There is a bit of Hannibal Lecter in Al-fred Hitchcock. Which makes sense since “The Silence of the Lambs” Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins portrays the Master of Suspense to perfection in “Hitchcock” about the making of the famed filmmaker’s shock masterpiece, “Psycho.”
Based on Stephen Rebello’s nonfiction chronicle, “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho,” the movie is certainly no documentary. It plays loose with facts and has a lot of fun doing it. In particular having a jolly good time is Hopkins. Embedded in prosthetics and a fat suit, he brings the familiar opulent form of Sir Alfred to life. Evident are his off-color witticisms (to starlets, “Call me, ‘Hitch..’ Hold the ‘cock’) and his notorious dark side (“All men have a desire to kill their wives…with good reason”).
At age 60 in 1959, Hitchcock is hitting a turning point. After the success of “North by Northwest,” he could retire on top or seek rebirth through with “something new, something different.” That something is “Psycho,” a schlock horror novel by Robert Bloch about Wisconsin serial killer, Ed Gein, he of the transvestite “mommy” fixation.
As always, he needs approval from his Girl Friday, wife, confidante, and soul mate, Alma Reville (Helen Mirren). Like most everybody else including Paramount Studios, Alma thinks Hitch is off this rocker. But then, the power of his vision seduces her, and she agrees to go for broke, mortgage the home and pay for “Psycho” out of Hitchcock’s personal funds. It’s a big step and nearly does drive Hitchcock into real psycho insanity. Screenwriter John J. McLaughlin and director Sasha Gervasi help Hopkins have a ham fest depicting the suspense master’s descent into paranoia. He is haunted by Ed Gein, suspects Alma of an affair, drinks and eats to addictive excess. Is any of this true? Who knows? It simply “soaps” up what is fascinating to film geeks: the crafting of the cinema’s greatest horror film.
Also emphasized is the long-overdue credit to Alma Reville, who was an ac-claimed filmmaker herself and was, in fact, once Hitchcock’s boss.
Without Alma, “Psycho” would have been stillborn and Hitchcock would not be “Hitchcock.”