Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Blu-ray Review: PSYCHO II (1983) Collector's Edition

PSYCHO II (1983) 
Collector's Edition Blu-ray 

Label: Shout! Factory / Scream Factory

Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 113 Minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Richard Franklin
Cast: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Meg Tilly, Robert Loggia, Dinnis Franz
Tagline: It's 22 Years Later and Norman Bates is Coming Home...

Wow, a sequel to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) ...the size of the fucking balls on Universal Studios in 1983 and just a few years after the Master of Suspense's death, you just know they would never have done it while he was still drawing breath. I cannot even imagine what that pitch was like, then again I can't believe Universal greenlit Gus Van Sant's shot-for-shot remake of it in 1999 either, that was just a bad idea from the ground up. In '83 it was decades before the remake craze possessed Hollywood, shit now they're remaking John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) and it won't be long until Jaws (1975) gets the re imagining treatment, like there just haven't been enough Jaws rip-offs over the years, huh? 

Anyway, I remember seeing this one in the video store shelves ages ago and watching it, even as a kid I scoffed at the idea of a sequel to Psycho (1960) but I just had to know what they'd done to besmirch the original, call it a morbid curiosity. truly, I was expecting something quite awful but oddly enough I was wrong. Directed by Australian filmmaker Richard Franklin who had previously directed the neat ozploitation oddity Patrick (1978) about a comatose patient with telekinetic powers and the road trip slasher film Road Games (1981) starring Stacey Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis, he didn't seem like the obvious choice, makes me wonder who turned down the job beforehand. The script was written by a young writer named Tom Holland who would go on to direct Fright Night (1985) and it was lensed by cinematographer Dean Cundey fresh of Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) and John Carpenter's The Thing (1982), on just talent alone this is actually starting to sound pretty good on paper 

Onto the cast we have Anthony Perkins reprising his iconic role as Norman Bates, also returning is Vera Miles as Lila Loomis, the sister of shower victim Marion Crane. The cast is filled out with Meg Tilly (Body Snatchers) as Norman's co-worker Mary, Robert Loggia (Lost Highway) as Norman's psychiatrist Dr. Raymond and Dennis Franz (Blow Out) playing what he seemed to do best in the 80's, a sleazeball. Perkins snaps right back into the mindset of Norman Bates, it's a scary good performance and he picks it up just fine after 22 years, it's creepy good. Robert Loggia definitely plays against type in a role that's pretty reserved compared to what I know him from, he's a pretty compassionate guy here. Vera Miles reprising her role as Lila Loomis is a nice touch, she's quite upset that after 22 years her sister's murderer is released from the loony bin, it sets her off. Tilly is also quite good as the naive good girl with a twist, I won't spoil it but this is a pretty crafty and deft script, loved the twists and turns, it's a fun 80's slasher with quite a pedigree. 

Alright, a great creative team and a  committed cast, this is starting to sound pretty damn good, and on top of that Richard Franklin and Tom Holland turn out to be quite devoted student of Hitchcock, you can feel his presence in nearly every frame, there's a lot of tense atmosphere and suspense, Holland's script is superb and Franklin's direction is top notch. I think it's probably his best work but I do have quite a soft spot for the kid friendly spy caper Cloak and Dagger (1984), also penned by Holland. 

Watching this again on Blu-ray I think I enjoyed it even more than on previous watches, my appreciation for how Frankilin and Holland were able to channel the Hitchcock vibe so true it would give Brian De Palma cinematic envy, it really works for me on every level. It arrived in cinema's at the end of the slasher-cycle it helped birth, where Hitchcock was more refined in terms of on-screen carnage this one goes right for throat with more gratuitous violence than you might expect and I just loved it from start to finish.

Blu-ray: Psycho II (1983) arrives on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory with an AVC encoded 1080p widescreen (1.85:1) transfer and it looks fantastic, way better than my 2007 Universal DVD beginning with a nice layer of fine film grain which offers up some very nice fine detail. The colors are crisp and vibrant, black levels are deep and there's a wonderful clarity which gives the image some depth, was pleasantly surprised how nice Psycho II (1983) looks in 1080p. 

Audio options include English language DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and 5.1, the newly minted 5.1 one is effective with some spatial ambiance even if the surrounds aren't overly active. Dialogue is always clear, effects are clean and Jerry Goldsmith's score sounds great. 

Special features include an Audio Commentary with Screenwriter Tom Holland moderated by Rob Galluzzo, writer/director of the The Psycho Legacy, Holland's a pretty talkative guy and has a lot to offer from the perspective of a young, up and coming writer in Hollywood, mentioning alternate casting choices (Carrie Fisher) and some fun anecdotes about he cast including friction between stars Anthony Perkins and Meg Tilly. Also included is a vintage Universal Electronic Press Kit which is a weird hodgepodge of clips and interviews with the cast including some vintage footage of Hitchcock, a decent time waster. 

Finishing-up the extras are a selection of audio interviews with the cast and crew, trailers, TV Spots and a still image gallery with 81 images of behind-the-scenes pics, production stills, and poster art.  

Special Features: 

- All-new Audio Commentary with Screenwriter Tom Holland
- Vintage interviews with cast and crew including Anthony Perkins and director Richard Franklin (35:21)
- Vintage audio interviews with cast and crew
- TV Spots (2:01)
- Original Theatrical Trailer (3:43) 

- Stills Gallery (6:37) 

Verdict: Sure, a sequel to Psycho (1960) just seems like the worst idea ever but director Richard Franklin and writer Tom Holland handle the material with a lot of respect and with a few fun winks and nods, plus it's a damn fine film on it's own. I quite enjoyed this sequel and Scream Factory's transfer and extras are top notch, you may be a doubter but I strongly suggest a viewing, particularly for you slasher fans, this is fun stuff. 3.5 Outta 5