78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene

Year: 2017
Production Co: Exhibit A Pictures
Director: Alexandre O Phillipe
Writer: Alexandre O Phillipe
Cast: Marli Renfro, Alfred Hitchcock, Richard Stanley, Bret Easton Ellis, Elijah Wood, Eli Roth, Guillermo Del Toro, Leigh Whannell, Karyn Kusuma, Peter Bogdanovich, Mick Garris, Illeana Douglas, Walter Murch, Neil Marshall, Danny Elfman, Jamie Lee Curtis`

You know a film is a real classic when there's a documentary not just about the film itself but a single scene. The title refers to the number of camera set-ups and cuts, and because (as the movie teaches you) Hitchcock and his cast and crew filmed it over the course of a whole week.

Talking heads from Marli Renfro, who starred as Janet Leigh's body double, to artists like Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Karyn Kusuma and Gullermo Del Toro all talk about the impact, legacy, creative challenge and history of Marion Crane's shocking on-screen 1960 murder from every possible angle.

Film scholars break down and talk about the power and meaning of every single cut and beat, the timing and onset of Herman's violins, the camera angles, light and shadow, dead space in the frame where Norman appears when he opens the door of the bathroom, the mystery behind Leigh's possible near-blink as we pan out from her dead face and every other creative and mechanical choice Hitchcock made.

But the film (and everyone who talks about it) also makes the case about the philosophy of the scene. In one argument it wasn't just the movie but the shower scene itself that changed so much about movies and culture.

Nobody was used to seeing the leading lady bumped off so soon into the movie, for instance, and you might argue that there's a direct throughline from Marion to The Walking Dead and Game Of Thrones, about how your number can be up no matter how important you seem to the story or how high up the cast list you are.

It also widens the lens on what the shower scene did to entertainment culture in general. We've all seen the infamous poster of Hitchcock sternly pointing to his watch, promising that when the doors close nobody will be admitted. What else was he unknowingly referencing but the spolier-obsessed world of the online age?

If you're a film fan there's tons of making-of detail in it you didn't know, and it'll open your eyes to plenty of other dimensions about the scene (and the movie) you hadn't thought of. There's probably not much of interest if you're not an extreme movie geek, but if you are it feels like pretty essential knowledge while you're watching it.

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