• Constantine Verevis


Much of the talk leading up to, and following, the release of Gus Van Sant’s 1998 remake — or ‘replica’ — of the Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho (1960) was an expression of outrage and confusion at the defilement of a beloved classic. For instance, and most prominently, the ‘Psycho: Saving a Classic’ website described the remake as a ‘disgrace’ and urged audiences to express their dissatisfaction by boycotting the opening weekend.1 Reviewers and ‘Hitchcockians’ alike agreed that Van Sant had made two fundamental mistakes: the first was to have undertaken to remake a treasured landmark of cinematic history; and the second to have followed the Hitchcock original (almost) shot by shot, line by line. As a reviewer for the New York Post remarked: ‘if you’re going to be hubristic enough to remake Psycho, you should at least have the courage to put your own spin on it’.2 But even for those who noted that the shooting script for the remake was only about ninety per cent the same as Hitchcock’s,3 Van Sant’s revisions were thought to have added nothing to what remained (for them) an intact and undeniable classic, a semantic fixity against which the new version was evaluated and dismissed as a degraded copy. For these fans and critics — for these reviewers — the Psycho remake was ultimately nothing more than a blatant rip-off: not only an attempt to exploit the original film’s legendary status, but (worse) a cheap imitation of ‘one of the best and best known of American films’.4


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© Constantine Verevis 2005

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