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Why Was Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” So Groundbreaking?

Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" shattered cinematic conventions with its shocking plot twist and masterful suspense. Its innovative storytelling and editing techniques, like the infamous shower scene, redefined the thriller genre. Hitchcock's bold narrative choices, such as killing the protagonist early, left audiences stunned. How did "Psycho" influence modern filmmaking? Join us as we unveil its lasting impact on cinema.
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman

When you think of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 black-and-white horror film Psycho, the infamous “shower scene” probably springs to mind. After all, it was a pivotal moment in cinema, with extreme close-ups, fast edits, intense violin music, and flesh-stabbing sound effects (that was a casaba melon, for the record).

But although the murder of Janet Leigh’s character, Marion Crane, in the shower at the Bates Motel did raise plenty of eyebrows, including those of the Hollywood censors, it was arguably less surprising than an aspect of the film that we would now consider completely mundane – a flushing toilet.

Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (1960) was the first film to show a toilet flush on-screen during the Hays Code era of censorship.
Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (1960) was the first film to show a toilet flush on-screen during the Hays Code era of censorship.

In addition to being a cinematic horror classic, Psycho is thought to be the first mainstream American film to show a toilet flushing on screen. Or, to be precise, it was the first major film to show a flushing toilet in the Hays Code era, in which nudity, profanity, other "morally offensive" content were widely censored.

A famous flush in a famous film:

  • Just preceding the shower sequence, the flush is also a pivotal moment in the film, as it's when Marion throws some important scraps of paper into the toilet bowl, and they fail to flush away.

  • Bernard Herrmann's memorable score for Psycho is entirely composed of stringed instruments.

  • Psycho earned Alfred Hitchcock his fifth and final Oscar nomination for Best Director – he never won.

Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman is a teacher and blogger who frequently writes for WiseGEEK about topics related to personal finance, parenting, health, nutrition, and education. Learn more...
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman is a teacher and blogger who frequently writes for WiseGEEK about topics related to personal finance, parenting, health, nutrition, and education. Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

anon1007108

The country would be better off with the Hayes Code still in force.

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    • Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (1960) was the first film to show a toilet flush on-screen during the Hays Code era of censorship.
      By: Jim Linwood
      Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (1960) was the first film to show a toilet flush on-screen during the Hays Code era of censorship.