78/52 Documentary

'78/52' Film Review: Worthwhile viewing for cinephiles and horror aficionados alike

October 13, 2017Britany Murphy

It's one of the most iconic scenes in movie history and has spawned many homages over the years, but there is nothing quite like the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's thriller, Psycho. Now, the documentary 78/52 seeks to bring viewers into the making of this infamous scene and how it defined a genre, as well as inspired a generation of filmmakers and movies to come.

Directed by Alexandre O. Philippe, the documentary — which owes its title to how it focuses on the 78 setups and 52 cuts of the shower scene in Hitchcock's Psycho — is an in-depth look at one of the most memorable movie moments of our time. With past interviews from the great director himself, as well as the film's leading lady, Janet Leigh, and Leigh's body double, former Playboy pin-up Marli Renfro, 78/52 certainly sets the stage perfectly to revisit the iconic scene in all its cinematic glory.

The movie breaks down each moment and points out key elements that even the most astute viewer might have overlooked before, including some recurring themes that can be found throughout the Hitchcock classic. Also featuring interviews with well-known directors, actors and composers — including Guillermo del Toro, Karyn Kusama, Eli Roth, Danny Elfman and Jamie Lee Curtis — 78/52 shows just why Psycho's shower scene is not just a pivotal point in the film, but also a pivotal point in cinema as a whole.

As for the documentary itself, it's superbly shot in black and white, an obvious ode to its subject matter. And in a world where movies are all about wowing viewers with elaborate 3D visuals and the like, 78/52 is a welcome departure from the recent norm. It's almost as if we've been transported back in time, even though technicolor existed when the film debuted in 1960. Even the way Hitchcock used black and white in the movie was different from what other filmmakers were doing at the time, and it also served to deal with a level of violence that was so shocking to audiences that it set a new precedent for mainstream cinema.

Speaking of which, the shower scene is literally dissected from all available angles and in as many ways as possible. This not only includes the aforementioned violence, but also the nudity, the role of the score (which was not initially going to be incorporated into the film at all) and the entire week Hitchcock devoted to filming the scene, the last of which suggests that the iconic director believed the scene could be something very special, even though he was not initially sure the concept would work on celluloid.

All in all, 78/52 is eye-opening, informative and chock full of great interviews and talking points not just from all involved, but from a who's who of the film community. Indeed, Psycho is a movie that not only defined a genre, it has left a lasting impact on cinema for a whole new generation of filmmakers, making 78/52 a worthwhile experience for all anyone and everyone with an interest in film history, the horror genre or Hitchcock himself.

78/52 releases October 13th, 2017 from KinoSmith. The film has no MPAA rating. Its runtime is 1 hr. 31 min.

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