Blu-ray Review: Psycho III (Collector’s Edition)

Once upon a time I was developing a script with a producer based at Universal Studios. Before heading out for dinner, he took a turned into the backlot for a quick tour of historical soundstages and sets. He pulled into the parking lot of the Bates Motel. There it was in full dilapidated glory. The rooms looked all vacant. The Bates house sat above it looking down in ominous judgment. I fully expected Norman Bates to poke his head out of the manager’s office to remind us that there’s still rooms available for the night. Or to hear mother screaming in the distance. I wanted to sneak inside to see everything close up. “Don’t open the door or security will have us removed,” the producer warned me. We sat in the car and soaked in the view while a drizzle came down. Sure hundreds of people see the Bates Motel every day as part of the Universal Studio tour. But just sitting in a real car and not the tram made it a surreal delight. While I never got the chance to enter the buildings, getting to see the interiors on the Blu-ray for Psycho III: The Collector’s Edition is a fine substitution. Plus there’s no security guards dragging me away from the TV.

“Norman Bates is back to normal. But mother’s off her rocker again” read the poster for Psycho III. The “cured” Norman Bates had regained his old swagger as the homicidal motel owner who had a nagging mother. This third installment took a clue from the original version by not opening with Norman. Instead things start off at a convent where young nun Maureen Coyle (Mommie Dearest‘s Diana Scarwid) has a crisis of faith. This often happens, but she’s breaking down at the top of the bell tower. This leads to slight accident that ends with her being tossed out the front door hauling her suitcase. Being in the middle of the desert, Maureen must hitchhike to get near civilization. The only car that stops for her is driven by future rock star Duane (Lost‘s Jeff Fahey). During a blinding rainstorm, Duane pulls off to the side of the road. He decides to collect Maureen’s share of the gas money the old fashioned way. Even though she just fled the convent, Maureen is not ready to become a pure heathen. She once more flees down the road. Fahey keeps driving on looking for gas money until he sees a sign: Help Wanted at the Bates Motel. Norman is bad to his old ways of taxidermy. He has no problem killing birds so he can stuff them. There’s a hint that he’s stuffed something bigger. Fahey has no problem getting the day manager job at the motel. Norman prefers the night shift. There’s other problems on the horizon. Turns out that people are looking for a character that vanished from the end of Psycho II. A reporter (Roberta Maxwell) at first wants to do a piece on Norman’s insanity defense, but becomes more interested in whether Norman is still sane. Norman’s juices get flowing when he first encounters Maureen. She has a short blond haircut like his original cinematic victim Marion Crane (Janet Leigh). He immediately welcomes her back to his hotel for a discounted rate stay. Maureen becomes frightened when she sees her old traveling buddy Duane working the desk. Little does she know who is the bigger threat when she gets given the key to Room 1. Will anyone be checking out of this sequel?

Anthony Perkins did double duty on this installment since it was his first chance to direct a feature film. He does a fine job delivering a film that goes brilliantly overboard. The slicing special effects are jolting. The cinematography of Bruce Surtees (Dirty Harry) brings a bit of grit to the tale. Carter Burwell’s score rates with his work for the Coen Brothers. Everything is slightly off yet normal for the Bates Motel. Perkins makes sure that Norman isn’t the creepiest person on the screen with Duane and Maureen also coming off as rather insane. He also does a nice job of tying up this revisiting with Norman. For some dumb reason Universal opened the film around the 4th of July in 1986. The movie didn’t do as well as Psycho II? Why didn’t they wait until the Halloween season when people really crave a good fright? A lot of people hate this film which is a shame since it’s not nearly as forgettable as Gus Van Sant’s remake of Psycho. You never hear someone say, “You know Vince Vaughn. He played Norman Bates.” Perkins would make one last appearance as Norman in Psycho IV: The Beginning that aired on Showtime in 1990. This was his last big time on the big screen playing the greatest hotel manager of all time. He made it worth paying the full rate to try and last the night.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer brings out the mid-80s feel of the 35mm film. You can really appreciate the little things around Mother’s house and the motel. The audio is DTS Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0. The 5.1 presents a few bumps on the side and Mother’s unforgiving voice in surround sound. The 2.0 mix is the original theatrical release track. The movie is subtitled in English. The movie is subtitled in English.

Audio Commentary features screenwrtter Charles Edward Pogue. Michael Felscher does the interview that covers Pogue’s involvement in the project. He had just done The Fly.

Watch the Guitar (16:49) is an interview with Jeff Fahey. He too was overwhelmed to be at the Bates Motel. His off beat character roles led to landing Psycho III.

Patsy’s Last Night (8:40) let’s Katt Shea talk about her time as Norman’s victim. She didn’t expect to be on the set that long. The worst part of the suit was the ice chest scene. Perkins wouldn’t cheat with the plastic stuff. Shea went on to be a graduate of Corman University and direct Drew Barrymore in Poison Ivy.

Mother’s Maker (11:12) speaks with special effects creator Michael Westmore. He was in charge of making a new mother for Norman Bates to engage. He had just come off Raging Bull. He enjoyed working with Perkins.

Body Double (5:14) talks skin with Brinke Stevens. She did the shower nudity for Roberta Maxwell. She made her mark starring in Slumber Party Massacre for Roger Corman’s New World.

(1:54) has the long one and the short TV teaser that remind us that Norman and his mother are back.

Still Gallery
(8:17) are plenty of pics from the set and promotions.

Psycho III: Collector’s Edition gives Anthony Perkins a chance to tell Norman Bates’ story from his perspective. The film delivers the Bates Motel weirdness now that Norman isn’t trying to be normal on the inside. He’s just willing to pass for normal when mother isn’t around. The special edition bonus features allow you to appreciate what Perkins put into the movie to make Norman’s story come full circle.

Scream Factory presents Psycho III: Collector’s Edition. Directed by: Anthony Perkins. Screenplay by: Charles Edward Pogue. Starring: Anthony Perkins, Jeff Fahey, Diana Scarwid, Roberta Maxwell and Hugh Gillin. Running Time: 93 minutes. Rating: R. Released: September 24, 2013.

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