Bras, Screams, & Shower Scenes: How 'Psycho' Changed Horror Forever

By | December 5, 2017

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Left: The original poster for 'Psycho,' featuring a scandalous shot of Janet Leigh wearing a bra. Right: Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates watching Janet Leigh's character through a hole in the wall. Source: IMDB

Released in 1960, Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho announced a new era in scary movies. The story was darker than what we'd seen in movies before, featuring both internal psychoses and external, bloody violence. Norman Bates, played by Anthony Perkins, became one of the most memorable characters in film history, while Janet Leigh, as the first screaming victim of a slasher villain, claimed another spot in the pantheon of horror movies. Psychological horror has since become a staple of scary cinema, thanks to the boldness of Hitchcock's taboo-breaking classic.

Norman Bates Was Based On Ed Gein

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The disturbing character at the heart of Psycho, Norman Bates, was based on Ed Gein, a murderer and body snatcher who was active in Texas in the '40s and '50s. When he was apprehended in 1957, Gein was found to have a house littered with human remains, some of which had been made into furniture or clothing. 

Gein's mother had died in 1945, leaving him alone and in mourning. He would explain to the police that on many occasions, in a trance-like state, he had raided graves of recently buried women who resembled his late mother, and had brought their bodies back to his house. In 1959, author Robert Block published Psycho, a suspense novel about a deranged character based on Gein, and the novel served as the source material for Alfred Hitchcock's film.

Parts of Gein's story served as the inspiration for Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as well as Buffalo Bill in The Silence Of The Lambs.