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The Moment of Psycho How Alfred Hitchcock Taught America to Love Murder by David Thomson

The Moment of Psycho How Alfred Hitchcock Taught America to Love Murder


The Moment of Psycho How Alfred Hitchcock Taught America to Love Murder by David Thomson

It was made like a television movie, and completed in less than three months. It killed off its star in forty minutes. There was no happy ending. And it offered the most violent scene to date in American film, punctuated by shrieking strings that seared the national consciousness. Nothing like Psycho had existed before the movie industry- even America itself- would never be the same. In The Moment of Psycho , film critic David Thomson situates Psycho in Alfred Hitchcock's career, recreating the mood and time when the seminal film erupted onto film screens worldwide. Thomson shows that Psycho was not just a sensation in film: it altered the very nature of our desires. Sex, violence, and horror took on new life. Psycho , all of a sudden, represented all America wanted from a film- and, as Thomson brilliantly demonstrates, still does.


Thomson's close analysis of the film, its context in terms of director and cast and its influence on subsequent movies is another of his five-star movie masterclasses. He should be given an annual Oscar for movie criticism and a lifetime achievement award for being consistently right about film. The Times Thomson intuits the secret afterlife of Psycho in the American mind, in a short book which is like an inspired, bravura jazz solo... Thomson attempts to place himself inside the fabric of Psycho, floating in its pin-sharp monochrome nightmare, living through its narrative and the narrative of its cultural impact in a sort of subjective real time. Shrewdly, he places it alongside Truman Capote's 1966 true-crime study In Cold Blood, as a work which shows that America's hinterlands are not the places of provincial decency quaintly imagined by popular culture but unpoliced worlds of melancholy and menace. Who are all these lonely men? Good ol

? Momma's boys? Thomson playfully asks us to imagine that dutiful son Elvis Presley in the Tony Perkins role: A disquietingly plausible cine-fantasy and the kind of brilliant flush that only Thomson could conjure. The Guardian a compelling argument from the pre-eminent film critic of the age. I have long been a fan of Thomson's magisterial Biographical Dictionary of Film, and in The Moment of Psycho he is at his most fluent and perceptive. The Mail On Sunday Ever since I first saw Psycho as a terrified adolescent, I've been replaying it - inside my head for several decades, nowadays on a screen at the foot of my bed - but David Thomson has spotted things that my countless viewings overlooked... At his best, Thomson provides his own deftly poetic equivalents to the film's visual images and wordless sounds... (He) is a metaphysician of the movies who has also always been fascinated by the fantasies and mysteries that play out in the darkened cinema, and he writes compellingly about the snarled relationship between voyeurism and moral responsibility of Psycho. The Observer A flood of slasher, slice-and-dice and arterial-spray films have dulled Psycho's edge in recent years, but Thomson is right to recall just how scandalous Hitchcock's picture was at the time of its release... Thomson leads us through the film and its release with a sure hand, always smart and provocative... The Times In 1960, few wrote seriously about film. Now everybody's at it, and Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 shower shocker could be cinema's most written about movie. Do we really need another Psycho book? Well... yes. David Thomson's slim, densely packed essay adds something new by concentrating on precisely that shift in attitude... Thomson is a magisterial writer. There's enough meat her to keep the Psycho industry rolling on for several more years. Total Film Forget about assassination, communism and war - an extraordinary new book argues that it was really Hitchcock's masterpiece that sparked global panic, paranoia and distrust. The Sunday Express Forget about assassination, communism and war - an extraordinary newbook argues that it was really Hitchcock's masterpiece that sparked global panic, paranoia and distrust. The Daily Express Iluminating... Thomson's own passion for the film is evident. The Evening Standard Thomson's book represents a refreshing return to the value judgment in Hitchcockian exegesis. The Spectator satisfyingly controversial and persuasive . Sight and Sound Magazine

About the Author

David Thomson (1914-1988) was born in India of Scottish parents. After returning to Britain, he sustained an eye injury when aged eleven. This made school impossible for him until the age of fourteen and impaired his vision for the rest of his life. He was sent to stay with his grandmother in Nairn, and taught by private tutors. During and after university, Thomson took tutoring jobs, staying with one family in Ireland for almost ten years. These Scottish and Irish experiences were explicitly translated into his writing, most particularly in Nairn in Darkness and Light (1987), and Woodbrook (1974). From 1943 Thomson spent twenty-six years working for the BBC as a writer and producer of radio documentaries, writing many distinguished programmes. His love of the natural world, rural communities and oral traditions came together in the unforgettable style of The People of the Sea, his first book. He met his wife in 1952, whilst working for UNESCO, and continued to write fiction, children's fiction and non-fiction until his death.

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Book Info

Publication date

9th November 2010


David Thomson

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Basic Books an imprint of INGRAM PUBLISHER SERVICES US


192 pages


Individual film directors, film-makers



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