Books by Christopher Nickens

Released: June 1, 1995

Movie star Leigh (There Really Was a Hollywood, 1984) teams with freelancer Nickens (Brando, not reviewed) to give the real dish on the making of her most famous film, one of Alfred Hitchcock's masterpieces. Of all Hitchcock's films, perhaps none has engendered more interest, more imitators, or more misconceptions than Psycho. Leigh, who was top-billed in the film although she is killed off after only a third of its running time, determined to set the record straight. To that end, she and Nickens interviewed a few of the surviving participants, including assistant director Hilton Green, screenwriter Joseph Stefano, and actor John Gavin. (Conspicuous by their absence are actors Vera Miles and Martin Balsam.) In the Leigh-Nickens version of the making of the film, Hitch set out to reclaim his title as king of fright after seeing a series of low-budget black-and-white films made by the likes of William Castle and Roger Corman. He was intrigued by Robert Bloch's novel, acquired the rights, and set about making a film on a small budget and short shooting schedule, using his television show's crew for that purpose. Understandably, Leigh chooses to focus much of her attention on the parts of the filming for which she was present, including the famous shower scene, but that leaves the book rather lopsided. Along the way, readers do pick up some amusing tidbits—the model for the Bates mansion was a house on the Kent State campus that would later serve as home for its SDS chapter; virtually all of the shots of Marion Crane in the shower are Leigh, not a body double as some have claimed. Unfortunately, too much of the book reads like a transcript of interviews, and Nickens's prologue, giving the background to the film's making, is hackneyed and awkward. For Hitchcock buffs a boon, but a disappointing effort that should have been better. (50 b&w photos) (Author tour) Read full book review >