Psycho appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. This became a terrific representation of the source.
Sharpness looked solid, as any instances of mild softness reflected the source. Some of those stemmed from opticals, while others came from minor “glamour photography” for Janet Leigh.
Whatever the case, the occasional soft shots didn’t last long, and these created no real distractions. The vast majority of the flick seemed accurate and well-defined.
I noticed no issues with jagged edges or edge haloes, and only a smidgen of shimmering occurred in a shot with some curtains. With a natural layer of grain, I detected no concerns connected to the use of noise reduction.
Print flaws never materialized, so this became a clean presentation. Blacks appeared deep and dense, while shadows showed nice smoothness and clarity.
The disc’s HDR added depth to dark tones and impact to contrast and whites. I felt totally pleased with this top-notch image.
In terms of audio, the Blu-ray provided a new DTS X remix. Downconverted to DTS-HD MA 7.1, this opened up the spectrum in a fairly subdued manner.
Music spread across the front and also demonstrated some minor reinforcement from the rear. As for effects, they usually offered gentle ambience. The showiest sequences involved vehicles that moved from channel to channel or a rainstorm that filled the spectrum.
The elements stayed fairly low-key, which I thought seemed appropriate. After all, this wasn’t a big slam-bang action movie, so active effects wouldn’t have made sense.
Audio quality was fine for its age. The score lacked great dimensionality, but given the vintage of the recording, I felt it was more than adequate.
Effects seemed good. Again, they didn’t have a lot to do here, but they showed fair accuracy and clarity.
Speech appeared reasonably concise and distinctive, without any edginess or other concerns. Nothing much excelled here, but the track held up fine for something recorded 60 years ago.
Note that the quality worked just as well for the included DTS-HD MA monaural track. It showed no decrease in fidelity.
Unfortunately, this mono mix simply provides a “fold-down” of the multichannel track, not the true mono from 1960, and this means it comes with effects elements not in the original. For instance, during the shower scene, the water offers different sound then the original.
This makes the 2020 disc’s mono track flawed. I hope Universal will correct it and offer a replacement.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the 60th Anniversary Blu-ray? Both sported the same DTS X audio.
In terms of visuals, the 4K seemed better defined and offered superior blacks and contrast. Because the Blu-ray looked great, this didn’t turn into a huge upgrade, but the 4K nonetheless became the superior rendition.
The 4K presents two versions of Psycho. We get the uncut 1960 version (1:49:04) as well as a slightly edited edition (1:48:51) that ran on TV and home video.
When the uncut Psycho first materialized via a German Blu-ray not too long ago, it caused some consternation among fans, as it seemed shocking that the movie most of us saw over the last 50-plus years didn’t present the 1960 theatrical release. This still seems hard to believe, but apparently it’s accurate.
As you can tell by the minimal change in running times, the two versions don’t differ much. “Uncut” adds a little more of Marion as she undresses at the motel as well as shots of Norman’s bloody hands after he moves her corpse. Finally, the “uncut” film presents extra stabs when Norman kills Arbogast.
After the German Blu-ray emerged, some viewers claimed it offered a transformational experience that substantially altered and improved Psycho. I think these folks got carried away, as the “uncut” version’s unique 13 seconds don’t change the film in a notable manner.
Because I didn’t exist in 1960, I never saw the movie in its initial run, so I only knew the “edited” Psycho until now. I still loved it and thought it worked tremendously well.
The “uncut” version doesn’t change that in either direction. I feel very happy that fans can see the 1960 edition for the first time in many years, but don’t confuse this for Lawrence of Arabia or some other movie that suffered severe changes from its original presentation. The “uncut” Psycho offers a fun alternative but nothing impactful.
Oddly, the “uncut” Psycho comes with a disclaimer to tell us it alters the film’s original release. I assume this a goof and the note intended to run in front of the shorter version.
Everything else here repeats from earlier releases, and we open with an audio commentary from film historian Stephen Rebello. He provides a running, screen-specific chat that looks at themes and storytelling, the script, visual elements, cinematography and the opening sequence, the score, editing, cast and crew, the nature of the production, and a few other aspects related to the flick.
Rebello appears to know his stuff, and he contributes a lot of good notes related to the film. Unfortunately, he goes silent a little more often than I’d like, so the track sags at times. Despite that concern, Rebello presents enough useful material to make this a worthwhile listen.
Next comes an excellent one-hour, 34-minute, 13-second documentary simply called The Making of Psycho. This program is created mainly from a combination of modern interviews interspersed with production photos and clips from the movie itself.
We hear from actor Janet Leigh, writer Joseph Stefano, assistant director Hilton Green, wardrobe person Rita Riggs, Hitchcock's daughter Pat and his assistant Peggy Robertson. Although he didn't work on Psycho, editor Paul Hirsch also appears, and he relates some anecdotes about his experiences working with composer Bernard Herrmann and also tells an interesting story that relates to his experience on Star Wars. In addition, filmmaker Clive Barker tosses out a few thoughts.
Although this method has some limits due to the deaths of many of the film's principals - most notably Hitchcock and Anthony Perkins - it works very well and offers a nicely complete picture of the creation of the film. Despite the absence of so many main figures, I can't imagine that the piece would offer any more complete a picture of how the film was made.
We start with issues connected to the adaptation of the original novel and then go through script development, casting, the shoot, post-production and the flick’s reception. All of these areas receive a lot of attention, and we learn a ton of great details. It's a terrific program that entertains as it informs.
