Psycho (1959 Novel) Review

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PSYCHO NOVEL

**** ½Out of 5

Release Date- 1959

Written by- Robert Bloch

When it comes to Psycho it seems sometimes people forget the Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece was based off a novel; the film is no doubt one of the greatest films ever made and its a film every aspiring filmmaker should see to learn how to plot a screenplay and how to direct. But without the novel by Robert Bloch we wouldn’t have the classic film. It’s a shame the novel is sort of forgotten and I suppose that just shows how great the film was, but its a shame because the novel is a wonderful book and really should get more attention. Between the two I personally think the film was better for the most part (not a lot better however), but the novel is far better than the sequels and remake. Robert Bloch wrote a truly terrific novel and I just wish it didn’t take me as long as it did to finally read it.

The film and novel really aren’t that much different, but personally I felt the changes screenwriter Joseph Stefano made improved on what was an amazing novel. Unlike the film Norman is introduced right away and this worked great in the book, but the film version made the right idea by keeping Norman out for the first 30-minutes as I don’t think it would have worked as well in the film mainly due to a lot of Norman’s chapters are his thoughts outside of a few conversations with Mother. Also it adds to the odd vibe when Marion Crane (Mary in the novel) first meets Norman. Introducing Norman right away worked brilliant in the book, but Alfred Hitchcock and Joseph Stefano made the right move in taking Norman out of the early parts of the film. Would I have felt that way if I read the novel first? Not possible to give an answer, but at least it gives the novel and film a couple of differences, which helped my enjoyment of the book a little more. The film and novel aren’t all that different for the most part and I would again give the edge to the film, but in general they aren’t all that different and the changes made in the film I thought actually improved the film over what was a very good novel.

The novel does offer a little more insight on Mary Crane and her sister Lila and Sam Loomis. While all three characters are well developed in the film we do learn more about them. Obviously certain things can’t be in the film as it would slow the pace down and even stray from the main plot and of course we can’t get into the thoughts of the characters without a voice over, but all these things would hurt the pace, but work brilliantly in the novel. Robert Bloch does a wonderful job with the characters and you really feel as if you get to know them. Norman is a little more likable in the film; by the end of Psycho we know Norman is insane and has a split personality, but prior to that he’s a bit weird and eccentric and really Norman isn’t the villain; Mother is and Norman is just guilty of covering up her crimes, but the novel we get more into his mind and while still weird and eccentric we also know he isn’t all there and I didn’t find Norman as likable in the novel as I did the film. As we get into his thoughts he could be quite nasty. Though for the most part Norman is more or less the same biggest differences are he’s 40-years old, overweight and a bit of an alcoholic. But there are some differences and I really loved the take the novel had on Norman as well as the film.

Psycho the film starts off as a crime/drama that becomes a horror film and the novel also is sort of a crime/drama, but it seemed to me Mary played less of a part as she did in the film even if there isn’t much added differently in the film. I guess since in the novel Norman is introduced right away perhaps that’s why, but it did seem to me the part was a bit bigger in the film even if again there really wasn’t much added. The novel seems a little more horror and suspense driven with an odd tone established from the start whereas the film while does the same thing in terms of horror and suspense, but the tone early is more crime/drama. It’s quite interesting how the same material just worded differently at times can make things play off so different at times.

As far as the changes made in the film from the book I guess seeing the film so many times its only natural to favor the film. The changes aren’t major; most changes made its the same basic idea just played out a bit differently, but not where it strays. But I suppose its only natural to favor the film since I’ve seen it many times before ever reading the book. With all that said though Psycho is a fantastic novel and if you’ve seen the film nothing here will surprise you, but that doesn’t take away from the novel at all.

Overall Psycho is an amazing novel and Robert Bloch deserves far more credit than he gets. Like I said I do feel the changes made by Joseph Stefano elevated the material, but that’s not a knock on Robert Bloch who again wrote a terrific book and just might make my top 5 novels of all time. Robert Bloch would write Psycho II in 1982 coming out a year before the film version of Psycho II and would feature entirely different plots and in 1990 Robert Bloch wrote Psycho House the 3rd and final part of his trilogy. The original novel was the best out of the three and it comes highly recommend.

(The 8th page I posted is the shower scene).

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2 Responses to “Psycho (1959 Novel) Review”

  1. Nice, I should definitely read this.

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