One of Alfred Hitchcock's biggest hits and arguably his most enduring classic is "Psycho" (1960, b/w), famous for its shocking shower scene, the sinister setting of the Bates Motel and adjacent house on the hill, some singular dialogue exchanges about "mother," and, of course, Bernard Herrmann's unforgettable music, especially those screeching violins.

"Psycho" also did a couple of things that were unheard of in 1960, adding to the film's terror level and elevating its power as one of the most frightening and effective of all horror films: First, it killed off the person we thought was the star of the movie, Janet Leigh, in the first half hour. Second, the advertising suggested a twist ending so unexpected that no one would be seated after the film began (with cardboard standees in front of theaters, depicting Hitch himself pointing to his watch as a sort of warning).

The slow build is alarmingly intense. First we have benign scenes of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) and her lover (John Gavin) during her lunch break in a hotel, then of Marion at her workplace, eventually committing a criminal act that is rather unexpected.


     Janet Leigh screams during the infamous shower scene, 'Psycho'

Marian then heads out of town, and during a rainstorm she is driven off the main road and finds herself at the sinister Bates Motel. There, she meets Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), and they have some pleasant conversation before things flip and go sideways.

Just in case you don't know what comes next … and if you are younger, in particular, that's still possible, I guess … I'll keep mum on the rest of the story. (I can still see Hitchcock pointing at his watch.)


But suffice to say that everyone working on Hitchcock's little horror movie was fully invested, even though he was working with a lower budget than usual, employed crew members from his TV show to keep costs down, and allows his star to go missing so soon into the picture.

"Psycho" remains one of the great horror films, one of the best by the Master of Suspense (no small thing considering his amazing oeuvre) and it's guaranteed to be unsettling on the big screen as it plays in local Cinemark theaters next Sunday at 7 p.m. and on Wednesday at 2 and 7 p.m.

No trick here; this is definitely a Halloween treat.