Psycho

on December 04, 1998 by Mike Kerrigan
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It's not so much that this movie didn't need to be made. The real tragedy is that a group of enormously talented people wasted several months of their lives when together they could have done something fresh and exciting and original.
   Instead, director Gus Van Sant ("Good Will Hunting") has done a shot-by-shot remake of the 1960 Hitchcock film, and it has all the artistic integrity of that paint-by-numbers Mona Lisa that your grandmother has hanging on the wall of her family room.
   Film students might compare this "Psycho" to the original and perhaps see where Von Sant used a faster lens and got more depth of field. They might even figure out how it comes in five minutes less than before. But so what? As a stand-alone movie it falls flat on its face.
   Not only is the live action close to identical but the titles by Saul Bass and music by Bernard Herrmann are there too. In fact, the only thing arguably better is the sound. The music, adapted by Danny Elfman, takes full advantage of the improved technology, and the voices in Norman's head are terrific when digitized and blasted at you from odd angles.
   The film has an oddly dated look from the costumes, which are small-town '60s generic, to the sepia tint of the print which succeeds in muting the southwestern palette. It starts, according to a title, on December 11, 1998 at 2:43 pm. It actually opened exactly one week earlier than that and, just like the original, without benefit of preview.
   For Hitchcock there were very good reasons. He had made it for a paltry $800,000 using many TV technicians. Paramount had serious cold feet about the subject matter and allowed the master 60 per cent of the profits if he met the budget. Hitch wanted to get the most shock value, opened it cold and even asked people not to reveal the ending. His plan worked and he made a fortune. Universal had no such excuse.    If Von Sant had a burning desire to see "Psycho" in color he would have been better off borrowing Ted Turner's paint box and splashing it on Hitchcock's black and white classic. Starring Vince Vaughn, Julianne Moore, Viggo Mortensen, William H. Macy and Anne Heche. Directed by Gus Van Sant. Written by Joseph Stefano. Produced by Brian Grazer and Gus Van Sant. A Universal release. Rated R for violence and sexuality/nudity. Running time 104 min.
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