Alfred Hitchcock was a master showman, but wait until you hear how he “tricked” the audience into seeing Psycho back in 1960.
The official Oscar’s YouTube uploaded this historical mini-doc that recounts the theatrical release of Hitchcock’s horror classic, which starred Janet Leigh as a secretary who embezzles $40,000 from her employer’s client, goes on the run, and checks into a remote motel (the Bates Motel) run by a young man (Anthony Perkins) under the domination of his mother.
While Hitchcock asked viewers to avoid spoiling the big twist for others, the actual selling point was that one had to see the movie from the beginning. No, this wasn’t a request, it was required. Seems like a novel idea, no? Seriously, there was a point in our history where movies weren’t always seen from beginning to end, as many would trickle in after dinner or drinks, and possibly even stay through the start of the next showing. It’s such a fractured experience that’s still the social norm in places like India, which is why many of their films have no real structure (the goal is to make it entertaining at any point in the movie).
But I digress, could you imagine walking into Psycho and not even knowing that Marion Crane had been murdered by Norman Bates? It would kill the film’s momentum, as that was initially its biggest surprise, a twist in the first act! Since when had the movie’s protagonist been murdered in the first 40 minutes? The shower scene is also Psycho’s centerpiece, and Hitchcock knew that missing the first chunk of the film would result in poor word of mouth, or maybe even a complete misunderstanding of it. By forcing theaters and the audience to show up on time, it revolutionized how we see films, which is now highlighted by several post-credit scenes.