Norman Bates The Original Psycho Slasher

I write a blog on here, and you’d be more than welcome to read it if you want f.o.c. of course..free of charge! This update before our big Halloween day update is all about the one and only Norman Bates and Innovation Comics’ three issue adaptation of the film that came out in 1992. If you remember last year I had a tough time choosing what to review between Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III and Psycho, and Leatherface ended up winning.  Well this year I decided that it’s for sure Psycho’s time in the jack-o-lantern candle spotlight. So while we wait for our room at the Bates Motel, we should talk about the 1959 novel Psycho written by Robert Bloch that was adapted into the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name. The novel was about a son and mother that run a motel called the Bates Motel that’s off a stretch of highway.  When a young lady goes missing and we know she has been murdered, a plot of why and who killed her comes into play as her sister and a private detective come looking for answers. The novel was a hit and was loosely based off the killer Ed Gein who just two years before had been arrested for murder and grave robbing.  It’s said that Bloch didn’t do any research into Gein’s crimes and was shocked to see just how much the Norman Bates character and the real life killer Gein had in common. The novel proved to be such a hit that it was licensed to become a film directed by the master of thrills Alfred Hitchcock, and it also sparked two novel sequels called Psycho II in 1982 and Psycho House in 1990. For those wondering, Robert Bloch wrote 30 novels and hundreds of short stories.  Some of his novels include Night of The Ripper, The Dead Beat, The Jekyll Legacy and Twilight Zone: The Movie to name a few. In the 60’s Bloch also worked on Hollywood scripts that included 10 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents as well as William Castle directed films Straight Jacket and The Night Walker as well as British made horror film The Skull that starred Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Bloch was a protege and friend of writer H.P. Lovecraft the latter who even dedicated a story to marking the first and only time the writer dedicated one of his stories to someone else. Sadly Robert Bloch is no longer with us as he passed away in 1994 at the age of 77 from cancer. But if you enjoy a good horror chiller novel then check out some of Bloch’s work. I’m sure you will get a shiver or two from them.

psycho bookNow at this point I should get onto breaking down the films in the Psycho movie series as well as talk briefly about the TV inspired programs, and I guess about the awful and unwanted remake. So as always I am going to take the films descriptions from IMDB so that you can get a little taste of what these films are about.  Warning: I am sure these write ups will have spoilers I will also at the end of each give them a 1-4 star rating just for the fun of it! So with that let’s sit down have some peanut butter sandwiches and milk and learn all about Norman Bates and his Mother Norma. I should also say that Anthony Perkins will always be Norman Bates.  The way the actor brought the character to life will never be matched. Perkins played the character in the first 4 films and sadly passed away in 1992 at the age of 60 from AIDS-related pneumonia. But let’s get to those film write ups, shall we?

Psycho – Phoenix officeworker Marion Crane is fed up with the way life has treated her. She has to meet her lover Sam in lunch breaks and they cannot get married because Sam has to give most of his money away in alimony. One Friday Marion is trusted to bank $40,000 by her employer. Seeing the opportunity to take the money and start a new life, Marion leaves town and heads towards Sam’s California store. Tired after the long drive and caught in a storm, she gets off the main highway and pulls into The Bates Motel. The motel is managed by a quiet young man called Norman who seems to be dominated by his mother. 4 stars for sure, a true classic in cinema as well as truly one of the first slasher films.

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Psycho II – Now declared legally sane, Norman Bates is released from a mental institution after spending 22 years in confinement over the protests of Marion Crane’s sister Lila Loomis, who insists that he’s still a killer and that the court’s indifference to his victims by releasing him is a gross miscarriage of justice. Norman returns to his motel and the old Victorian mansion where his troubles started, and history predictably begins to repeat itself. A solid 3 1/2 stars and a film I can remember watching a lot when I was younger!

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Psycho III – Norman Bates is still running his little motel, and he has kept the dressed skeleton he calls mother. One of his guests is a young girl who has left the convent where she lived. To get some help he employs a young man. One day a nosy journalist comes to see him to ask questions about his past. I really like this third film and while it’s more of a slasher film than a suspense one, I still would give this 3 stars!

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Psycho IV: The Beginning – Norman Bates returns for this “prequel”, once more having mommy trouble. This time around he is invited to share memories of mom with a radio talk show host, but the PYSCHO fears that he may kill again for his beloved is impregnated with his child and Norman cannot let another PYSCHO loose in the civilized world. This made for Showtime movie is pretty good and sadly marked the last time Anthony Perkins played Norman Bates. I would give this one as well 3 Stars.

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Bates Motel (1987) – This film is based on, but not in sequence with, the Psycho films. After the death of Norman Bates, a man who befriended him in the institution inherits the motel. In keeping with Norman’s wishes, he tries to fix up the place and make it a respectable motel. Made for TV film that was made to try and kick start a TV series.

