PSYCHO PATHS: Norman Bates and Beyond (Part II)

by Jake on October 18, 2012

(Continued from Part I)

Norman Bates‘Psycho III’ (1986) sucks. Plain and simple. It’s more of a generic slasher movie than anything, which robs it of the plot twists and overall charm of the first two. Perkins is great as Norman, of course – by this point, he could have played the part in his sleep. But the overall tone of the movie is cheap and sleazy. Which is a shame, because poor Norman deserved better. They did finally resolve the whole “who is Norman’s real mother” issue posed by the second film, but it wasn’t worth the effort. If you’re a completist and you HAVE to watch them all, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Since ‘Psycho III’ was (and still is) the lowest-grossing entry in the franchise, Universal decided to try something different. ‘Different’ in this case meaning ‘stupid’.

‘Bates Motel’ (1987) was intended as a pilot for a television series. Who thought this was a good idea? Boggles the mind. Remember how I mentioned earlier that this was NOT to be confused with the ‘Psycho House’? That’s because the initial premise is a LOT like ‘Psycho House’.

Apparently disregarding the two sequels, ‘Bates Motel’ takes place after Norman Bates has died in the institution. Yeah. Apparently, since Norman made damn sure he had no living relatives, he left everything to young Alex, played by Bud Cort, who grew up in the institution and was Norman’s friend. Aww! Alex goes to Fairvale – no, wait, it’s now called “Fairville” for no apparent reason – and reopens the motel. You may be assuming that bad things start to happen, in which case you are quite correct.

The idea was going to be that different strange or supernatural events would take place each week on the series. If anyone had watched the pilot, that may have been the case. Fortunately, almost no one did. I must admit that I, in fact, was among the few who actually saw ‘Bates Motel’ the night it aired, July 5th, 1987. I’m not proud of this.

With that, it seemed the Psycho franchise was finally over.

I’m kidding.

Psycho IV: The Beginning‘Psycho IV: The Beginning’ (1990) was also made for TV. in this case, pay cable, specifically the Showtime network. Anthony Perkins returned as Norman Bates for the last time in a sequel that finds Norman once again free and living a normal life – sort of. Norman has even settled down, marrying his therapist, who must be one tolerant woman. He calls in to a radio talk show under an assumed name and tells the story of his childhood with Mother and how the killing began. There’s more to it than that, but let’s just not bother.

It’s not that ‘Psycho IV’ is a bad movie – it is certainly better than part three or the whole ‘Bates Motel’ debacle. The main problem is that the continuity goes right off the rails with this one. Events in earlier sequels are ignored or flatly contradicted. Olivia Hussey as Norma Bates (Mother) is simply miscast. Perkins himself was very ill at this point, so even his performance is not what it was.
In short, part four is not the low point of the series, but still no prize.

And that about wraps it up. Four movies, one barely related pilot and three novels. Yep. That’s about all she wrote. Uh-huh.


Okay, if we have to, let’s just get through this.

In 1998, Gus Van Sant, who is a fine director most of the time, was apparently doing sit-ups under parked cars, because severe blunt force trauma is the only explanation as to why he decided to put out a remake of ‘Psycho’. Now, as there are various aspects of Robert Bloch’s original that remain unused, a new film adaptation could be a great thing. But when I say Van Sant did a remake, I mean he did almost exactly that.

Other than the updated tine period and a touch more nudity, the Van Sant ‘Psycho’ is an almost shot for shot remake of the Hitchcock film, using the same screenplay, the sane musical score, et cetera. Why? No idea. Sticking with the ‘blunt force trauma’ explanation. It’s not a BAD movie, you understand – an almost exact remake of one of the greatest films of all time is bound to be watchable – but it IS entirely unnecessary. The whole thing seems more like a film school experiment than something a studio would spend tens of millions of dollars to produce. Not surprisingly, the film was a financial and critical failure. Good. Serves ‘em right.

And that’s it, so far. For real.

Oh, well, the A&E network HAS ordered 10 episodes of a new series called ‘Bates Motel’ – not to be confused with the 1987 TV pilot – that will cover the events of Norman’s childhood, living with his mother that turned him into a homicidal maniac – not to be confused with the plot to ‘Psycho IV: The Beginning’. So there is that.

In the end, I would say your best bets are to read the first novel and watch the first two films, then disregard the rest.

Then again, you may want to watch and read all of these, just to be safe.

After all, you don’t want to upset Mother.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kushal July 9, 2014 at 22:10

I can relate so much to these mixed felngeis I felt the same when I moved out of the home my ex and I bought together, loved together, raised a family and lived together for 12 years. So much of my life, and what I had thought it would be like “forever” was wrapped up in that home. It was a very hard step in some ways to leave it. In others, because my divorce was a positive thing for me personally, it was very easy. Five years later I know that it was the best thing I could have done, for my children AND myself freeing myself of it in a way freed me to become the person I am today.I’m sending good thoughts your way during this transition. :-)Jade

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