How many movie sequences have taken on the mythic power of the shower scene in Psycho? Few, if any, I would say. It is for that reason that Alexandre O. Philippe has been able to build an entire feature film around this legendary moment in movie (and pop culture) history. I found it mesmerizing.

The title refers to 78 camera set-ups and 52 cuts, but 78/52 deals with more than just that landmark scene: it explains why Psycho was a game-changer for Hollywood and for audiences. Some of this has become movie lore but none of it seems redundant in the context of this valuable documentary.

Peter Bogdanovich provides a first-hand account of seeing Psycho when it was new. (Ever the showman, Hitchcock refused to allow moviegoers to enter the theater after the film had begun. This gambit was unprecedented—and a huge success.) Janet Leigh’s daughter Jamie Lee Curtis and Anthony Perkins’ son Osgood Perkins weigh in with their memories and we hear from the one survivor who was involved in the shooting of the scene, Leigh’s nude body double Marli Renfro. (Phillipe doesn’t deal with the controversy over Saul Bass’ claim that he actually shot the scene after meticulously storyboarding it. Janet Leigh refuted this assertion, but she wasn’t present when insert shots were made or when Renfro stepped in, so the question remains unanswered.)

Other admirers who appear on camera with cogent observations include:

Guillermo del Toro, Bret Easton Ellis, Eli Roth, Karyn Kusama, Walter Murch, Danny Elfman, and Elijah Wood. Each one adds something of value to our appreciation of Pyscho and its unique place in movie history. If you’re any kind of film buff, 78/52 is a must-see.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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April 2024