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Psycho IV: The Beginning

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Title: Psycho IV: The Beginning  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Norman Bates, Joseph Stefano, Henry Thomas, Saturn Award for Best Network Television Series, Psycho II (film), Psycho III, Graeme Revell, Oatmeal Crisp, Psycho (franchise), Mick Garris
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Psycho IV: The Beginning

Psycho IV: The Beginning
Distributed by Universal Media Studios
Directed by Mick Garris
Produced by Hilton A. Green
Les Mayfield
George Zaloom
Written by Joseph Stefano
Starring Anthony Perkins
Henry Thomas
Olivia Hussey
C. C. H. Pounder
Music by Graeme Revell
Bernard Herrmann (themes)
Cinematography Rodney Charters
Editing by Charles Bornstein
Country United States
Language English
Release date
Running time 96 minutes

Psycho IV: The Beginning is a 1990 made-for-cable-television horror/drama film that serves as both the third sequel and a prequel to Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film Psycho, as it includes both events after Psycho III while focusing on flashbacks of events that took place prior to the original film. It is the fourth and final film in the Psycho series. The events in it are inconsistent with the unsuccessful and little-seen network TV pilot Bates Motel, broadcast shortly after Psycho III, in which Norman Bates dies in a mental institution. It was first broadcast on the Showtime cable network on November 10, 1990. It stars Anthony Perkins, Henry Thomas, Olivia Hussey and C. C. H. Pounder.

The film was written by Joseph Stefano, who also wrote the screenplay of the original film. The original musical score was composed by Graeme Revell and the title theme music by Bernard Herrmann from the original film was used.

The setup of the film is Norman calling into a radio talk show where the topic is matricide. He shares his childhood memories of growing up with his mother, which are told in flashbacks. Meanwhile, Norman's wife Connie is pregnant.


Norman Bates is released from the mental hospital again, after having been re-incarcerated at the end of Psycho III; after spending several years there, he is judged rehabilitated for the second time. Norman is now married to a young nurse named Connie and is expecting a child. Norman secretly fears that the child will inherit his mental illness, so he must seek closure once and for all.

Radio talk show host Fran Ambrose is discussing the topic of matricide with her guest Dr. Richmond, Norman's former psychologist. Norman calls the show, using the alias "Ed", to tell his story.

Norman's narrative is seen as a series of flashbacks set in the 1940s and 1950s, some slightly out of order. When Norman is six years old, his father dies, leaving him in the care of his mother, Norma. Over the years, Norma (who is implied to suffer from schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder) dominates her son, teaching him that sex is sinful and dressing him in girl's clothes as punishment for getting an erection in her presence.

The two live isolated at the large house as if there is no one else in the world, until in 1949 she becomes engaged to a brutish man named Chet Rudolph, who helps build and finance their family motel. Driven over the edge with jealousy and betrayal, Norman kills both of them by serving them poisoned iced tea, then steals and preserves his mother's corpse. He develops a split personality in which he "becomes" his mother to suppress the guilt of murdering her; when this personality takes over, he dresses in her clothes, puts on a wig, and talks to himself in her voice. As "Mother", he murders two local women who try to seduce him during their stay at his newly opened motel.

Dr. Richmond realizes "Ed" is Norman and tries to convince Ambrose to trace the calls. Richmond's worries are dismissed. Norman fears he will go insane and kill again. He tells Fran that Connie got pregnant against his wishes and that he does not want to create another "monster". He then tells Fran he realizes that his mother is dead, but that she may kill Connie "with my own hands, just like the first time."

Norman takes his wife to his mother's house and does attempt to kill her. Connie reassures Norman that their child will not be a monster, and he drops his knife. Connie forgives him. He burns the house where all his unhappiness began. As he tries to escape the flames, he hallucinates that he sees his victims, his mother and eventually himself preserving her corpse. Bates barely gets out of the burning house alive.

He and Connie leave the next day. Norman happily proclaims, "I'm free," indicating his mother won't get inside his mind ever again. Then, the wooden doors of the house cellar close on the rocking chair that continues to rock, then "Mother" cries out, "Let me out of here! Norman! You hear me, boy?! LET ME OUT!". The screen then quickly cuts to black and the sound of a baby crying is heard, indicating the birth of Norman Bates' baby.



Psycho IV: The Beginning was filmed at Universal Studios Florida in Orlando, Florida from June 4 to July 13, 1990. The facade of the Bates Motel and the Bates mansion were re-created at the theme park. The production was originally to be filmed before the opening of the park but due to delays and the studio's desire to have a high-profile production on the lot, the film was shot while the park was open. This led to tourists being able to watch the filming of several scenes at the motel and house on the back lot. Anthony Perkins wanted to direct the film, and he even came up with a pitch for the film along with Psycho III's screenwriter, Charles Edward Pogue. But Psycho III was a critical and financial failure, so Universal rejected this idea and Mick Garris was brought in.[1] Joseph Stefano, the screenwriter of the original film, was brought back to write the fourth film. He had disliked the two films between I and IV, feeling that they were too commercial and catered to the conventions of slasher movies. In an interview, Stefano stated, "Gearing up for Psycho IV, I decided to ignore the two sequels – like the business in II about Norman’s mother."[2]

