Hitchcock was still three years away from The Birds when he made his classic adap of Robert Bloch’s novel. You wonder, though, if ideas for his follow-up project were already hatching in that fiendish mind of his as he directed Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh’s creepy first encounter at the eerily empty Bates Motel.
Norman’s parlour, you may remember, was full of feathered friends of the stuffed variety, a subliminal hint of what awaits Janet’s on-screen sister later on in Perkins’ cellar. He also remarks that Leigh – playing, lest we forget, one Marion Crane – eats what we will soon realise is her last supper “like a bird”.
It turns out, though, that Psycho has yet another avian connection, revealed during the making of the new 5.1 audio mix that graces this 50th anniversary reissue. While separating the aural elements of the original mono track, engineers from French outfit Audionamix managed to isolate the sound of birds roosting in the rafters of the studio where Bernard Herrmann’s iconic score was recorded – a fascinating nugget of trivia that almost justifies their labours by itself.
That much we learn from the ‘Psycho Sound’ featurette, one of a slew that embellish the film’s hi-def debut. The eagle-eyed, though, will spot that it’s the only fresh extra here, the remainder having previously been included on the R1 Special Edition released two years ago.
Since none of these have been seen in the UK before, this Blu-ray still represents extremely good value. If you happened to purchase the extras-lite two-disc R2 SE that Universal put out in 2005, however, you’d be right to feel shortchanged, especially as you’ll have to go Blu to enjoy its ritzier cousin.
At least that upgrade is easier to justify thanks to the eye-popping clarity of the monochrome visuals and the wraparound quality of that aforementioned mix. But in the end, it’s the film itself that makes this highly recommended – a brilliantly suspenseful delve into a Freudian heart of darkness that has lost none of its power to terrify and unsettle. It’s a testament to Psycho’s greatness that, no matter how many times you’ve seen it, the legendary shower scene still packs a wallop.
If you are lucky enough not to have seen it already, meanwhile, you’re in for a treat – a palm-sweating slasher par excellence that knocks this century’s Nightmare On Elm Street remake into a (Hitch)cocked hat.
A horror landmark gets a classy makeover, showered with enough bonus material to make even Norman Bates crack a smile.