Psycho (film) - Controversy

Controversy

Psycho is a prime example of the type of film that appeared in the United States during the 1960s after the erosion of the Production Code. It was unprecedented in its depiction of sexuality and violence, right from the opening scene in which Sam and Marion are shown as lovers sharing the same bed, with Marion in a bra. In the Production Code standards of that time, unmarried couples shown in the same bed would be taboo.

According to the book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, the censors in charge of enforcing the Production Code wrangled with Hitchcock because some of them insisted they could see one of Leigh's breasts. Hitchcock held onto the print for several days, left it untouched, and resubmitted it for approval. Each of the censors reversed their positions: those who had previously seen the breast now did not, and those who had not, now did. They passed the film after the director removed one shot that showed the buttocks of Leigh's stand-in. The board was also upset by the racy opening, so Hitchcock said that if they let him keep the shower scene he would re-shoot the opening with them on the set. Since they did not show up for the re-shoot, the opening stayed.

Another cause of concern for the censors was that Marion was shown flushing a toilet, with its contents (torn-up note paper) fully visible. Up until that time in mainstream film and television in the U.S., a toilet flushing was never heard, let alone seen. A possible exception is the Turner Classic Movies print of the 1959 Walt Disney film The Shaggy Dog, in which a toilet is heard flushing off-camera. However, because of the possibility of audio dubbing in restorations and reissues of the film over the years, today it is unclear whether or not the sound of the toilet flushing was in the original 1959 release.

Also, according to the "Making of" featurette on the Collector's Edition DVD, some censors objected to the use of the word "transvestite" in the film's closing scenes. This objection was withdrawn after writer Joseph Stefano took out a dictionary and proved to them that the word carried no hidden sexual context, but merely referred to "a man who likes to wear womens clothing".

Internationally, Hitchcock was forced to make minor changes to the film, mostly to the shower scene. In Britain and New Zealand the shot of Norman washing blood from his hands was objected to and in Singapore, though the shower scene was left untouched, the murder of Arbogast and a shot of Mother's corpse were removed.

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