May. 2nd, 2013

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Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of PsychoAlfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On one level, this book is about the making of "Psycho" - from the story based on Ed Gein's killings that germinated the novel of the same name to the massive cultural phenomenon it became upon release, almost turning into a success Hitchcock could never escape from. On another level, this book was to me a great example of how storytelling should work; how to craft a narrative, how to create characters, setting, plot and suspense - all through observing how Hitchcock handled his material.

Film buffs will love the way Rebello shows what happened behind the scenes: the shooting of the famous shower scene, Hitchcock's relationships with the studio execs and stars, and the techniques he used to achieve certain camera shots.

I thought the marketing campaign around Psycho was particularly interesting. Hitchcock filmed a featurette at the house and Bates Motel, giving the viewer a tour of a place "now for sale" after the "terrible events that took place there." It's nicely macabre and tongue-in-cheek. He also did something unheard of at the time: he asked/insisted that film goers watch the film from the beginning, instead of just wandering in halfway through (as was bizarrely the custom at the time.) People were outraged that they had to wait in line until the start of the film, instead of popping in whenever they wanted, but their curiosity won over as the word-of-mouth grew stronger, and a new filmgoing habit was born.

I'd recommend watching Psycho before reading this book, even if you've seen it before.

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