Monday, October 26, 2020

Psycho's Shower Scene

I'm on a roll with creepy movies this month, and one of the scariest is Psycho. The infamous shower scene is one of the most frightening around. After seeing it, many people didn't take a shower for months, or even years! 

I mentioned last week that I don't like blood and gore slasher movies. But even though there's lots of slashing in this particular scene, and even some blood, it's more implied than visual, which makes the scene so masterful!

Psycho was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starred Janet Leigh, who usually played a good girl, but in this film was cast as wayward secretary Marion Crane. In a surprising twist, she's killed off in the first 45 minutes of the film. Her murderer is cross-dressing, psychotic hotel manager Norman Bates played by Anthony Perkins. Where is Marion killed? In the shower, of course.  The scene took a week to film and I found some fascinating facts about it at Take a look at some of them below:

Psycho became Hitchcock’s most successful film at the time—its box-office take, $32 million, was the second best of 1960, after Spartacus. But it was made despite much resistance. Paramount, the studio that had produced several of the director’s 1950s successes, refused to bankroll it. So Hitchcock financed its budget himself, against the advice of his own producers. The film also rattled the censors who executed Hollywood’s slackening Motion Picture Production Code, also known as the Hays Code, which was in effect from 1934 to 1968.

The censors balked at what they perceived as nudity in the shower sequence. Leigh wore moleskin patches to hide sensitive areas, as did her body double, pin-up model and future Playboy cover star Marli Renfro, who took over for more exposed moments. But there also was the opening scene, in which Leigh’s Marion wears only a bra and slip, sharing a hotel room with her divorced lover. The censors wanted that changed, too, but the savvy director tricked them. He sent back a copy of the shower scene that was unchanged, confusing the censors as to whether they had seen something or not. He also invited them to the set where he would reshoot the offending opening scene, but none of the censors showed up.

Much of the scene, which was storyboarded in consultation with the legendary designer Saul Bass (and took a week to film), was shot in extreme close-ups, with swift edits, so that the nudity and violence is implied—felt—but never actually seen. The shower set was constructed so that any of its walls could be removed, allowing the camera to get in close from every angle. And Hitchcock employed a fast-motion reverse shot to make it look like the blade actually pierced Marion’s abdomen.

The shrieking strings of composer Bernard Herrmann’s score ratchet up the tension.(It was a novel use of violins, which had usually been employed in film soundtracks to enhance a sense of romance or pathos.) Hitchcock at first resisted them, planning to use no soundtrack at all for the scene. To make the experience even more palpable, the sound of Marion’s flesh yielding to the knife was created by stabbing a casaba melon. Hitchcock had his crew audition multiple varieties of melon until they found the right kind.

Audiences have had six decades to adjust to such visual frenzy, but in 1960, the same year when wholesome, traditional films like 
Swiss Family Robinson and Please Don’t Eat the Daisies also dominated the box office, watching it might have induced panic.

For the complete article, click here, and to watch the shower scene, click here! Have you ever seen Psycho? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, October 19, 2020

The Cat People

I thought I'd feature another creepy movie this week for Halloween. I don't like blood and gore slasher movies, but I do enjoy unnerving movies that keep me on the edge of my seat. When a lot is left to my imagination, I don't mind being scared, but I don't want to be emotionally scarred by the trauma of visual violence.

Therefore, the 1942 version of The Cat People is just the kind of scary movie I like! There was no CGI back then, so animation was used to create some rather hair-raising special effects that I found quite effective! A newer version of this film was made in 1982. I haven't seen it, but I doubt it's as good as the original. Remakes seldom are.

Here's a partial synopsis of the 1942 version of The Cat People from Wikipedia:

At the Central Park Zoo in New York CitySerbian born fashion illustrator Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon) makes sketches of a black panther. She catches the attention of marine engineer Oliver Reed (Kent Smith), who strikes up a conversation. Irena invites him to her apartment for tea. 

At her apartment, Oliver is intrigued by a statue of a medieval warrior on horseback impaling a large cat with his sword. Irena informs Oliver that the figure is 
King John of Serbia and that the cat represents evil. According to legend, long ago, the Christian residents of her home village gradually turned to witchcraft and devil-worship after being enslaved by the Mameluks. When King John drove the Mameluks out and saw what the villagers had become, he had them killed. However, "the wisest and the most wicked" escaped into the mountains. Oliver is dismissive of the legend even though Irena clearly takes it seriously.

Oliver buys her a kitten, but upon meeting her, it hisses. Irena suggests they go to the pet shop to exchange it. When they enter the shop, the animals go wild in her presence, and Irena becomes uneasy. Irena gradually reveals to Oliver that she believes she is descended from the cat people of her village, and that she will transform into a panther if aroused to passion. Despite this, Oliver asks her to marry him, and she agrees. 

To see what happens next, click here. Or better yet, to watch it, click here!

The Cat People was created as a B movie and opened to mixed reviews. However, it was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1993, and because of its atmosphere and sophistication, Roger Ebert describes it as one of the landmark films of the 1940s. That's good enough for me!

Have you ever seen The Cat People? Any thoughts? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, October 12, 2020

The Bad Seed

It's October and Halloween is right around the corner. Lots of creepy, scary and unsettling movies will be on television this month, and one of the most unsettling to me is The Bad Seed.

