The 13th Floor

The Return Of Robert Bloch’s Norman Bates In PSYCHO: SANITARIUM!

Because of his incredible, indelible performance, it’s impossible to not immediately think of the visage of Anthony Perkins when you hear the name Norman Bates. Even Freddie Highmore’s casting on A & E’s hit series BATES MOTEL was intended to evoke the appearance of the famed actor that originated the role. But for those fellow PSYCHO-phants that went back to the source material, we know there’s a huge difference between the cinematic Norman Bates and his novel counterpart.

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Alfred Hitchcock acquired the movie rights to Robert Bloch’s 1959 novel PSYCHO for a mere $7500, and for the most part, the movie sticks pretty closely to the novel – except for the fact that the novel primarily tells the entire story from Norman’s point of view as opposed to starting with Marion (or Mary in the book) and switching to Norman after the infamous shower scene. Also, the Norman of the book has multiple personalities. There’s the adult Norman, a very unsympathetic, 40-something-ish, overweight, balding man; then infant Norman, the version of him that never grew out of his domineering mom; and then of course, “Mother.” But again, when you think Norman Bates, you think of the attractive “boy next door,” which is exactly why Hitchcock chose Perkins for the part.

I wonder if Bloch had a love/hate relationship with his most famous creation? Sure, he was a well respected writer and he gained world-wide fame because of a very popular movie based upon one of his books, but the character that everyone knew as Norman Bates was not the one as described in his book. By sheer fate or coincidence, Bloch did craft 2 sequel novels to PSYCHO. The first arriving 22 years later, at the same time as the movie sequel!

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Sharing only a title, Bloch’s version of PSYCHO II is… well, for lack of a better word, mad! 2 decades after the events of the original PSYCHO, Norman Bates manages to escape one dark and stormy evening by disguising himself as one of the visiting nuns at the sanitarium. A body is found at a car wreck and believed to be Bates, himself, but after the bodies of Sam & Lila Loomis turn up dead, Norman’s psychiatrist Dr. Adam Claiborne is convinced that he faked his own death and is on his way to Hollywood to sabotage the movie production of CRAZY LADY, a film based upon the true events of the Bates case. If you can believe this, it turns out the director of CRAZY LADY, Vizzini, is the spitting image of Norman Bates. (What are the freakin’ odds?) So who exactly is behind the strange occurrences on the set of the movie? Is it Norman, out for revenge? Is Vizzini taking things a little too far with his “art?” Let me tell you, the answers are completely unpredictable and equally as crazy. The meta approach both showcases Bloch’s contempt for “Hollywood” movie making, and is also reminiscent of what Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven did for SCREAM 2.

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If you didn’t think it could get any weirder than the description of the last book, Robert Bloch wrote one more PSYCHO novel titled PSYCHO HOUSE, which was released in 1990. In it, an entrepreneur has purchased the old Bates Motel and the property on which the house resides and has converted it into a tourist attraction! But before they even open, a new murder takes place with “Mother’s” old modus operandi. Writer Amy Haines is on the scene to pen a book about Norman when the mysterious murders continue. Who could be responsible? Has the evil of the Bates family completely cursed the property? Or is someone else behind it all?

Here’s the thing. In both the novel versions, as well as the cinematic universe, there’s the story that takes place in PSYCHO and then both jump approximately 22 years later before resuming their tale of Norman Bates and Mother. The current TV series is telling the “prequel” story of PSYCHO, but as if it took place in modern times. There’s a huge chunk of time unaccounted for in the PSYCHO mythology and now, as of this week, we’re finally going to get a direct sequel following the events of the original PSYCHO.

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Out from Thomas Dunne Books on Tuesday, April 12th, 2016 is PSYCHO: SANITARIUM, a new novel by Chet Williamson with the full blessing and endorsement of the Bloch estate. Finally, what happened between the two decades of Norman’s time in the mental institution is about to be revealed. And the timing couldn’t be more relevant, as the BATES MOTEL TV show is currently exploring an arc with Norman spending time in an institute.

The less you know about this new novel going in, the better. I’m only a few chapters in and I already had one wacky detail spoiled for me by reading the synopsis, but so far, it feels very much like it fits perfectly within Robert Bloch’s PSYCHO universe. If you’d like to know a little bit more about the book and how it all came about, our own contributor Del Howison interviewed Chet Williams about it a few months back. You can find that chat right here. You can pick up PSYCHO: SANITARIUM at your local book store, or find it on Amazon right here.

It’s good to have this version of Norman Bates back. We missed him…

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