Robert Bloch
Psycho Cover

Psycho - I hate you Alfred Hitchcock


At least for me the novel Psycho by Robert Bloch suffers from the same problem as The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty, which I read last year. To be frank, the problem would probably more accurately be described as mine. And this problem is: I grew up with the movie version as my point of reference for this novel. To me Norman Bates will always be Anthony Perkins; the tall gangly young man in his late 20's early 30's who created feelings of pity and camaraderie between the viewer and the character, a kind of anti-hero. I sort of liked this Norman Bates, and there was a dark part of me that wanted the movie version of Norman to get away with the murders.

Unfortunately Robert Bloch's Norman Bates is a short, fat, balding man, who was a drunkard and was completely unlikable. In chapter fifteen, he was described as having a "dull, fat, commonplace face". Mr. Bloch's Norman was infinitely more disturbed, and is absolutely not a hero, anti or any other type.

And to top it all off, all the best lines and scenes in the movie were not written by Bloch, but were instead written by the very talented script writer, Joseph Stefano. The scene where Norman is dumping Mary's car in the swamp and it stops sinking and there was that moment where it looked as though it was not going to sink, not in the book. The scene where the detective is killed while falling down the stairs, not in the book, and that oh so iconic scene where after Norman has been caught and he is sitting in the police station and he is thinking in his mother's voice about how even though there was a fly sitting on his/her hand, he/she was not going to kill it so they would know he could not even kill a fly, not in the book. I am sure I am not the only one to feel this disappointment after reading the novel.

The other unfortunate aspect to reading a novel that has become a cinematic classic is that the shock value was completely gone. I can only imagine how shocking this novel must have been in 1959 when it was written and again in 1960 when the movie was released. This book covers a score of very touchy subjects, Normans' psycho-sexual issues with his mother that affected his relationships with all women, to name the biggie. But in the intervening 55 years (I can't believe I just typed that, 55 years!) there have been a host of books and movies dealing with the same thing. Psycho suffers from being the first in a long line of copy cats, but after 50+ years, it is hard to remember it was the first. Oh we have become a jaded and cynical public!

I very rarely have ever said this before, and I hate to put it in print where it will be out there for all eternity, but I think I liked the movie better. There I have said it and can now move on with my life. As far as this review goes. I have had a difficult time trying to give it a rating. But I am settling for 3.5 stars, and somehow that still feels wrong, because the novel probably deserves better, but unfortunately for Mr. Bloch, Alfred Hitchcock got to me first.