Trusted real estate secretary Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) one day finds herself unable to resist temptation and absconds with $40,000 of her bosses money. Ignoring the urge to flee straight to her lover (the owner of a hardware store) she drives into the night. Looking for a place to rest she comes across the foreboding, decrepit Bates Motel but decides it is so secluded that her presence there will not be noticed by the authorities. The proprietor of the motel, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) is an intense, withdrawn young man who resides with his dominating mother in the draconian house overlooking the motel. When Marion's absence is noted, her sister Lila (Vera Miles) hires an insurance investigator Milton Arbogast (Martin Balsam) to find her. He uncovers more than a few unpleasant surprises.
Widely regarded as Hitchcock's best film, "Psycho" is certainly his most imitated and perhaps his most influential. Ostensibly a Grand Guignol thriller with Freudian undertones, it's a perfectly realised, visually rich, and chilling look at masculinity and schizophrenia that had more than a hand in redefining the role of the spectator in terms of mainstream cinema, most notably perhaps in the famous shower sequence which re-explored the nature of cinematic voyeurism.
As effective as it is as a genre piece, the proceedings are of course shot through with Hitchcock¹s sly, mordant and slightly sadistic humour which revels in the consequences of the oedipally induced madness and the sardonic irony of much of the dialogue ("Mother's not herself today"). For all its playfulness however, it's still gripping and irrevocably gruesome fare played to perfection by a top notch cast, chief amongst them a suitably jumpy Perkins in a career defining role. An audacious treasure trove of riches.