The Master of Suspense is also a master of style, and this 90+ minute documentary certainly proves why Alfred Hitchcock is an unforgettable filmmaker. His understanding and control of film can be likened to those artists who have mastered their respective art forms. Thus, The Making of Psycho is a genuine opportunity for those seeking the best insight into filmmaking.
Involving interviews with the collaborators of Psycho, such as actor Janet Leigh and screenwriter Joseph Stefano, give us an intimate look into the entire process of making the film. We go from one stage of the production to another, learning from what seems to be a masterclass in film production. Most importantly, The Making of Psycho is as detailed as Hitchcock’s own films. It sheds light on the writing of the script, the filmmaker’s directing style, and even the particularities of specific scenes and devices, such as the famous shower scene and the symbolism behind the wardrobe.
Alfred Hitchcock explained to French filmmaker François Truffaut that he chose to direct Psycho as a challenge to himself. The challenge was to elevate what could be a low budget B-movie into an intelligently crafted and engaging film. There is a great lesson to learn here for all filmmakers and artists. Always challenge yourselves and you will produce greater works. This is one of so many gems to take away from The Making of Psycho.
A full-scale restoration of the film started in 1997, the third Universal Pictures restoration by the team Robert Harris and James Katz.
Rear Window has never looked as good as it could have, according to Harris, even during its initial release in 1954. That’s because the first dye-transfer prints weren’t made until the 1962 reissue, when they were badly timed and came out beige. “So this will be the first time we see the film’s full-color spectrum,” he says. But first the restorers must clean up an extremely dirty negative, abused from the very beginning. “It’s a mess,” Harris says. “There were 400 runs off the camera negative before the end of 1954. We don’t know why they didn’t do it dye-transfer, which would have saved printing off the negative. This was reasonably unusual for the period. And we’re missing 1,000 feet of negative.”
Besides the accumulation of dirt, pieces of the original Eastman color negative that were dupes (titles and optical effects) have faded in the yellow layer of emulsion due to aging and improper storage — a malady that sooner or later strikes all color negatives from the early ’50s through the ’80s, when a more stable stock was introduced. This first- layer deterioration includes loss of contrast, blacks and shadows going blue and facial highlights turning, in the words of the restorers, “a lovely shade of crustacean.”