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Written by / 10/11/2015 / No comments / , , , , , , , ,

SEQUELS OF PSYCHO WITH ANTHONY PERKINS AS NORMAN BATES

Anthony Perkins returns as Norman Bates from 1983-1990
On the new DVD/Blu Ray cover of Alfred Hitchcock's classic suspense thriller PSYCHO, you don't see Janet Leigh or Anthony Perkins anywhere, just the motel sign headlining the infamously famous spooky manor, BATES MOTEL, now the title of a popular cable series, thus bringing in a young audience to rejoin the continuing celebration of the original work... It's almost as if they unintentionally retitled the classic by that cover alone...

The Original's 50th Anniversary Blu Ray
But the incestuous backstory/prequel of a young Norman Bates isn't anything new... In fact, the last sequel had grown-up child actor Henry Thomas as a haunted teenager constantly berated by his hen-pecking mother, bullied by her muscular lover, hit-on by sexy girls, and he winds up doing what we learned in the first... the best.... and what's really, truly, the only PSYCHO that matters...

Although with PART IV: THE BEGINNING aside, where a married Norman Bates, played for the last time by Anthony Perkins (at that time dying of AIDS), spends most of the film calling into a radio talk show while a 1940's era flashback plays out through his shared memory "narration", the first two sequels aren't that bad, beginning with PSYCHO II and kickstarting an entirely new chapter including the surrounding town viewed clearly during daylight hours, a friendly sheriff (Hugh Gillin), a helpful shrink (Robert Loggia), and a somewhat mysterious young lady, played by Meg Tilly, who becomes a kind of little sister/ingenue while the passive, newly-released from the loony bin Norman wants to help this vulnerable young beauty actually survive, in and out of the greasy spoon diner where they work, and at the house, she even takes a shower... safely. Meanwhile, Vera Miles returns as Lila, and her last name is Loomis, not Crane...

title: Psycho 2 year: 1983 rates: ***
But John Gavin's stalwart Sam Loomis, who worked with the nuts and bolts before venturing with his missing girlfriend's sister to the Bates Motel twenty-three years earlier, is dead and gone; and for worthy reason, twofold, Lila is extremely bitter... That aspect shouldn't be spoiled...

Although we can say that what consists of the second PSYCHO is that Norman is more or less a sympathetic victim of possible vengeance, and the suspense relies on who and what's messing with his head and who else could be killing several people including a stoned, sexed-up teen male caught in the famous fruit cellar and a boozing slime bag manager played by Hitchcock stylist Brian De Palma's stock actor Dennis Franz, who turned the Motel into an hourly brothel...

Thus the first half, a body count horror with effective thrills, chills, utterly painful deaths and neat camera angles – not trying too hard to compete with the original while adhering to the 1980's horror template – is pretty decent... But the second half, as so many ingredients are added to the who and the why and the how of the mind games against Norman, there's an overkill of expository dialogue and not enough slashing... Although the last fifteen minutes makes up decently for lost time and violence...

title: Psycho III year: 1986 rates: ***
Which leads to the next venture, PSYCHO III, a gritty no-nonsense exploitation flick starting with a strayed nun played by MOMMIE DEAREST ingenue Diana Scarwid, who can go overboard on occasion, fitting within a perhaps intentional 70's style drive-in vibe...

As does Jeff Fahey, king of b-movie bad guys, who really brings the proceedings to a wonderfully campy level as a muscle-car traveling musician/womanizer who winds up doing what Dennis Franz did in the last film, only under Norman's passive permission: working as a useful idiot office manager while turning the Motel into a party pad, but mostly for himself and a group of rowdy jocks and vagrant hussies, all potential victims resulting in more bloodshed as we now know who the killer is, unlike the second Mystery-based film...

