I’ve had Norman Bates on the brain a lot lately.
For starters, the latest season of A&E’s BATES MOTEL is slated to return on March 7th!
And second, a glorious thing happened earlier this month. Australian based DVD distributor MADMAN along with Via Vision Entertainment released an 8 disc box set for the PSYCHO franchise. Yep, the aptly titled PSYCHO: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION features every PSYCHO related feature to ever come out. That includes the sequels, Parts 2 & 3; the made-for-Showtime prequel, PSYCHO IV: THE BEGINNING; the 1998 PSYCHO remake; the Bud-Cort-fronted TV pilot from 1987, BATES MOTEL; and the 2 disc documentary, THE PSYCHO LEGACY, made by yours truly!
When I was in the process of making THE PSYCHO LEGACY, my dream for it was always to one day be packaged in a collector’s set with all the movies that it covered. It may have taken several years, but Australia’s got it right. And for the record, Australian discs on Blu-Ray and DVD are all region, meaning you can snag this box set for yourself here in the United States and have no problem playing it!
The main cause for celebration? It’s the first time that PSYCHO IV: THE BEGINNING has been made available on Blu-Ray and in high def! In honor of the impending return of A&E’s BATE MOTEL and this box set revelation, PSYCHO IV: THE BEGINNING is my pick of the week.
PSYCHO III was unfortunately not a box office success when it opened in the summer of 1986 and because of that, the future of the franchise, from that point on, was uncertain. Universal attempted a TWILIGHT ZONE-esque TV pilot that took place at the motel, but didn’t have any returning characters or real association with any of the movies and after one airing, it was never heard from or seen again. But then, cable networks were in the early stages of developing their own original programming, and Joseph Stefano, the original screenwriter who adapted PSYCHO from Robert Bloch’s novel for Alfred Hitchcock, had penned a sequel/prequel idea. What if we finally got to meet “Mother” when she was alive and truly see why Norman became the way he became?
Mick Garris was tapped to helm the project and Anthony Perkins returned in the role that was both his blessing and curse. In PSYCHO IV: THE BEGINNING, Norman is tuned into a radio talk show called The Fran Ambrose Show. Never in a million years could they have picked a more relevant topic than the one they have on tonight’s show – matricide. After hearing the story of a young man in therapy for killing his own Mother, Norman decides to anonymously call in and offer his insight. And through his retelling, we flashback in time to young Norman Bates, played perfectly by Henry Thomas as he recounts in graphic detail all the incidents & events that led him to be the disturbed, yet charming young man we meet in the first PSYCHO movie.
Playing the role of Norma Bates, Norman’s stunningly beautiful yet domineering mother is Olivia Hussey, the original Juliet from Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 classic ROMEO & JULIET. What’s interesting is that the back story we get isn’t told chronologically either, so anytime we flash back to a time in Norman and Norma’s past, we continue to get glimpses of their full story and watch it come into focus slowly. Norma is a complicated character. For a long time, she exists as a widow, running the motel with only her son as most of her world. But when Norman enters his curious teen years, she represses his sexuality to a very unhealthy degree and often punishes him for it, at one point slapping him and forcing him into a closet while wearing a dress just for getting an erection. Yikes! There are varying degrees of mental abuse inflicted, but it isn’t until Norma takes up with a local bartender and starts a scorching affair with him that it drives Norman over the edge. We also jump ahead and get to see a little bit of what Norman’s life was like in the years just prior to PSYCHO, hence baring witness to his first actual victims. It’s a fascinating dissection of “nature versus nurture.” Is Norman the way he is because it was inherently always in him? Or did he become this way because of how he was treated and raised? In the movie universe, there’s no clear cut answer, although on the TV show it’s clearly defined. And that’s why I appreciate having both versions.
They’ve veered enough into their own mythology with the TV show that I don’t think it would hurt going back to watch this version, especially if you’re loving what A&E is doing with BATES MOTEL. And you can either buy it as part of a marked down DVD set here in the States, or as I recommended earlier, get it in the new Australian box set on Blu-Ray for the first time, paired up with every single other PSYCHO movie.
It’ll look great on your shelf and it’ll even make Mother proud.