There are few, if any, more iconic scenes in the history of cinema than the shower scene in Psycho. Then again, Alfred Hitchcock is arguably the greatest creator in the history of motion picture. He was a master of suspense, but a genius at knowing how to immerse audiences into his rich narratives. It took 78 camera setups and 52 cuts, one body double (Marli Renfro) and a whopping 7 days to film that sequence. Alexandre O. Philippe’s documentary 78/52 takes an in-depth look at this momentous moment in cinema history.
After the huge success of North by Northwest, Hitchcock confounded everyone (especially the studio) by making a black and white picture where its star (Janet Leigh) is murdered in the first third of the film. It left audiences stunned, as Peter Bogdanovich attests: “…and when I walked out into Time Square, at noon, I felt I’d been raped.” It’s one of the most violent scenes in cinematic history without actually showing the viewer any physical brutality.
A menagerie of the good and the great from both in front of, and behind, the camera, including Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Neil Marshall, Walter Murch, Richard Stanley and Bret Easton Ellis are on hand to offer their perspectives. As they discuss the shots, the framing, the cuts, you can see the awe they have for the editing, camerawork and sound design. 78/52 is a beautifully made documentary in itself. As each angle is analysed, a new tantalising piece of information comes to light. It’s fascinating and also highly entertaining study of the art of film-making.
78/52 is out in cinemas from Friday 3 November.