11th Dec2017

’78/52′ Review

by Paul Metcalf

Featuring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Elizabeth Allan, Judith Anderson, Desi Arnaz, Marli Renfro, Mick Garris, Guillermo del Toro  | Written and Directed by Alaxandre O. Philippe


You don’t need to be a fan of Hitchcock to know the Psycho shower scene. It is woven into popular culture and for most of us we’ve seen it all our lives. 78/52 takes a look at the famous shower scene, what makes it so special, and why it is so celebrated….

The name 78/52 represents the 78 shots and 52 cuts that make up the death of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), and the reason it is used as the name for this documentary shows the importance, as well as brilliance. A scene that took 7 days to shoot, it showed an obsession, especially when the film was shot on a 30-day schedule.

In many ways it shows the importance of the scene to Alfred Hitchcock, as if he foresaw that it would be the pivotal scene of the movie, and would go down in historical importance. Many point to Psycho as giving birth to the slasher movie, and it easy to argue that it was. Halloween may have popularised it, but these are the origins of turning death into a bloodier affair.

What makes 78/52 work well is that Alaxandre O. Philippe never hides from his love of Psycho, and the shower scene especially. His film takes us back to the origins of the film showing interviews with Marion Crane’s body double Marli Renfro but also brings us up to date with actors and filmmakers discussing why it is so important to them.Hearing Renfro talking about the part she played, she lets us into the secret world of filming that scene. This isn’t to downplay Janet Leigh’s performance of course, and we do get interviews with Jamie Lee Curtis about the scene, as well as archived interviews with Leigh.

Where the film starts to truly shine is hearing filmmakers talk about the scene, especially people like Guillermo del Toro and Mick Garris. The fact these directors, as well as others like Eli Roth are included further emphasise the power of the scene on directors today, especially horror ones.

With the film having a focus on just one scene, this enables us to get into many of the details that are often overlooked. Looking at the sound production, the soundtrack, the way it was filmed, and how the audience was fooled is intriguing stuff. If you’ve seen enough documentaries about Psycho you’ll know the history behind not being able to show toilets in movies, but it wasn’t just this little detail that broke the rules for censors. It is intriguing to hear how censors at the time handled the film, and what Hitchcock had to do to fool them into letting the scene through. That in a way is the magic of a film like Psycho though, to get to the audience in the form that it did, there was a fight, and what 78/52 does well is to make the audience see just what a fight it was.

Luckily keeping away from the Gus van Sant remake, 78/52 is a love letter to a scene that changed the face of not only film, but most importantly horror. A must-see for fans of filmmaking, the documentary takes a look at a scene that still stands out today as brilliant and shocking, and shows just why it is a timeless look into the power of film.

***** 5/5

78/52 is available in the UK on DVD now from Dogwoof Films.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

Comments are closed.