think that is a pretty good western tie in.
For today's movie snack, I thought I would combine the two movies and share a recipe from The Spice House for their Insane Hot Wings! (<--- click here for recipe) Insane being another way to say psycho and you can help get revenge on the birds by making them the snack. That will teach them to attack Tippi!
You can adjust the spices to fit your own level of hot, or be daring and risk the insanity by just following the recipe as is. Be sure to check out some of Hitchcock's other movies. I highly recommend reading up on The Rope and then watching it. This film was unique in so many ways but I do not have time to go into it here.
Now, it's time to get your snacks and settle in for a great Hitchcock double feature!