Alfred Hitchcock was responsible for numerous cinematic masterpieces, and his suspenseful thrillers defined excellence for generations of filmmakers. Tops among the long list of “must emulate” factors was Hitchcock’s mix of cinematography and audio, the latter of which helps explain the new Blu-ray release of Psycho 50th Anniversary Edition.
Before Psycho debuted in theaters, there was considerable debate about what type of music to use — and in fact whether to use any audio at all — during the movie’s defining shower scene. The decision was ultimately made to include the now-classic string instruments with each downward swipe of the knife. That decision, perhaps more than even the caws from the massive flocks in The Birds, solidified Hithcock’s place in cinematic audio. And now, after 50 years, Hitchcock’s Psycho has a home-movie release that matches that reputation.
Psycho has obviously released before, but Universal’s new Psycho 50th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray includes newly created 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. That alone is worth the price of admission. Yes, Psycho on Blu-ray features 1080p 1.85:1 video. Yes, it includes BD-Live for downloadable content. Yes, it includes a bunch of bonus features. But the biggest draw is without a doubt the new surround-sound audio track.
The film is what it is, so rehashing it here serves no purpose. The black-and-white video has never been sharper than it is on Blu-ray, and the contrast is just right without going overboard. The new 5.1 surround-sound may seem to some purists to be an abomination against the original audio, but I’m here to reassure you that it sounds fantastic, still leans heavily on the front channel and is certainly not over-used. Honestly, this review could end right there and have told you everything you really need to know before deciding to buy this Blu-ray Disc. But some readers are bound to want a bit more, so let’s talk briefly about the massive number of bonus features on this Blu-ray release.
Care to learn more about Hitchcock’s legacy and influence? Check out one of two features that highlight those facets, In the Master’s Shadow: Hitchcock’s Legacy and the Feature Commentary with Stephen Rebello, the author of “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of ‘Psycho.'” Maybe you want to hear from and see Hitchcock himself. Well, there are three features from which to choose: Hitchcock/Truffaut Interview Excerpts, Newsreel Footage from the release of Psycho and a series of still images via Behind-the-Scenes and Production Photographs. Or perhaps you just want to break down the famous and famously fantastic shower scene. Universal has you covered with two feaurettes, a stand-alone Shower Scene and a more behind-the-curtain feature called The Shower Scene: Storyboards with Saul Bass. The fact that there are also multimedia Lobby Cards and Posters and ‘Psycho’ Ads are mere gravy on a full-course meal that consists of 12 bonus features total.
Calling this a 50th Anniversary release doesn’t do justice to the massive celebration of Hitchcock and Psycho that this Blu-ray Disc represents. Far more than a calendar-based marketing opportunity, the Psycho 50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray is a comprehensive title that’s appropriate for fans of Hitchcock, fans of cinema and budding filmmakers alike. Hitchcock strove for excellence in every film he created. Surely he would be proud of the excellent package Universal has released in celebration of his classic thriller Psycho.
Click here to buy the Psycho 50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray from Amazon.com.
- Score: 9
— Martin Ray