Psycho (1998) – Marion Crane steals a lot of cash from a man whom her boss is in business with. On the way to see her boyfriend, she stops off by an old motel, run by the odd Norman Bates. She is murdered in the shower. Her sister, boyfriend, and a private investigator try to find out where she is, while we learn more about Norman Bates. This film is a waste and has Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates. Zero stars.

Bates Motel (2013) – “Bates Motel” is a contemporary prequel to the genre-defining film “Psycho,” and gives a portrayal of how Norman Bates’ (Freddie Highmore) psyche unravels through his teenage years. Fans discover the dark, twisted backstory of Norman Bates and how deeply intricate his relationship with his mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga), truly is. Airs on A&E and is on it’s second season.

The Bates Haunting (2012) – One year ago, Agnes Rickover attended opening night at the Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride to see her best friend Lily’s dramatic debut. A horrific accident resulted in Agnes witnessing Lily’s fiery death in a spectacle gone wrong. After a year of obsessing over a murder investigation everyone else thinks is open and shut, Agnes goes to work at the Haunt in an attempt confront her trauma. Horrific events begin to claim the lives of her coworkers and Agnes must figure out what is behind all of the “accidents” before more people die. Generic cash in on the Bates Motel name, has nothing to do with Norman Bates or hell even the Bates Motel!

Bates Motel Made for TV MoviePsycho Remake PosterBates Motel TV ShowBates Haunting

While Psycho started as a book, it was the films that made it a household name and allowed it to be marketed and even the original motel and house set to become a mainstay tourist attraction for all those who go to Universal Studios Hollywood. Psycho as well as Norman Bates and Mother have been turned into all types of products from t-shirts, dolls, night lights, posters, comics, toys, shower curtains, video games and Halloween costumes. One of my favorite piece of merchandise is the McFarlane Toys Movie Maniac Norman Bates action figure that is Norman in dress with removable wig…classic! I should also note that I would love for a 3 3/4” ReAction Figure line based on Psycho to come out complete with Norman and Mother. So if you’re a Psycho fan, there is plenty of great stuff out there for you to collect.

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In 1988, Box Office Games made a game for the Commodore 64 based on Psycho that was a cheesy 8-bit horror themed game. The game is about a curator with a bad heart and some priceless jewels that have been stolen from a museum.  All clues point that they are both at the infamous Bates Motel! No one will take the case besides you, a detective that decides to enter the famed house and Motel late at night. In the house is Norman Bates dressed up as his mother as well as skeletons, ghosts and bats all wanting to stop you from saving the day. It’s a race against time as you must find them before daybreak and must also fight off sleep! Find the clues, keys, gun, ammo, the curator and jewels before Norman Bates finds you! Do you have the nerves of steel to search the Bates House and Motel? Can you stand up to Norman Bates? The game is okay but the lack of Norman and Mother make it feel like an updated version of the Atari 2600 game Haunted House.The graphics are your standard Commodore style so while not ground breaking, they are very charming. But over all if you’re a fan of the film and still own a Commodore 64, then this is one you might want to check out.

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One thing that makes the Psycho films work is the score music that accompanies so many of the films’ iconic scenes. The first film’s score is done by Bernard Herrmann and is a very powerful and each bit of music fits the scene it accompanies.  Who can forget the the the shower scene music cue? The second film’s music is done by Jerry Goldsmith and once more is a very solid piece of work, filled with just enough touches of Herrmann’s score style but truly Godlsmith’s own. The third film has Carter Burwell doing the score, and the fourth film is Graeme Revell and both do outstanding jobs and like the composers before them, capture the mood and feel of the Psycho world. Each of these soundtracks are worth a listen with part four’s being the hardest to get your hands on. One thing that I love to do on Alpha Rhythms on WYSO is play some of the score done by Herrmann from time to time, and it’s always a must-play on the Halloween show.

Psycho SoundtrackPsycho II SoundtrackPsycho III Soundtrack

Janet Leigh was born Jeanette Helen Morrison on July 6th 1927, and by 1945 thanks to actress Norma Shearer, she became a signed on actress to MGM even though she had no acting experience.  She got the contract just simply by her smile. By 1947 she made her major big budget film debut in The Romance Of Rosy Ridge, and after this many roles would come her way like If Winter Comes, The Stratton Story, Hills Of Home, Little Women and Touch Of Evil to name a few. Her most popular role came in 1960 when she was casted as Marion Crane in Psycho. With the success of Psycho, she landed more major roles in such films as The Manchurian Candidate and Bye Bye Birdie. During this time she also took some roles on TV shows like Tales Of The Unexpected, Columbo, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and even an episode of the 1989 Twilight Zone. She also took roles alongside her actress daughter Jamie Lee Curtis in the films The Fog and Halloween H20. Leigh has been married a total of 4 times with her third husband being Tony Curtis with whom she had Jamie Lee. Leigh sadly died in 2004 at the age of 77 from vasculitis leaving behind a husband and two daughters. To me Janet Leigh could be one of the original Scream Queens of horror and only could be matched for the “original” title by Carolyn Jones of 1959’s House on Haunted Hill and of course Fay Wray from 1933’s King Kong. But what is for sure is Janet Leigh was a fantastic actress who starred in some great films and made her mark on the world of horror.