And with the same actors playing the faithful Sheriff and a surly waitress, a continuation of a brand new "mother" corpse and Scarwid almost becoming Norman's first official girlfriend, PSYCHO III is a bonafide sequel/continuation of PSYCHO II and actually seems like, in itself, a second chapter to part 2 instead of a third part of an overall series, being that the original stands on its own while these "modern" ventures really started in 1983 as opposed to 1960.

title: Psycho IV year: 1990 rates: **
We should also note that the third entry was directed by Anthony Perkins himself, using several Hitchcock angles as homage, and deservedly so... he worked closely with the man, after all, and more than helped make PSYCHO a timeless classic; wherein PSYCHO II's veteran director Richard Franklin was a "student" of Hitch...

And the only nostalgic relation in the muddled made-for-TV forth entry is the original Bernard Herrmann soundtrack used throughout, showing the young Bates and his mother while, as already mentioned, old Norman calls into that radio program, subliminally threatening to kill his wife, a doctor at the last mental institution he was locked up in, using a fancy suburban kitchen during the long phone chat before returning to the dark Motel at the 11th hour. In this case, neither the front or backstory are very intriguing despite otherwise talented director Mick Garris (THE STAND) trying his best to tie everything together. As for Henry Thomas, it feels more like he's portraying a bland memory of young Norman than the actual troubled/tortured kid who sparked the legendary outrage, while young sexy mother Olivia Hussey merely goes through the motions.

Anthony Perkins in PSYCHO
So overall, the man of the hour is Anthony Perkins, who was insanely snubbed for the Oscar nomination he truly deserved back then. And throughout these eclectic sequels, he sometimes hits the right amount of bent energy but can also go awkwardly overboard... Like in part 2 where, timidly holding a butcher knife to cut Meg Tilly's sandwich, Norman tries saying the word "Cutlery" while stuttering on the letter "C" in a downright embarrassing, contrived manner... And overall, he looks a bit too old for the part; his noticeably aged face not fitting with the same tall gangly frame and creepy, man-child countenance...

But Perkins should and can be forgiven for any flawed moments within these latter episodes, and while the original needed no followups (never trust a sequel over a decade later), for a wonderful actor who was typecast and hardly taken seriously beyond the deliciously addictive killer from a classic motion picture by the greatest suspense director of all time, at least he was able to act, direct, and return to the part he was born to play when there wasn't much work otherwise i.e. Tony had something fun and familiar to do two decades after his career-making/breaking role as the one and only Norman Bates.

with Meg Tilly
SOME TRIVIA NOT MENTIONED IN THE RETROSPECTIVE: In part 2, Meg Tilly's fake name is Marie Samuels, which is what Janet Leigh's Marion Crane used to sign into the Bates Motel. Also in part 2, the Sheriff was supposedly a former deputy of John McGiver's original lawman, and knew firsthand about the previous murders. In part 4, when Norman is calling the radio show, he uses the first name Ed i.e. Ed Gein, the real life serial killer Robert Bloch based his PSYCHO novel on, which of course started everything. In the intro of Part 2, before the courtroom scene wherein Norman is freed to Vera Mile's noisy chagrin, we begin with the famous Janet Leigh murder sequence. And as Meg Tilly takes a shower later on, a few of the same angles, including the shower head's perspective, are reused.

with Diana Scarwid
In part 3, there is an angle where Diana Scarwid turns her head sideways, reminding Norman of Marion lying on the bathroom floor, eyes wide dead, which evokes his newly restored passion...

Later, Scarwid winds up fall/stumbling down the stairs, backwards, like insurance investigator Martin Balsam did in the original. In part 4, the plot disregards several previous-sequel aspects, like the new mother corpse, and director/horror genre aficionado John Landis (AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON) has a cameo as a radio programmer, and is used in many Mick Garris projects including THE STAND and SLEEPWALKERS...

Also in part 4, Norman doesn't stuff birds, but has a living/breathing parakeet, chirping in a cage. And at the end, when he drives his wife to the Motel, it's during heavy rainfall, which had, like we all know, caused Janet Leigh's Marion to seek shelter from the storm. Related to this, in part 3, Scarwid is picked up by Jeff Fahey in the rain, but she winds up at the Motel following the storm. And there are myriad of famous lines uttered by Norman from the original, spread throughout all four sequels, obviously sparked by homage as opposed to lack of originality. 
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