It's one of the most famous scenes in cinematic history. Almost everybody recognizes it, even if they've never seen the movie. It's the infamous shower scene in Psycho where Marion Crane is repeatedly stabbed by a mysterious individual. With a scene as iconic as that, who would guess that the question of who directed it would ever come up? It was Alfred Hitchcock -- right? Well, maybe not. Both Hitchcock and famous graphic artist and title sequence designer Saul Bass claim to have directed the 7-day shoot, but maybe we don't need to rely on mere hearsay. Vashi Nedomansky of Vashi Visuals sheds a little more light on the situation with a side by side comparison between Bass' storyboards and the actual footage.
It's a mystery that seems to go nicely with Hitchcock's thrillers: A scene of a one of the biggest films by one of the biggest, most important directors goes on to become on of the most famous scenes ever put on celluloid -- and it might've been directed by his Pictorial Consultant. Now all we need is some espionage, maybe some chase sequences and a murderous crop-duster and we'd be in business.
As the story goes, Hitchcock had worked with Bass before on Vertigo and North By Northwest. Bass designed the title sequences for both films, which went on to be highly lauded. In effect, Hitchcock hired him once again, but this time as his Pictorial Consultant on Psycho, where he designed the title sequence as well as the shower scene storyboards -- 48 in all.
When all was said and done, both Hitchcock and Bass claimed to have directed the iconic scene with Janet Leigh. Hitchcock does admit that he allowed Bass to direct a scene, but it wasn't the one of Marion's death -- it was the one of the detective climbing the stairs. Bass' account is much different. He claims that Hitchcock asked him to not only set up each shot according to his storyboards of the shower scene, but to "go ahead and roll it" -- meaning Bass called "action" every time.
Now, not only has Vashi broken down the history of the Psycho shower scene mystery, but he has put together this awesome video that compares Bass' storyboards and the final product. Check it out below.
It's quite compelling to watch how Bass' vision jumps from the storyboards onto the screen -- I mean, it's almost shot by shot. While Hitchcock holds fast to his version of the story, others are not so convinced, including fellow director Billy Wilder, who said:
Like most people in Hollywood you knew who did what if you were in the industry, especially if great stuff was involved. Everybody talked about that scene. Right from the beginning I understood that Saul did it. Everybody knew. Everybody knew Saul was brilliant. Who questioned it until those remarks of Hitchcock? You only have to look at the sequence and look at the film and think. Think for one minute. You see the shower scene and you see it is not at all like Mr. Hitchcock -- King of the Long Shot.
This brings up many questions about the role of a director as well as a film's collaborators. What makes a director a director? Is it their vision? Is it their voice calling action? Is it their involvement helping actors get to where they need to be emotionally for each scene? Or is it the their ability to collaborate and aggregate talent and good ideas from those around them that makes them a director? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.
[Saul Bass 'Psycho' Storyboards image courtesy of Vashi Visuals]
[via Cinephilia and Beyond]