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Growing up I watched Psycho and its sequels a lot, and one fun past time I can remember doing in my teens was talking to my mom as if she was Mother.  She hated when I did this but I always got a good laugh acting as if she was crazy and such about girls I was dating or even dinner she had cooked for us. Fun times indeed and still to this day from time to time I still bust out the “Yes Mother” just to keep the joke alive. But I just got word that our room is ready and just our luck we got room # 1, the room right next door to the office so we are really lucky! But before we enter, I just want to remind you all that I grade these issues on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. I also want to thank Bell Book and Comic and Lone Star Comics for having these issues in stock. So let’s go ahead and get comfy and enjoy our stay at the Bates Motel!

Psycho Comic 1

Psycho # 1   ***1/2
Released in 1992   Cover Price $2.50    Innovation   #1 of 3

At a hotel room Sam and Marion have just finished up a lunch break filled with making love, and the two talk of a “future” that they might have together once Sam can get back on his feet. Marion returns to work where she is a secretary for a real estate agent, and when a load mouth cowboy comes in with forty thousand dollar cash and she is asked to put it in the companies safety deposit box at the bank, she makes the decision to steal the money and go on the run. On her way out of town she catches the eye of a cop who follows her as she trades in her car and buys a new one.  She then makes her way to a motel called The Bates Motel during a rain storm and meets the owner Norman Bates, who invites her to dinner and while he goes to his home on the hill near the motel Marion can hear him arguing with his mother before returning with some sandwiches and milk. Marion eats in the office parlor as she and Norman talk about his Mother and running away from mistakes.  The talk makes her want to return home and return the money before things get way out of hand, and as she returns to her room Norman removes a picture in his office to show a peephole into her cabin next door!

Marion is a lovely woman who is just down and out in her love life as well are in her professional life. She decides to try and change her luck and commits a terrible crime to secure that new life, and while now she is on the path to make everything better she still feels rotten about what she has done. This sad and desperate situation she finds herself in is what draws you as a reader into really liking her character and hoping that she can make things right and find happiness another way. Norman Bates is an odd and awkward yet likeable man who really seems to care for his Mother even though she treats him poorly and rules every aspect of his life, plus his hobby is taxidermy, he likes to drink milk, he runs a motel with no guests and he’s a peeping tom…so he has to be a good guy right? Mother Bates, while we have not seen her, sounds very strong willed and not very friendly at all. It’s clear that Mother hates other women and thinks that they are all whores who want to corrupt Norman. The mood of the comic captures the mood of the film really well and for those of us who have seen the classic film, we know what awaits us but still the build up here is really well done. The art inside the comic is that painted style and is done by Felipe Echevarria who does a fantastic job with making Marion look like actress Janet Lee, but I will say his Norman Bates, while good, looks nothing like Anthony Perkins and that’s kind of a let down. The cover is fantastic and captures that noir and horror feel of the film perfect. Over all this is a perfect comic film adaptation and really sparks the mood of this Halloween season! So let’s get onto issue # 2 and see what Norman is up to.

Psycho Comic 2

Psycho # 2  ***
Released in 1992   Cover Price $2.50   Innovation   #2 of 3

Norman spies on Marion as she gets undressed and writes a letter she rips up and flushes.  As she gets into the shower Norman, walks back up to his house. As Marion’s in the shower, a shadowy figure with a dress on and white hair slings open the shower curtain and stabs the young woman to death. We cut back to the house as Norman yells at mother about all the blood and rushes to the room and cleans up the blood, and dumps Marion’s body in her car into a near by lake. Meanwhile the murdered woman’s sister Lila is visiting Sam to try and find her missing sister and the money, and they become aware that a private investigator named Arbogast has been hired to find her and get the money back. Arbogast travels the highways and stops at all the motels to see if anyone has seen Marion and when entering The Bates Motel, he and Norman exchange some words when he finds that Norman has lied about the woman being at his Motel after he finds her name on the guest registry. After questioning Norman and being refused to speak to Mother, Arbogast calls Lila and Sam to tell them that Marion was at The Bates Motel and that he plans on sneaking into the house to speak to Mother, and he will call them back in an hour. Arbogast sneaks into the house and becomes another victim to Mother and her knife, and when three hours pass Sam leaves Lila to go to Bates Motel and check on what’s going on.