I'm referring to the 1956 version. One was released in 2018, but I haven't seen it. I'm sure the recent release is even more unnerving than the original!

Here's part of the synopsis from Wikipedia:

Kenneth and Christine Penmark dote on their eight-year-old daughter, Rhoda. They say their farewells before he goes away on military duty. Their neighbor and landlord, Monica Breedlove, comes in with presents for Rhoda – a pair of sunglasses and a locket. Rhoda, pristine and proper in her pinafore dress and long, blonde pigtails, thanks Monica for the gifts. She dances in tap shoes and tells Monica about a penmanship competition that Rhoda lost to her schoolmate, Claude Daigle; Monica speaks of it as a childish disappointment, but Rhoda's face darkens with fury. Christine and Rhoda leave for the school picnic at a nearby lake.
Later, Christine is having lunch with Monica and friends when they learn on the radio that a child has drowned in the lake where Rhoda's school was having their picnic. Christine worries that the drowned child could be her daughter, but a follow-up report indicates that it was Rhoda's schoolmate, Claude, the winner of the penmanship medal. Relieved that Rhoda is alive, Christine worries that her daughter might be traumatized by seeing the boy’s corpse. When Rhoda returns, however, she is unfazed by the incident and goes about her daily activities.
Rhoda's teacher, Mrs. Fern visits Christine, revealing that Rhoda was apparently the last person to see Claude alive and that she was seen grabbing at Claude's medal. Mrs. Fern alludes to the fact that Rhoda might have had some connection to the boy's death, but stops short of actually accusing her of it, and says that Rhoda would not be welcome at school the following year. As the two women talk, Claude's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Daigle, barges in. Claude's mother is both distraught and drunk. She accuses Rhoda's teacher of knowing something that she is not telling. Mr. Daigle steps in, apologizing for the scene.
When Christine finds the penmanship medal in Rhoda's room, she demands an explanation. Rhoda lies that Claude let her have the medal after she won a bet. Later, Christine's intuition about having been adopted is confirmed: she is the biological daughter of a notorious serial killer, Bessie Danker, and was adopted at two years of age by her foster father, Richard Bravo, and his late wife. Christine now worries that Bessie (and therefore Christine herself) is the cause of Rhoda's sociopathy and that her behavior is genetic, not subject to influence or reversal by good parenting or a wholesome environment.

For the complete synopsis, click here, or if you don't mind being unsettled for an evening, watch the movie!  If you've seen it already, what did you think?  And if you've seen the newer version, did it creep you out? Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Hair Care Through the Ages

Ever given much thought to shampooing your hair? Check out this fascinating article from

Most of us take health and hygiene seriously and wash and cleanse our body and hair on a daily basis. But it wasn’t always so. Throughout history, different civilisations have had different approaches to sanitation and cleanliness, and hair care was often pretty low on the scale of importance. Much of the emphasis was placed on reducing unpleasant odours and dressing.

So, let’s take a journey back in to the mists of time to discover some of the odd potions and techniques our ancestors used for their historical hair care.

Ancient Egypt was a hot, dry place in the desert. A bit like modern Egypt. Hair moisturisers gave protection from the arid climate, and Egyptian women would use a healthy dose of castor oil and almond oil, which they believed also promoted hair growth by massaging it into the scalp.
Assyrian kings and nobility around 1500 BC liked curly hair, and to achieve the look they had their hair curled with iron bars heated in a fire, starting a trend that lasts today – albeit a little more safely.

An early Renaissance era hair gel recipe from around 1300 used lizard tallow blended with swallow droppings. Tallow is rendered from the fat of animals. Like the soap in Fight Club. Women also conditioned their hair with dead lizards boiled in olive oil.

In the 1600s, at the time of Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I, women would set their hair with lard. The smell would attract rats at night, so they would sleep with nightcaps, or in more extreme cases, with cages over their heads to ward off the little nibblers.
Try this recipe for a French pomade from the 1700s:
“Take some beef marrow and remove all the bits of skin and bone. Put it in a pot with some hazelnut oil and stir well with the end of a rolling pin. Add more oil from time to time until it is thoroughly liquefied. Add a little essence of lemon. Bear grease can be a substitute for bone marrow.”

Lice were a major problem during the Enlightenment, so men would shave their heads and wear wigs instead. In the 18th Century the predominant style was for the wig to be as white as possible. If you were poor, this meant adding copious amounts of flour to the wig. The rich would use a combination of starch and pleasant smelling oils such as lavender.

A German chemist named Hans Schwarzkopf developed a water-soluble powder shampoo and sold it in his pharmacy. It was an instant hit and he soon was taking orders from every pharmacy in Berlin, then Holland and Russia. He followed this up with the first liquid shampoo in 1927, establishing Schwarzkopf as the world’s first hair care business empire.

In 1908 the New York Times printed:
“…specialists recommend the shampooing of the hair as often as every two weeks, but from a month to six weeks should be a better interval if the hair is in fairly good condition.”

It went on to recommend white castile soap or tar soap, while split ends could be treated by singeing and clipping.

I'm glad I missed out on all those time periods! Any thoughts? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!