"We are (taken) forward and downward into the darkness of ourselves," wrote Wood. "'Psycho' begins with the normal and draws us steadily deeper and deeper into the abnormal."
That "Psycho" killed off its star — Janet Leigh — after just half an hour was only one of its many unheard of elements. Scenes of Leigh in her underwear were unusual for their time, too, and prompted lengthy negotiations between Hitchcock and the censors. Even a flushing toilet — considered a vulgar sight — had never been seen in such a big movie.
Of course, the infamous shower scene in which Leigh's Marion Crane meets her demise — immediately recognizable from the "screaming violins" of Bernard Herrmann's score — is the film's piece de resistance. The ruthless slicing wasn't of flesh, but of film: 70 shots in 45 seconds, a perfect marriage of montage and murder. A prop man sounded the scene by knifing casaba melons.
In his book "The Moment of 'Psycho': How Alfred Hitchcock Taught America to Love Murder," the critic David Thomson argues that the influence of "Psycho" is everywhere in movies, including "Bonnie and Clyde," ''Jaws," ''Taxi Driver," many of the films of Stanley Kubrick and even the James Bond movies. "Psycho," Thomson writes, let "the subversive secret out," after which "censorship crumpled like an old lady's parasol."
"It's one of the most influential films ever made," says Thomson. "It's the beginnings of a flood of violence. Violence becomes more acceptable in film. It's a whole new attitude to the criminal personality. It becomes more interesting in a way that had never really operated before. It celebrates the director. (Hitchcock) was taken with a new seriousness after that, and in turn, directors were."