Psycho Collection I - IV
By: Andrew Gillies on March 23, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Universal (Australia). Region 2 & 4 PAL. Psycho 1.78:1, Psycho II 4:3, Psycho III 1.78:1, Psycho IV 4:3. Psycho English DD 1.0, Psycho II English DD 5.1, French DD 5.1, German DD 5.1, Italian DD 2.,0 Spanish DD 2.0, Psycho III English DD 5.1, French DD 5.1, German DD 2.0, Italian DD 5.1, Spanish DD 2.0, Psycho IV English DD 5.1 French DD 2.0 German DD 5.1 Italian DD 5.1 Spanish DD 2.0 Subtitles - Psycho English Greek Hungarian Czech Arabic Turkish Psycho II English French German Italian Spanish Portuguese Dutch Swedish Danish Finnish Norwegian Hebrew Arabic Russian Turkish Greek Psycho III English French German Italian Spanish Portuguese Dutch Swedish Danish Finnish Norwegian Hebrew Arabic Russian Turkish Greek Psycho IV English French German Italian Spanish Portuguese Dutch Swedish Danish Finnish Norwegian Hebrew Arabic Russian Turkish Greek. 393 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Alfred Hitchcock (I), Richard Franklin (II), Anthony Perkins (III), Mick Garris (IV)
Starring: Anthony Perkins, Martin Balsam, Meg Tilly, John Gavin, Ben Hartigan, Claudia Bryar, Dennis Franz, Hugh Gillin, Robert Alan Browne, Janet Leigh, Robert Loggia, John McIntire, Vera Miles
Screenplay: Joseph Stefano (I & IV), Tom Holland (II), Chales Edward Pogue
(III)
Music: Bernard Herrmann
Country: USA
Year: 1960, 1983, 1986, 1990
Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho contains some of the most shocking and classic sequences ever produced on film. These days, Psycho is considered a classic horror film, using techniques and imagery never before seen to shock and frighten people (back in the day). But do those Hitchcock enthusiasts know there were three knock-off sequels made in the 80s that continued the story? Well, that depends. I know I had no idea there were sequels until I saw a batted Psycho IV – The Beginning VHS at a video shop. "They made four of these movies?" Yes, apparently they did. And Universal has released all four films together on DVD for the first time in Australia.

In Psycho, Marion Crane steals a sum of money from her workplace, and runs for the hills. She takes refuge at a lonely motel run by the mysterious Norman Bates, who has issues with his mother. After being brutally murdered in the shower by an unknown assailant dressed in a woman's getup, Marion's sister and (now ex) lover seek to discover what really happened at the Bates Motel.

Now, I know everyone knows what happens in Psycho, but for the three of you who don't, I must warn that this next paragraph will spoil the twist in the first film.

Psycho II takes place many years after the original, and has Norman released on the basis that he is cured, and moving back to the Bates Motel, where he is plagued by the memory of his mother. Vera, Marion's sister from the first film (played by the same actress) is back, and wants Norman locked away, and as more deaths occur, it only strengthens her argument that Norman should be put away forever. Psycho III continues where the previous film left off, with Norman re-opening the Motel with another killing spree in the goriest instalment of the series. Finally, Psycho IV – The Beginning, as it suggests, tells the story of how Norman Bates came to kill his own mother, and the back-story behind Norman.

Many may feel that Psycho didn't need sequels, and in essence, they're probably right. Psycho was a one off and well-told story; it didn't need three extra films. However, with that said, I must say I loved and enjoyed Psycho II – IV. The campy 80s slasher feel that was generated in Parts II and III, along with the surprisingly fascinating story of Part IV have ensured that the Psycho Series is one really enjoyable saga.

Alfred Hitchcock's approach to shock the audience with his then powerful film worked well and the film is still talked about today. Although personally, I don't like Hitchcock as a director (I think his movies are slow and he's overrated), he still knows what he's doing and does it well. Psycho had a great cast and script. Anthony Perkins is a remarkable actor, and plays Bates astonishingly well. For a 1960s film, where many now consider the acting outdated, Perkins pulls of what I believe to be a real portrayal of a complicated character. And who can forget Janet Leigh's memorable portrayal of Marion Crane, who received top billing, but didn't make it to the closing credits. Joseph Stefano's adaptation of the original novel is done well. Slowed down by director Hitchcock, the script is a well written and an engaging one. Although I love the story, the movie itself can be sometimes slow and boring, however, my opinion seems null compared to the masses that adore the movie.

