Monday, 4 July 2016

Psycho a Go-Go

Currently reading Robert Bloch's Psycho novels as part of my Hitchcock season… Bloch’s 1959 novel Psycho is pretty much business as usual, the film stick so closely to the original text that apocryphal stories of Hitchcock buying up paperback copies of the novel might well be believed. Unfortunately Bloch’s writing is rather pedestrian and has little of the black comedy of Joseph Stefano’s screenplay, but there are some interesting details which didn’t make the transition from page to screen such as a peek at Norman Bates’ library which includes girly mags, De Sade’s Justine and surprisingly, an occult bent courtesy of Aleister Crowley and Joris-Karl Huysmans’s 1891 novel Là-Bas

Bloch’s novel Psycho II is a far more eventful read, having nothing to do with Richard Franklin’s film. Instead the book begins like a re-thread of Halloween (complete with a guilt-ridden psychiatrist) and mutates however unlikely into something akin to Scream 3, with Norman Bates relocating to Hollywood to terrorize the cast and crew making a film about…Norman Bates. The sequel is a breezy and entertaining read, very much in the yarn-spinning style of Stephen King. What emerges most strongly from the novel though is Bloch’s obvious loathing of slasher movies and what he once referred to as the “bloodbath tactics” of Hollywood - the novel was first published in that epochal year 1982. Interestingly Bloch wrote the director of the fictional Bates biopic as an Italian and I had to wonder if this was a dig at the outrageously violent Italian Horror films that were washing up on American shores at the turn of the decade ?

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