The Psycho Legacy (2010) / Documentary

MPAA rated: Not rated, but would be R for clips showing strong bloody violence, gore, and some language
Length: 87 min.

Cast (interviews): David J. Schow, Diana Scarwid, Tom Holland, Henry Thomas, Mick Garris, Jeff Fahey, Olivia Hussey, Robert Loggia, Lee Garlington, Donovan Scott, Stuart Gordon, Adam Green, Robert V. Galluzzo, Rolfe Kanefsky
Director: Robert V. Galluzzo
Screenplay: Robert V. Galluzzo

Psycho Legacy 2010 documentaryThe Psycho Legacy is a straight-to-video documentary that re-examines the four films in the Norman Bates film saga, Psycho, Psycho II, Psycho III, and Psycho IV: The Beginning.  It is about half a documentary featuring interviews with directors, writers and actors who had worked on one of the Psycho sequels, and half a fan video that interviews a handful of people in the mostly low-budget horror flick genre who have a passion for this series of movies that have inspired them in their own films.  While there are countless sources related to the making of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, as well as its massive influence on the horror genre, this documentary is unique in that it looks at the three follow-up films as well, and spotlights each of them in succession with equal light.

Reportedly, writer-director-producer Robert Galluzzo's inspiration for making the documentary came from the realization that the sequels, which have been released in two-packs or three-packs together on DVD, did not have additional supplemental material to go along with them that told of the making of the films or their inspiration.  This is a bit of a shame, as Psycho is one of the most well-known films in Hollywood history, and its sequels, while paling in comparison with the original, are still quite respectable efforts on their own, especially when compared to the litany of copycat slasher films that seem to get their own special edition releases. Galluzzo personally financed the film himself after Universal seemed uninterested in the project (though they generously allowed for the use of stills and footage of the films), and had been quite tenacious in trying to secure interviews with as many of the cast and crew that had a story to tell about their recollection regarding the making of the films.

It is probably imperative for anyone interested in seeing The Psycho Legacy to watch all four Psycho films.  Not only does Galluzzo spend a great deal of time exploring the sequels with those who made them and those who enjoy them, there are major spoilers for each film throughout, including discussions on the best scenes and most surprising twists.  And while the sequels are inferior and flawed to a large degree, they are each quite nifty in their own respective ways, and remarkably different in their styles and substance, which is remarkable considering how indelible the look and sound of Hitchcock's original continues to be.

It's not a perfect documentary, as it may not seem as important to showcase the filmmakers who are fans of the films as prominently as they are in this doc.  While they occasionally will toss out some choice tidbit of trivia, for the most part, they don't say much other than how much they liked certain scenes, certain characterizations, pieces of music, etc.  It does make the documentary occasionally feel like a fan video instead of a behind-the-scenes look.  Perhaps a few interviews with film critics or historians might have given these comments on the sequels a bit more context and heft beyond just what seems cool from a fanboy perspective.

Even some of the actors who worked on the sequels are showcased a little more than they should be, some of them only appearing in very small roles in a one or two scenes.  I suppose Galluzzo would have been more judicious in just who would get more screen time if he had full access to everyone who worked on the films, but he had to go with what he had.  Nevertheless, considering how minor these films probably are regarded by such actors like Jeff Fahey, Henry Thomas, Olivia Hussey and Robert Loggia, it is quite remarkable that Galluzzo did get them to talk for a few minutes about their experiences, and do so enthusiastically as well. 

The interviews took place over the course of about three years, resulting in inconsistencies in the video quality, sound quality, and aspect ratio of the documentary.  This may turn off some viewers due to the ostensibly ramshackle way that the pieces are sometimes cobbled together.  It is actually quite an inexpensive independent production, and it shows whenever the video looks grainy or in the hollow sound in some of the pieces, and it is especially noticed when archival footage is interweaved featuring Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Janet Leigh and other now-deceased cast members discussing their involvement in the various films.  but once you get into the film, such things will probably not even be noticed by the majority of those who are enjoying it.  Galluzzo even does a nice job interweaving still photos that are offset with cut-outs so as to appear in three-dimensions, giving the talking head parade a bit of eye-candy appeal that makes for a nicely packaged viewing.

For completists, it should be noted that Galluzzo's documentary only concentrates on the official Psycho films starring Anthony Perkins.  It does not mention the 1998 Psycho remake by Gus Van Sant, or the 1987 made-for-TV spin-off pilot Bates MotelBeing a 2010 release, it also predates the 2013 television series Bates Motel by several years, so it doesn't capture the entirety of the Psycho influence outside of the numbered film series.  Robert Bloch's novel is mentioned, however, though mostly in how it is contrasted by Hitchcock's vision of how he would portray Norman Bates in his film as a boy-next-door type.  (It should be noted that the DVD release of The Psycho Legacy does contain a mini-doc dedicated to Bloch's "Psycho" series of novels.)

After all is said and done, The Psycho Legacy not only is a look back at the legacy of Norman Bates as a character in the horror genre, but it is also a bit of a tribute to the man who portrayed him, Anthony Perkins. Although Perkins had a successful career as a character actor and sometimes leading man prior to being cast as Norman in Psycho, afterward, it was difficult for people to disassociate him with his most famous of roles.  Initially, Perkins had become very resentful, until he finally came to terms with it and embraced it, even directing Psycho III and becoming the chief protector and promoter of the image of Norman's legacy in the latter part of his life.   

While The Psycho Legacy will probably only resonate with the relatively small percentage of moviegoers who've seen all four films in the Psycho series, and even smaller percentage who truly like them all, for those in this demographic, it is certainly worthwhile, especially in terms of learning some interesting anecdotes and other trivia regarding the making of the sequels, of which very little had been known prior to this release. Though it has been released on DVD as a standalone documentary, one can easily envision this being included in a potential box set in the future, should Universal ever deem the series as a whole worthy of release on blu-ray or some other format for fans.  Of very limited appeal though it may be, it certainly deserves a place in the collection of any fan hardcore enough to own all four Psycho films.
Qwipster's rating:  

©2013 Vince Leo