Blu-ray Review: Psycho IV: The Beginning

Anthony Perkins seemed done playing Norman Bates after Psycho III‘s lukewarm performance at the box office. Universal wasn’t done with the franchise having created Bates Motel, a TV movie that was supposed to be the pilot for a series starring Bud Cort (Harold & Maude) as the new owner of the property. But fans didn’t want any other face checking in guests than Perkins. With the 30th anniversary of Psycho approaching, the studio brought back Perkins for his iconic role. Showtime aired the movie on November 10, 1990 so there was no worry about box office returns spoiling the celebration. Psycho IV: The Beginning proved to be a massive cable success.

Fran Ambrose (Avatar‘s CCH Pounder) hosts a talk radio show with the night’s topic being matricide. She has a mother killer as a guest, but he’s small potatoes compared to a caller. While the man calls himself Ed, it’s really Norman Bates (Perkins). He wants to give Ambrose and her medical expert Dr. Leo Richmond (Twin Peaks‘ Warren Frost) a real story of what would drive a boy to kill his mother and other women. He first describes a woman he killed when she dropped by the Bates Motel looking to seduce the young Norman (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial‘s Henry Thomas). But mother was already dead at this point and talking inside Norman’s head. Ambrose gets Norman to go back to examine his twisted relationship with mother (Black Christmas‘ Olivia Hussey). She enjoyed sharing his body heat. The mother and son’s bond soured when she hooked up with a guy who enjoyed mocking Norman. He couldn’t take anyone else loving his disturbed mother. As the conversation gets deeper between Ambrose and Norman, a new drama comes out. Norman’s new wife might be in danger because of a recent development. Norman fears mother will come back and put an end to their marriage. Will Norman and mother make one final killing on this fourth outing?

There’s plenty of debate among hardcore Psycho fans about the worthiness of the film. If you enjoyed Psycho II and Psycho III, you’ll be absorbed by Psycho IV: The Beginning. It’s worthy on several levels including allowing original screenwriter Joseph Stefano a chance to give a complete backstory of Norman. The film does set the tone for the recent Bates Motel series that explores Norman and his mother’s relationship when they were both living. Mick Garris does a fine job at contributing to the franchise on a TV movie budget. There’s plenty of action with young Norman learning how to kill. The third act allows the older Norman to do more than talk on the phone. Perkins shines in his final performance of Norman Bates as he does his best to finally overcome mother.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. Even though it was shot for Showtime in the age of standard definition TVs, the action is framed for movie theaters. The audio is 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. The sound levels allow Mother’s voice to be heard cleanly. The movie is subtitled.

Commentary Track unites director Mick Garris with Olivia Hussey and Henry Thomas. They have an odd time during the scene where Norman kills his mother and boyfriend. Garris explains why mother teases her drink. Garris also admits that the big push to get to get the film made was building a Bates Motel and Mother’s House for Universal Studios Orlando’s backlot tour.

The Making of Mother with Tony Gardner (27:41) has him explain how he met Mick Garris on the set of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video. Tony worked for Rick Baker at the time. This also ties into John Landis. He did his best to match the original mother corpse.

Behind the Scenes (13:15) is a video camera shooting some of the radio station action. There’s more footage of John Landis acting and not taking over the set.

A Looks at the Scoring Psycho IV (6:12) is video footage of the orchestra in the scoring stage. While there’s no narration, it’s a fine way to see how the music ends up in the soundtrack.

Photo Gallery (6:06) includes production photos and snapshots from the location.

Scream Factory presents Psycho IV: The Beginning. Directed by: Mick Garris. Screenplay by: Joseph Stefano. Starring: Anthony Perkins, Henry Thomas, Olivia Hussey & CCH Pounder. Running Time: 96 minutes. Rated: R. Released: August 23, 2016.

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