Alfred Hitchcock was one of the most influential directors in the history of cinema. A master of suspense and film technique in general, he is often copied and rarely equaled. He crafted many memorable movie moments using unique cinematic “tricks” and styles that are still used today (and referenced as being “Hitchcockian”), though the most famous and influential of these moments is definitely what is often referred to as simply the “shower scene” of Psycho.
You know it, and you love it. Who doesn’t? Janet Leigh gets stabbed about a thousand times, screaming her head off ’til she can’t scream no more. It’s the stuff of movie legend… and more than a few myths. Here we’ll present ten facts behind the making of this particular piece of movie history.
A Work Of Art
The “shower scene” was shot from December 17 through December 23, 1959. The three-minute scene (it seems longer, doesn’t it?) features 77 different camera angles — most of which are extreme close-ups — and includes 50 cuts, which makes you feel like you’re having a damn heart attack while watching it.
The blood was chocolate syrup, the “fake blood” of choice in the industry for black and white film.
The sound of the knife entering Janet Leigh’s flesh was done by plunging a knife into a melon (why do we have a feeling it was Hitchcock himself that did the plunging?).
Getting The Shot
For the shot where the camera is looking straight into the showerhead, the inner holes in the spout were blocked and the camera was equipped with a long lens and placed further back. The water from the shower appears to be hitting the lens but it’s actually going around and past it.
According to Janet Leigh herself, that’s her in the shower the entire time — a stunt double was never used for the scene. However, in Robert Graysmith’s book, The Girl in Hitchcock’s Shower, it is said that Marli Renfro was Leigh’s body double for some of the shots. Either way, after making this movie, Leigh had trouble taking showers for the rest of her life.
Hitchcock did not use ice-cold water for the scene in order to inspire realistic screams from Janet Leigh.
While some were recorded “live” while shooting the scene and others were recorded later during post production, all of the screams are Leigh’s.
Hitchcock did not withhold the fact that her character was going to be murdered from Janet Leigh in order to get a more “authentic” reaction.
Alfred Hitchcock directed this scene. Somehow a rumor started that Saul Bass, who designed many of Hitchcock’s title sequences, had actually called the shots.
Get Your Gore On
The claim that the shower scene never once shows a knife puncturing flesh is false. If you watch the scene frame by frame (and many have), you can see a shot in which the knife penetrates Leigh’s abdomen (which was actually a prosthetic prop, of course).
Want More? Read More Get Your Gore On