I’m a Completist (and Other Excuses)
I worked my way through Psycho II and Psycho III...finding them to be interesting and pleasant surprises.
That left one last dead end on the journey of this little excursion. (There is a metaphor here about Janet Leigh ending up at the Bates Motel. I was bit like Marion Crane, making a pit stop to an obscure mark on the map. The good thing was that I managed to survive without getting knifed by a cross dresser).
I would need to suck it up and finish the trilogy. Psycho IV is not entirely unwatchable, but it just wasn't quite “necessary.” I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it.
The previous Psycho sequels were theatrically released, legit attempts to continue the Norman Bates saga. Psycho IV attempts to be a prequel, giving us more of the Norman origin story than we need. Norman calls into a late night radio show about mother killers and spills the beans about his childhood.
You see his mother (played by Olivia Hussey) quasi-abusing him. You watch the first murder he ever committed. The young Norman is played, quite well, by a post E.T. Henry Thomas. He was obviously trying to transition to more adult roles, and has enough in his performance to recall Perkins’ best moments. The surprise here is that he moves beyond homage or parody and creates his own twist on the character.
The most interesting aspect of the movie is that it opens on a married Norman. He has (as they say in the original) “taken a wife,” a psychotherapist he met in the nuthouse played by Donna Mitchell.
This was made directly for cable, and that means there’s a drop in production values. This “feels” like a TV movie...a competently made “pay day” for the people involved. I felt like it was sort of similar to a microwave dinner that could never function as a full meal.
Perkins is completely on autopilot, and doesn’t seem terribly invested in reinventing Norman Bates. (He must have needed the work.) Director Mick Garris does a solid job, but there’s nothing terribly interesting about his style. He would later go on to be yet another filmmaker who made a living off of Stephen King’s output. The apex of that would be his multi-hour miniseries version of King’s The Stand.
Ho-hum, don’t have much else to say about this one.
The Psycho Sequels: Were they worth it?
On a whole, I would say yes. My initial fear was that they would forever damage my appreciation of the original. I would never be able to watch it again without thinking about the tacky sequels. I’m happy to say that I will never have an issue with that after these screenings. I’m not going to watch them again, and they are not memorable enough to stick around in my psyche.
Are they terrible? If you’ve read my other reviews, you’ll note that I was surprisingly complimentary of them. Even Psycho IV, the weakest of the lot, is still entertaining enough.
I do have one more final thought.
Let’s Hear It for Anthony Perkins.
Anthony Perkins is one of the great “Stars Who Never Were” in film history. He was well on his way towards being a matinee idol of mainstream cinema before Alfred Hitchcock called. He was so good as Norman that he unintentionally ruined his own career. I’m sure that caused him an unbearable amount of resentment.
He still trudged on through three sequels like a paratrooper. I hope it was worth it for him.
I’m not going to delve into his personal life (you can use google for that). He was apparently quite tormented in “real” life, so maybe Norman was his outlet. I’ve seen him in non-Norman roles in which he excelled. The one that sticks out in my mind is a little seen Alan Rudolph movie called Remember My Name. He plays (gasp) a normal family man, stalked by an unstable woman (Geraldine Chaplin).
Maybe he’s finally playing King Lear in the afterlife. Does King Lear have his mother’s dress and a wig handy?