Who can forget that scene in Psycho? The infamous shower sequence in Hitchcock’s masterpiece has been seared in the heads of moviegoers for generations. Alexandre O. Philippe’s 78/52 seeks to understand just what made that scene so legendary, deconstructing it to explore what each stab of the knife meant for cinema and culture. Philippe keeps things lively with the help of horror luminaries Eli Roth, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Guillermo del Toro, who cheerfully set about dissecting everything from editing to the composition of the fake blood. Psycho’s original nude stand-in for the shower scene, Marli Renfro, offers a particularly compelling account of what it was like to be on that hotel set nearly sixty years ago.
Whether or not they knew it, Hitchcock and his collaborators created a pivotal point in the cultural and cinematic landscapes of North America. Philippe’s documentary argues that Janet Leigh’s violent onscreen death marks the transition point between “Old” and “New” Hollywood, and is representative of the dramatic cultural shifts of the 1960s. In a style that recalls Rodney Ascher’s Room 237, swift editing, intriguing anecdotes, and a celebratory atmosphere keep things from getting too ‘inside baseball.’ Philippe leaves no stone unturned in his analysis, and even devoted Hitchcock followers might learn a new thing or two about one of the landmark scenes in the director’s legendary career. A special treat for cinephiles, gorehounds, and film scholars, 78/52 is sure to delight anyone who still gets a little nervous when they hear a strange sound in the shower. Thanks to Mr. Hitchock, that is essentially everyone in the known universe. -CP