Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars
More than three decades after his death, director Alfred Hitchcock is still referred to as “The Master of Suspense.” And rightfully so. Films like “Rebecca,” “Vertigo” and “North by Northwest” were wildly successful. Yet, even with that track record, it took every resource he could find to make his most famous film, “Psycho.” But he turned the production into a labor of love, both on screen and behind it.
Any film that includes conversations between one of films greatest directors and killer Ed Gein can best be described as tongue in cheek. And that is the tone director Gervasi sets in “Hitchcock.” Gein, whose horrible crimes were not only the basis for Robert Bloch’s novel “Psycho” but the characters of Leatherface in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and Buffalo Bill in “Silence of the Lambs.” Incidentally, I didn’t call Gein a serial killer because, even though he killed several people, to save money he was only tried for one murder. And apparently you have to be convicted of at least three murders to be called a “serial” killer. Who knew?
“Hitchcock” finds the great director gaining a new generation of fans through his weekly television program. However, he feels “cheapened” by television and looks for his next great film. Coming across Bloch’s book he becomes fascinated with the subject matter and, despite the protests of the big shots at Paramount, decides to make a movie. Behind the scenes is his long time adoring wife, Alma (Mirren), who was in fact a fine filmmaker before she and “Hitch” met.
Hopkins does a good job imitating the voice and cadence of the great director, however sometimes his makeup makes him look more like Bob Newhart then Hitchcock. As Alma Mirren is strong and decisive. “Psycho” is as much her film as it is Hitchcock’s and the film stresses that point. Johansson and James D’Arcy are well cast as “Psycho” stars Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins while in a quick cameo Ralph Macchio plays screenwriter Joseph Stefano, hired by Hitchcock because he had issues dealing with sex, rage and his mother!
Production values are fine, giving the film a nice period feel. The film is also a nice look back at the early days of Hollywood, when the fact that Hitchcock wanted to show a toilet on screen was deemed shocking.