Though it opened to mixed reviews, “Psycho” is now considered one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best films, and “is often considered to be the original slasher film.” Scary as the movie is, “Psycho” is perhaps even more terrifying for the fact that it is loosely based on actual events. In November 1957, Wisconsin-based killer Ed Gein was arrested for the gruesome murders of two women (though there’s ample evidence that he killed many more). Two years later, author Robert Bloch released a suspense novel titled “Psycho” about middle-aged, murderous Norman Bates who runs a motel with his mother. That book, of course, was the basis for Hitchcock’s now classic horror film. But how true was the film to Bloch’s book?
In the latest entry in their “What’s the Difference?” series, CineFix “takes you step-by-step and page-by-page through all the differences between your favorite movies & shows and their source material, since cinematic adaptations of popular literature almost always alter, omit or otherwise edit some component(s) of the source text. So what are some of the changes CIneFix highlights?
For starters, in the film’s infamous shower scene, the stabbing victim (played by Janet Leigh) is named Marion Crane. In the novel, she’s Mary. It’s a small change, but it’s the tip of the iceberg as far as Mary/Marion differences go.
Norman himself is treated much differently in the book than in the film. Bloch’s Bates is a balding, overweight man in his 40s. On the other hand, Hitchcock and screenwriter Joseph Stefano’s incarnation of Norman, as portrayed by Anthony Perkins, is boyishly handsome, fit, and could pass for up to two-decades younger than the original novelized version. The Normans also have different (though in both cases severe) mommy issues. In the book, he’s more openly resentful toward his mother. The film’s Norman seems more defensive of his mother and more ready to make excuses for her behavior to Marion. A more glaring shift sees the novel’s Bates as an alcoholic, whereas the movie Norman is a teetotaler.
Watch the almost 14-minute video below for more differences between the film and novel versions of “Psycho,” including more discrepancies between Mary and Marion, as well as other plot deviations and ways in which the shower scene changed from source material to adaptation.