Next we go to a featurette entitled Psycho Sound. In this nine-minute, 58-second piece, we hear from re-recording mixer Larry Walsh, supervising sound editor Richard LeGrand, Audionamix CEO Olivier Attia, and Audionamix Head of Production Fabrice Benoit.
They discuss the creation of the 2010 Blu-ray’s 5.1 mix, which makes it outdated since this disc comes with a DTS X track. They include some decent details, but mostly they simply tell us how wonderful their work is. That makes it a fairly dull program much of the time.
In the Master’s Shadow: Hitchcock’s Legacy runs 25 minutes, 59 seconds and includes comments from Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto, The Films of Alfred Hitchcock author David Sterritt, Hitchcock’s Music author Jack Sullivan, and filmmakers William Friedkin, Guillermo Del Toro, John Carpenter, Martin Scorsese, Mark Goldblatt, Eli Roth, John Murphy, Gary Rydstrom, Bill Pankow, Craig McKay, Joe Carnahan, Nathan Barr, and Ruth Myers.
“Shadow” examines the various filmmakers’ personal experiences with Hitchcock movies as well as an appreciation for Hitchcock’s work and notes about his influence. This kind of show inevitably becomes something of a lovefest.
Of course, one can easily argue Hitchcock was the greatest director ever, so if he doesn’t deserved praise, who does? Though that side of things can get a little thick at times, the filmmakers nonetheless offer some good insight into Hitchcock’s importance and influence. I especially like the comparison shots that show how Hitchcock directly inspired some shots in Scorsese’s Cape Fear.
For a chat between legendary directors, we go to the 15-minute, 22-second Hitchcock/Truffaut. This provides an audio excerpt of Francois Truffaut’s extensive 1962 interviews with Hitchcock.
They discuss the source novel and what attracted Hitchcock to it, some aspects of cinematic storytelling, and a few aspects of the flick. While it’s cool to hear from Hitchcock, I can’t say the chat provides any great insights.
It also offers relatively little information for its length, as the time for translation – exacerbated by the fact Hitchcock speaks slowly to facilitate that – means that we probably only get about eight minutes of actual discussion. The piece is worth a listen, but don’t expect greatness from it.
The disc features what it refers to as newsreel footage (7:46) of the film's release, but that's not really accurate. Instead, it appears to be a promotional piece assembled to send to prospective exhibitors.
The film originally opened only in the biggest markets first and then spread out across the country from there. As noted in this program, Hitchcock insisted on a very unusual exhibition practice whereby no one would be admitted to the film after it had begun. This film shows how that method worked and demonstrates the way things went at a New York cinema for these possibly jittery theater owners.
I liked this piece quite a lot, for although it's somewhat redundant - many of the same points are repeated over and over again, kind of like in one of my reviews - it's a fun little look back in time.
One other video segment shows the infamous shower scene with and without music. In total, this piece lasts for two minutes, 32 seconds. The clip runs that sequence twice back to back, the first time with Bernard Hermann's noted score, and the second time without the music.
While this demonstration clearly shows the impact his jarring strings have, I think the scene is actually more horrible without accompaniment. Of course, that may not have been the effect wanted, as the shocking nature of the act comes out more clearly with the music, and it's more likely to set the audience on edge in a way different from that desired by Hitchcock.
I just think that doesn't make the scene a failure without the music. In that incarnation, it seems more real and actually is more unsettling in many ways. (But I also like the music, so please don't flame me!)
We remain in the water with a running collection of storyboards (4:10) created by Saul Bass for the shower scene. I don't much care for storyboards, but I thought it was somewhat interesting to compare how the scene was conceived opposed to how it was executed. Universal should have run the film alongside the storyboards in a split-screen configuration, though, so we could more directly make that comparison.
Under The Psycho Archives, we find a compilation of stills. The piece runs seven minutes, 48 seconds and includes production photos. It’s a nice collection of shots, but I’d prefer a standard still gallery to the running montage.
In the same vein, we get Posters and Ads (3:00) as well as Lobby Cards (1:30). Further collections show Behind the Scenes shots (8:00) and more Production Photos (8:30). As with the “Archives”, these are good to see, but the format doesn’t excite me.
The Psycho 4K also includes Hitchcock's fabulous trailer. This is one of the most unusual ads I've ever seen. The trailer clocks in at more than six and a half minutes in length and it shows literally no clips from movie itself.
Instead, it shows Hitchcock's droll little walk through the set as he discusses all of the terrible events that "happened" there. It's amusing and entertaining and is unquestionably one of the greatest trailers ever made.
In addition to that little masterpiece, the disc includes five re-release trailers. All of these are very similar; essentially they just promote the fact that the television version of Psycho is edited so you'd better see it in the theaters or else you'll miss some of it. These clips are interesting, but not in a league with the original trailer – and they’re more likely TV spots than theatrical promos.
A second disc provides a Blu-ray copy of Psycho. It includes the same extras as the 4K UHD.
60 years after its debut, Psycho continues to thrill. A legitimate classic, the film remains thoroughly engaging. The 4K UHD provides strong picture, appropriate audio and a quality set of supplements. The 4K becomes the best version of Psycho released on home video.
Note that as of September 2020, this 4K UHD version of Psycho appears only as part of the four-film “Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection”. It also includes 4K UHD versions of Rear Window, Vertigo and The Birds.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of PSYCHO