For all the slasher pictures that have ripped off Psycho (and particularly its classic set piece, the "shower scene"), nothing has ever matched the impact of the real thing. More than just a first-rate shocker full of thrills and suspense, Psycho is also an engrossing character study in which director Alfred Hitchcock skilfully seduces you into identifying with the main characters--then pulls the rug (or the bathmat) out from under you. Anthony Perkins is unforgettable as Norman Bates, the mama's boy proprietor of the Bates Motel; and so is Janet Leigh as Marion Crane, who makes an impulsive decision and becomes a fugitive from the law, hiding out at Norman's roadside inn for one fateful night. --Jim Emerson
Vacationing in northern California, Alfred Hitchcock was struck by a story in a Santa Cruz newspaper: "Seabird Invasion Hits Coastal Homes". From this peculiar incident, and his memory of a short story by Daphne du Maurier, the master of suspense created one of his strangest and most terrifying films. The Birds follows a chic blonde, Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), as she travels to the coastal town of Bodega Bay to hook up with a rugged fellow (Rod Taylor) she's only just met. Before long the town is attacked by marauding birds, and Hitchcock's skill at staging action is brought to the fore. Beyond the superb effects, however, The Birds is also one of Hitchcock's most psychologically complicated scenarios, a tense study of violence, loneliness, and complacency. What really gets under your skin are not the bird skirmishes but the anxiety and the eerie quiet between attacks. The director elevated an unknown model, Tippi Hedren (mother of Melanie Griffith), to being his latest cool, blond leading lady, an experience that was not always easy on the much-pecked Ms. Hedren. Still, she returned for the next Hitchcock picture, the underrated Marnie. Treated with scant attention by serious critics in 1963, The Birds has grown into a classic and--despite the sci-fi trappings--one of Hitchcock's most serious films. --Robert Horton
Alfred Hitchcock double bill. In 'Psycho' Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) goes on the run after stealing $40,000 from one of her employer's clients. Taking a wrong turn in a storm, Marion arrives at the isolated Bates Motel, run by the twitchy Norman (Anthony Perkins), who is constantly at the beck and call of his unseen mother. When Marion takes a shower in her room, a sudden knife attack brings her life to an end. Upon discovering her body Norman covers up the murder, but it is not long before Marion's sister and boyfriend are attempting to track her down. Director Alfred Hitchcock filmed this seminal thriller in a month, with a low budget and a streamlined crew. A 'making of' feature is also included. Whilst in 'The Birds' spoiled socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) pursues lawyer Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) to his Bodega Bay home after they meet in a bird shop. Melanie sails across the bay to deliver the gift of a lovebird to Mitch's young sister, only to be attacked by a gull on her way back. Soon random attacks on humans are taking place all over Bodega, as birds of all varieties mass in their thousands overhead.