Psycho: The Title Credits

Features / 08 August 2005

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Psycho was the third and final collaboration between Saul Bass and Alfred Hitchcock. While his work on Vertigo and North by Northwest was limited to the title sequences, in this case, Bass was also credited as a “pictorial consultant” for his role as an advisor on some of the movie’s critical sequences, including the famous shower scene. In an interview with François Truffaut, Hitch downplayed Bass’ role in the filming, but most other accounts credit him with fashioning the drawings that became the basis for several scenes.

While his degree of input for the bulk of Psycho remains hard to pinpoint, Bass left his usual unmistakable imprint on the film’s title sequences. In this case, however, it seems unfair to single him out because the power of his title sequence is bolstered heavily by Bernard Herrmann’s tense, dramatic score. As the music swells, the horizontal and vertical lines that appear are driven across the screen in a stabbing motion, foreshadowing the action to come. Occasionally, a name that appears on screen (e.g. Alfred Hitchcock) becomes scrambled, perhaps suggesting the degree to which identities will be jumbled throughout the course of the film. As in the intro to North by Northwest, the lines that crisscross the screen in Psycho seamlessly fade into a shot of tall buildings, setting up the segue into the illicit meeting between Marion and her lover at a hotel.

Beth Gilligan | © 2005 notcoming.com

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Beth Gilligan

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