I was very sceptical about the sequels; who wouldn't be? But after viewing them, I found them to be thoroughly entertaining. Psycho II and III went in a different direction, creating a slasher mystery, which seemed to mix the storytelling mode of Psycho with that of a Friday the 13th film. And they're surprisingly gory as well! Compared to Psycho's no gore, Psycho II and III definitely make up for it with some rather graphic (yet obviously dated) special effects. Psycho IV – The Beginning tells an interesting story, through adult Norman Bates who recounts his life to a radio presenter on air. The story, written by Psycho scribe Joseph Stefano, is delightfully informative and never boring. I thought it would be a horrible idea, doing a prequel story, but it was achieved successfully and managed to keep me entertained.

Norman Bates made cinema history in 1960 and continued to be a character that I really loved to watch unfold as the story progressed. From the original classic to the enjoyable sequels, the Psycho Collection is a set that horror fans should definitely check out.
Video
The video presentations on all four films aren't anything to write home about. Psycho has a non-anamorphic widescreen presentation in original Black & White. The print, although relatively clean, is a little soft and fuzzy, and suffers from grain and blemishes throughout. Certain scenes are more obvious than others. With that being said, the Black and white tones are very easy to see, and it is clear the movie was shot well to work with the tones, and not against them. Night scenes are well lit, and are visually satisfying on the disc.

Psycho II however is a disappointment. The movie is shown fullscreen (what I assume is open matte, definitely not pan and scan) and the print is hardly pleasing. Although unlike Psycho, the movie boasts full and magnificent colours. In fact, the colours are so strong they seem over exaggerated to make up for the last film. The DVD presents the colours well, however the print suffers from a lot of grain and blemishes. The transfer is not very crisp either, and has a fuzzy feel to it.

Universal messes with our heads once again, and delivers Psycho III in a non-anamorphic widescreen transfer. The film is notably darker in tone and suffers from grain and blemishes. The transfer seems to be of lesser quality than Psycho II, but this may also be due to the cinematography of the film, and not the visual presentation.

Finally, Psycho IV – The Beginning is presented in its original fullscreen presentation, since it was made for TV. It has the best print of the four films, probably due to it being the newest. The print is much cleaner than the others, and edges are more detailed, and less fuzzy. There is less grain, and blemishes aren't present as often as the other prints. The colour is rich yet not too strong.
Audio
Psycho is presented in its original mono track, which sounds decent enough, once you get it to work. I had difficulty with this, maybe it's my DVD player, but I found with my 5.1 speaker set up, the mono came through very softly. I had to turn off my back speakers through the set up, and only then did it play the soundtrack at an audible level. Apart from that, the sound was good. For an 1960 movie, sounds were clear, dialogue was good and the musical score – one of Psycho's best elements – came through sounding great.

Psycho II, III and IV are all presented in a useless 5.1 Dolby Digital mix. I say useless because these movies don't need extra speakers for sound. In fact, I didn't even notice when the extra speakers were used. I'm sure it was mainly the odd sound effect used to scare the audience. However, dialogue is consistent, the score comes out well, and the one advantage to the 5.1 mix is that things are more spread out, making it easier on the ears to listen.

Overall, the sound on this set is pretty weak. The 5.1 mix is not needed, and something seems amiss with Psycho's mono soundtrack.
Extra Features
The first disc, Psycho, is the original release containing a feature length making of, trailers, Shower Scene with and without music, newsreel footage and promotional galleries. The Making of Psycho is a great feature length (a little over 90 minutes) documentary containing interviews with many of the creative team behind the movie and historians. It's neither boring nor dull, and fascinates the viewer with the hows, whys, whos and wheres. Unfortunately, the rest of the extras are pointless and boring. The trailers are long and or give away too much detail. The original trailer is a 6-minute walk through with director Alfred Hitchcock narrating and hinting at what happens during the film, completely taking the fun away. The other trailers are for the re-issues of the movie, and nothing special. The Shower Scene with or without music is just a waste of space. It shows how the scene is less scary without the music. We've all been told this; we don't need to see it. This is just another waste of time. The promotional photos are neat, with behind the scenes photos, on set photos and posters for the film. They're good to look at, but you won't want to keep going back to them.

The remaining three discs contain only the movies, no more extras.
The Verdict
Universal has released a semi decent collection here. It's great to have all four movies together in one really nifty package. The best feature to this set is the packaging, but even that seems a little budget. The video and audio is just awful, yet still better than some of the stuff we get today. And the only special features are seen on the first disc, but only one of those is worth watching. Universal get points for releasing the films together for the first time, but everything else falls flat. I love the collection, and it sits proudly on my shelf, but as a DVD set, it is let down by its video and audio quality, and the lack of features.
Movie Score
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