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New doc reexamines famous scene in 'Psycho'

Screaming Mouth From Psycho

Long before "Jaws" spoiled romps in the surf, "Psycho" shattered the solitude of the shower. Now, a new documentary focuses entirely on one of the most famous scenes in Hollywood history, Janet Leigh's bloody demise in Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 thriller.

The cryptically titled "78/52," opening October 13, refers to the number of camera setups and editing cuts required to compose the three-minute bloodbath at the Bates Motel.

"The scene provoked massive gasping and screaming upon its release," The Hollywood Reporter points out, in part because it marked the first time the star of a movie was killed off so early.

"78/52" also zooms in on the art of manipulating an audience to the point that everyone thinks they've seen something that wasn't shown on the screen. Director Karyn Kusama notes that the infamous shower scene is "the first expression of the female body under assault" on film. The slashing death seems even more gruesome than it actually is because of the close-ups of Leigh's bare skin, the killer's knife, and the swirling drain of blood in the tub.

"The hypnotic film-geek documentary," says Variety, "is an ingenious and irreverent master class" in moviemaking and "an enthralling act of film criticism. It celebrates one of the greatest movies ever made…"

That's high praise. But it probably won't stop anyone from locking the bathroom door before stepping into the shower.

Photo: Bettmann Archive via Getty Images