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The best non-Norman Bates thrillers starring Anthony Perkins

While Anthony Perkins is best known for his legendary role as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and its sequels, that part is not the sum total of this superb actor’s career. That’s not to say he didn’t trade on his status as cinema’s seminal psycho, and starred in plenty of chiller thrillers, instantly lending them that Batesian cachet…

Take Edge of Sanity, for example, a delirious conflation of Robert Louis Stephenson’s classic horror novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Jack the Ripper’s real-life reign of terror over Victorian London, where Perkins plays the unhinged lead role with aplomb. To celebrate the release of Edge of Sanity on Blu-ray from Arrow Video, here’s a round-up of some of Perkins’ finest non-Bates roles…


In this wonderful cult classic black comedy thriller, Perkins plays Dennis Pitt, a man prone to wild fantasies who thinks the company he works for is part of an alien conspiracy to poison the water supply. He begins a romance with Sue Ann Stepanek (Tuesday Weld) who he convinces he is a secret agent, and gets her to help with his investigations into the conspiracy – with terrible, murderous consquences.


Perkins and Mia Sara star in this horror mystery directed by the great Stuart Gordon (Re-animator). Sara plays a young woman who travels to Romania who her father is. Perkins plays an enigmatic glassblower, who tells her that things are not what they seem, and that she might not like what she discovers. What she discovers are… vampires!


Perkins stars as a private detective hunting the ‘Deep Woods Killer’, who is terrorising Rosanna Arquette, and who killed her friend and dumped the body in the forest. Arquette doesn’t know who to trust, and starts to think that she might be in danger from the rather sinister Perkins himself. Or perhaps the cop investigating the case – or maybe its her brother…


Fashion designer Joanna Crane (Turner) leads a double life. By night she is China Blue, a prostitute who’s attracted the unwanted attention of a psychopathic priest in possession of a murderous sex toy, played by none other than Anthony Perkins who claims “I’m the messenger of God and I only want to heal you”. With its outré screenplay by Barry Sandler and over the top score by Rick Wakeman, Crimes of Passion may just be the most outrageous film director Ken Russell ever made – not to mention one of Perkins’ most extraordinary performances.


Perkins works with another horror great, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper, in this cult schlock horror starring Twin Peaks’ Mädchen Amick as a woman who turns a cursed Aztec cloak into a red dress – that makes her start acting rather peculiarly. Perkins plays a professor who knows that anyone who wears the dress will become evil – and sets out to destroy it.


The dream team of Henry Farrell, writer of the classic chiller Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, director Curtis Harrington (Night Tide) and stars Perkins and Julie Harris (The Haunting), combine to make this TV movie an eerie little treat. Perkins is a man freshly released from a psychiatric institution who thinks his sister’s lodger is trying to kill him. Or is he just being paranoid?


Appropriate that, for one of his final films, Perkins starred in this adaptation of the Ruth Rendell novel, as a quiet and unassuming man who just happens to have been killing prostitutes for the past 25 years, and has a deep emotional attachment to a shop dummy. Perkins is brilliantly twitchy in a role not a hundred miles away from the one that kick-started his career back in 1960.


When his experiments into a powerful new anaesthetic go hideously awry, respected physician Dr Jekyll (a wonderfully deranged Perkins) takes off into the night, casting aside the shackles of upper-class propriety as he disappears into the shadowy decadent demimonde of Whitechapel in pursuit of sensual pleasures under the guise of ‘Mr Hyde’. As his wife Elisabeth (Glynis Barber) passes her time in charitable work, rehabilitating the district’s fallen women, Hyde is drawn into an escalating cycle of lust and murder that seems to know no bounds. If you thought Bates was batty, check out Perkins in this flick!

Edge of Sanity is out now on Special Edition Blu-ray from Arrow Video:


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