78/52 is not only an Alfred Hitchcock-lover’s dream; it’s also a deeply exciting and insightful documentary for any film-lover who enjoys delving beneath the surface of a movie. When that film happens to be Psycho, one of the most influential movies of all-time, it’s even more fascinating and offers us all the evidence as to why it had a historic effect on cinema and pop culture forever.
What does the title mean? 78 are the amount of setups and 52 are the film cuts that take place during the iconic shower scene. Hitchcock didn’t just create an act that shocked the audience; it gave a new, unpredictable life to the entire industry and also showed us the importance of a great Editor, who in this case was long-time Hitch collaborator George Tomasini. His work here, and films like North by Northwest, Rear Window and The Birds has given him a rightful place as an icon, and Psycho expresses his unique, ingenious style.
The documentary is directed by Alexandre O. Philippe, who has filmed it in black and white to emulate Psycho. Philippe gives his audience a super smart understanding throughout by interviewing famous actors, filmmakers and directors. The likes of Elijah Wood, Guillermo del Toro, Bret Easton Ellis, Peter Bogdanovich, Danny Elfman, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Karyn Kusama all offer their thoughts on the film and sequences, and what makes it very special is their enthusiasm which easily filters onto us, its audience. It also features interviews with Janet Leigh’s body double, Marli Renfro, and proves how vital she was to the famous scene, plus it’s good entertainment watching people dissect Anthony Perkins’ chilling performance.
What the documentary certainly highlights, even some 57 years later, is how significant Psycho still is to this day, including the beauty of how in awe everyone gets at Hitchcock’s constant re-invention within the industry. 78/52 isn’t just facts and figures though, the aforementioned ‘delve beneath the surface’ is where we find all the fun because, for example, who would know now that even the ‘toilet flush’ shot would have previously been so taboo? Witnessing, and learning more, about Hitchcock’s Psycho film-making experience is rewarding. It’s clear today that it was a cathartic voyage of escapism for his work and relationship with Hollywood, how every single shot is important and how he took advantage and inspiration from all his films up to that point.
78/52 is captivating from start to finish as a true film-maker dream and highly recommended, it’s one of those to experience and you’ll leave learning something new.