Actress Olivia Hussey was directly offered the role of Mrs. Bates. It was the intention of writer Joseph Stefano to make her at a young age as attractive as Norman had been in the first film.[3] When Henry Thomas was cast as the young Norman Bates, Perkins wanted to meet with him and discuss the role. Thomas stated, in the documentary The Psycho Legacy: "Looking back on it now, he knew he had to have this conversation with me but I don't think that he was really into it. He just gave me a few broad strokes and told me to play the character real, that was it."[4] During filming, Perkins was diagnosed with HIV and had to receive treatment during production. Director Mick Garris has stated in numerous interviews that he had some creative control issues with Perkins. "He would get into long, drawn-out discussions in front of the crew, testing his director, making sure choices were not made 'because it looks good,' and seeing how deep the understanding of the story and process were. He could be very forceful, just shy of bullying, but also really appreciated helpful direction. I would have to say he was the most difficult and challenging actor I've ever worked with, but he ended up going on and on about how happy he was with the film. That," Garris says, "was gratifying."[5]


The film received mixed reviews when first broadcast on Showtime. Henry Stewart of L Magazine said: "Garris evinces high-grade professionalism, but his comic-book approximations of real emotions—like desire, madness and murderlust—feel empty. Hitchcock this most certainly ain’t."[6] Ninja stated: "This is a good tv movie, way better than its reputation, and continues the tradition of great acting in the series."[7] Cult said: "The film is shot well, the fire sequence, by Rodney Charters, is particularly stunning. The only real trouble with this film is the bad writing, which, considering that it was the baby of the scriptwriter of the original, Joseph Stefano, is very disappointing indeed."[8] Matt Poirier of Direct to Video stated: "This was a pretty unmemorable movie. It tried to make references to the original, like one where Perkins cuts his thumb, and the blood going into the drain mimics the blood in the famous shower scene. Way too obvious and pretty obnoxious."[9] Despite some negative reviews, the film received high Nielsen ratings with around 10 million viewers watching the premiere. 2 years after the film was released, it was nominated for a Saturn award for Best Genre Television Series.

Although Stefano did not immediately disclose his decision to ignore the two sequels (thus ignoring the character of Norman's aunt Emma Spool), horror fiction writer and critic Robert Price has noted that "Psycho IV seems to be intended as a direct sequel to the original Psycho, with no reference to Psycho II or III. Norman may have been healed and released from his first confinement, not from the confinement that takes place at the end of Psycho III."[10] Horror writer James Futch regards this as a defect, complaining that the film "ignores much of the Psycho mythology".[11]

DVD releases

Psycho IV: The Beginning was released on DVD in Region 1 as part of a triple feature package with Psycho II and Psycho III on May 6, 2008 by Universal Studios Home Entertainment.[12] Universal has also released some four-title Region 2 packages that include the 1960 original [13][14] A single-disc Region 2 version of Psycho IV (titled Psychose: L'origine) was released in France in 2007 by Aventi Distribution.[15]

Series continuity

As noted in Production, screenwriter Joseph Stefano chose to ignore the events in Psycho II and III in ways that a few critics such as Robert Price and James Futch (see Reception) found detrimental.

Several characters common to film II and III are absent from IV including the new town sheriff, while several characters seen previously only in I reappear in the "prequel" material of IV such as Dr. Richmond. However, Price devoted an entire essay to the shifting identity of Norman's mother, whom over the series we alternately believe to be either Norma Bates or Emma Spool,[10] although both are mad.

Psycho II introduced the character of Norman's aunt Emma Spool, and in that film both the audience of Psycho II and Norman Bates were led to believe she was Norman's real mother. (Indeed a few recent sources still refer to her as Norman's real mother.)[16] In Psycho III, it was revealed she only delusively believed she was Norman's mother, and furthermore Spool had been in a love triangle with Norman's father and mother and that she had killed Norman's father.[17] By Stefano's conscious decision, Spool is wholly absent and never even mentioned in Psycho IV, according to which Norman's father died of multiple bee stings, while it is heavily implied in IV that Norman himself killed his mother, as is also stated in the Hitchcock original.

The events of the earlier and little-seen TV pilot Bates Motel in which Norman dies are also ignored in Psycho IV.

Reflecting on all these discontinuities, Robert Price writes "It seems that all the different Psychos drift into and out of one another. There is no real sequence. All are variant versions of the same myth. The deep conflict being rehearsed and resolved in these movies is that of the Oedipal complex".[10]

See also

  • Psycho, directed by Alfred Hitchcock
  • Psycho II (film), a 1983 sequel to the first film (unrelated to the novel Psycho II)
  • Psycho III, a 1986 sequel to the first film
  • Bates Motel (film), 1987 network television movie and proposed series pilot
  • Psycho (1998 film), a near shot-for-shot remake of the original directed by Gus Van Sant
  • The Psycho Legacy, 2010 documentary about the series
  • Bates Motel (TV series), 2013 prequel TV series set in the present day and in Oregon instead of California.


External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • AllRovi
  • Rotten Tomatoes
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