78/52

An incisive look at the cutting of Alfred Hitchcock’s most pointed scene.

Psycho isn’t necessarily Alfred Hitchcock’s best film — nor is Vertigo, with all due respect to the BFI — but it’s arguably his most-examined film, and its shower scene is one of the most famous sequences in movie history. Named for the 78 camera setups and 52 edits packed into those three minutes, The People vs. George Lucas director Alexandre O. Philippe‘s new documentary 78/52 goes deep into the minutiae of the scene and into Psycho’s cultural impact. There’s little that countless past books and documentaries haven’t covered already, but it’s fun to listen to the picture discussed by filmmakers young and old including Guillermo del Toro, Elijah Wood, and Peter Bogdanovich, who’s always happy to bust out his Hitchcock impersonation.

Michael Powell’s contemporaneous career-ruining Peeping Tom gets a shout-out, and Gus Van Sant’s unfairly maligned 1998 Psycho remake gets treated with a modicum of respect, too. If there’s a glaring omission, it’s that no mention is made of the influence of Orson Welles’ 1958 Touch of Evil, and not just because both films feature Janet Leigh alone in a remote motel where she’s stalked by the creepy young manager. The journal Bright Lights addressed this in a still-Googleable 1995 essay, and in fairness to the otherwise fine 78/52, no 91-minute film can be 100-percent right about everything.

78/52
Not rated.
Opens Friday at the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission.

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