The second issue is still very solid, but I will say it slips a little as many of the pages are filled with overly large art with no dialogue, and then other parts are filled with overly long dialogue! Marion in this issue is killed off and her character comes to an end, sad ’cause much like in the film you find yourself hoping she does the right thing for her own life. Norman Bates is shown to be spineless when it comes to standing up to mother as well as others who are come looking for those that mother’s actions affected. Arbogast tries his best to be Dick Tracy but falls short when he becomes too nosey and pays the price of entering another person’s house uninvited with his life. Sam and Lila are gearing up to be more of the focus of the final issue as they really want to know where their loved one is! The story in this issue is more noir than horror but this works for the middle issue and is really the set up for the big surprise and blow out of the end of the story. The cover is great and captures the horror of Marion’s shower death, and the art in this issue while good seems a slight more sloppy than issue # 1 and is done by Felipe Echevarria once more in the paint style. I must also say that while in the film the shower scene is the most iconic part, in the comic it don’t hold up as well and comes off solid but not great. The murder that does work is that of Arbogast, due to the dark shadows used and the perfect way the darkness hides Mother. Very good issue that once more holds the feel and mood of the film it’s based on showing that adaptations can be done right.  So with no more wait let’s move onto the conclusion of Psycho!

Psycho Comic 3

Psycho # 3   ***1/2
Released in 1992   Cover Price $2.50   Innovation   #3 of 3

Sam and Lila regroup after he went to the Bates Motel and never saw Norman, only Mother via her bedroom window. The pair visit the town sheriff and tell them about Marion, the money and Arbogast and that all these things tie into The Bates Motel! They tell him of the phone call from the now missing private detective about speaking with Mother as well as Sam’s eye witness of the old woman sitting in the window and watching him. The Sheriff informs them that Norman’s mother has been dead for over 10 years and that he thinks that Arbogast has left town on a lead of Marion so that he himself could steal the money from her. Norman in fear that they will be coming for Mother makes her hide in the fruit cellar and the next morning is able to pass that everything is okay when the Sheriff came to the motel looking for answers. Sam and Lila still don’t think things are right at Bates Motel and head there to stay under the fake guise that they are husband and wife looking for a good night’s rest. They are taken to cabin # 6, and when Norman goes back to his hous,e they sneak into cabin # 1 and find evidence that Marion was there at some point for sure. Sam distracts Norman while Lila sneaks inside and this leads to Norman knocking out Sam when he finds that his questions are about Mother and rushes to the house as Lila hides in the fruit cellar and finds Mother who is in fact a corpse as Norman busts in wearing a wig and dress! Norman is stopped by Sam and is arrested for the murders. In the end it’s shown that Norman Bates has been crazy his whole life and killed his own mother and her lover 10 years back and has took on a split personality that has him switch from Norman Bates to Mother Bates!

Norman Bates is mentally unstable, and this makes him a great bad guy in the comic world as he has layers to his craziness, making him super dangerous as he has this way about him that while you are creeped out you see him as no danger…the key thing to most serial killers is to make everyone believe they are normal. In this final issue we get to see multiple sides of Norman from worried and loyal son to cross dressing mama’s boy with murder on his mind. Norman Bates, while defeated by the end of the comic, lives to fight another day as it’s clear he will spend his days in an asylum. Lila and Sam are good characters who won’t give up on their missing loved one and put themselves into danger to try and find the truth, and are the ones who crack these missing person cases wide open by solving the mystery of the Bates Motel. The Sheriff is just a numbskull who half asses his look into what Norman knows and offers really no help to Lila and Sam for their quest for the truth. Mother….poor decomposed Mother.  While her body is a rotting shell, her spirit is alive and well in Norman. The Mother side of his personality is the domineering and evil side that makes him lash out at pretty women and any man who gets in the way. This final issue holds the shock of Mother being dead and Norman being crazy really well, and both these aspects work really well in this comic mini series. Felipe Echevarria does the art again, and the paint style looks great still but his Norman Bates is still a little off. I wish it would have looked more like Anthony Perkins! The cover is well done but is by far the weaker of the three issues. Over all I really enjoyed this comic series, and this was a perfect way to get into the Halloween spirit even more. If you’re a fan of the film, the novel and comics then check this one out for sure.

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Well it’s time to check out of the Bates Motel and wrap this update up. This was a very well done comic series that helped capture the thrills of suspense of the film it was based on, and makes me wish Innovation would have made a full comic series based on Norman Bates and the Motel he runs. So I am sure you’re wondering what is the next update, the one that will be going up on October 31st 2014 Halloween Day.  Well I am proud to say that it will be based on Universal’s Frankenstein Monster and special comics made on the films! So until then share some ghost stories with friends, watch a horror movie and read a horror comic and what ever you do, don’t stay at the Bates Motel!

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