Psycho II was released 37 years ago with Anthony Perkins reprising his role of troubled Mama’s boy, Norman Bates. This sequel is proof that sometimes lightning does strike twice.
Psycho II could have been a real bust in the wrong hands. Let’s face it, why would anyone willingly do a sequel to an iconic film directed by a legend? Obviously, no one would want to deal with that stigma.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is a visual masterpiece. Janet Leigh’s shower scene, still terrifies people six decades later. Not to mention, Anthony Perkins’ image underwent a transformation catapulting him from teen idol with a top ten record under his belt to an actor who was able to delve deep into the dark psyche of a character.
Like most thespians who create a memorable role in a landmark motion picture, Perkins would forever be associated with his onscreen alter ego, Norman Bates. So much so, that he spent years running away from it.
Oddly enough, when his career slowed down in the 1980’s, the boyish serial killer beckoned Perkins once again. This time in the form of a well-written script by Tom Holland and a Hitch inspired director, Richard Franklin.
Another original cast member, Vera Miles who played Marion Crane’s tough as nails sister, Lila, was also on board. The challenge for Psycho II became how to honor its predecessor but yet create its own identity. Anyone that has seen this effort knows that it succeeded on both counts.
Norman Bates returns home after twenty-two years in a mental institution. Despite Lila’s protestations that he shouldn’t be allowed to resume his life in normal society, the court declares him legally sane. Free to start anew, Bates is wary of the modern world.
He finds that his family’s motel has been turned into a sleazy, one-night stand establishment which infuriates him and results in him firing the new owner, Warren Toomey (Dennis Franz). Meanwhile, the court has procured a job for Norman at a local diner.
This is where he meets the vulnerable and chronically boyfriend challenged waitress, Mary (Meg Tilly). The two strike up an unlikely friendship of sorts and Norman offers her a haven in his house. Now, the action begins to build. Bates starts receiving notes from his dead mother, phone calls and someone decides to start murdering people again, starting with the scuzzy, Toomey.
All of these mysterious acts cause Norman to doubt what fragile sanity he is holding on to. Who can he trust? The climax is well-worth the slow burn because it is a twist that you don’t see coming. I don’t want to give it away in case some readers haven’t seen this exceptional production.
What makes Psycho II work ultimately is Perkins’ performance. He understands Norman. After all, he gave him life. His tremendous skill as an actor takes what could have been a campy rendition and elevates it to a work that Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of.
Psycho II is available to stream on Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime and DirecTV.
Have you seen Psycho II? Do you think it is one of the best sequels ever made? Let us know in the comments.