Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO can be considered prime among the progenitors of the slasher genre. Many talk about its impact on the film world, but few pay attention to the second, third and forth chapters which each brought something unique to the compellingly tragic story of Norman Bates. Enter director Robert Galluzzo who has spent the past few years has poured himself into a landmark documentary on the complete saga, aptly titled THE PSYCHO LEGACY. We stole Robert away from his project long enough to discuss all-things PSYCHO!
John Klyza: What is the genesis of this project and what is it about PSYCHO that drove you to this?
Robert Galluzzo: Firstly, John. I just wanted to thank you for getting in touch and for your interest & support in the project. It’s much appreciated! I’ve always been a huge horror fanatic and like most fellow fans, I’ve gone through my phases of being absolutely in love with each & every franchise. The one that seemed to be somewhat forgotten these last few years is the PSYCHO series. I mean, if you ask someone to name the most famous of the movie maniacs, they’ll inevitably say Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, Leatherface. But what ever happened to Norman Bates? He should still be one of the first you think of! NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, FRIDAY THE 13TH, they’ve all gotten their boxed sets and special editions, and I couldn’t understand why the sequels to the granddaddy of all “slasher” films weren’t getting the special edition treatment that they deserved! So the genesis of the project is that I selfishly just wanted it to exist so badly so I (as a fan) could buy it! And I got the feeling that if I didn’t do it, no one was ever going to. So I reached out to a few of the filmmakers to see if it were even possible to get people to talk about the sequels and before I knew it, I had accumulated a ton of interview footage. I haven’t stopped working on it since I shot that first interview, which was back in January of 2007. And now we’re finally about to cross the finish line, which is so amazing & exciting.
John: PSYCHO has been covered in many documentaries & retrospectives over the years yet yours seems to be the first to treat the sequels as equals coverage-wise. Why do you think that is?
Robert: It’s interesting because obviously the original is just a landmark movie in terms of film history. Hitchcock was the master and he created a classic. So any sequel to that film is always going to be considered just a “footnote” to a classic. But the truth is, the PSYCHO sequels are all really great, well made films! It’s very rare that a franchise can keep the quality up on each passing film. In my humble opinion, the PSYCHO movies have done exactly that. There’s already tons of great material out there about the original film – dozens of making-of books, an amazing documentary by Laurent Bouzereau on the DVD for the first movie, so I really wanted my focus to primarily be on the sequels. Yes, we do cover the original film, but I took more of the approach to have people involved with the sequels share their first experiences with PSYCHO and explain it’s influence on them. We cover the basics and re-explain why the original is such a great classic film, but we then dive right into all the sequels because most of these people have NEVER talked about the making of them. So we’ve uncovered some truly wonderful stories and I can’t wait to share it all with the fans.
John: I’ve read that it’s been a crew of just two shooting this whole mammoth thing – is that true?
Robert: Absolutely true! The shoot itself was just my dear friend John Torrani, who had a Panasonic DVX-100 camera and myself. He was crazy enough to follow me on this journey and for that, I’m eternally grateful to him! Essentially, I made a ton of phone calls, sent out a ton of emails and did my best to contact as many PSYCHO alumni as possible to arrange interviews. Most of them are based out of California, so I’d work at my dayjob for 3 months straight, then take 2 weeks off to go shoot some interviews. And then come back and do it all over again. That’s the main reason it’s taken so long is because I had to go back to work and save up the money to continue shooting. This was always a labor of love, so I did anything I could to make it work and get just a tiny bit further along. What’s great too is that everyone I’ve contacted from the PSYCHO films see’s my passion and genuine love for this, and have all been incredibly supportive and helpful. The first person I reached out to was PSYCHO 2 director Richard Franklin. (Who sadly is no longer with us.) Richard put me in touch with PSYCHO 2 writer Tom Holland. Tom put me in touch with PSYCHO 4 director Mick Garris. Mick put me in touch with Katt Shea from Part 3 and it all just snowballed from there. It’s just been amazing to find the next person and get to talk to them about their experiences. Now that the bulk of the interviews has been shot, I’ve got 2 more people on my crew, my editor Jon Maus and my post-production co-ordinater & assistant Kat Arroyo. Without those 3 people, I never could’ve done this.
John: What is Anthony Masi’s role in the production?
Robert: Anthony Masi is a dear old friend of mine. I’ve known him for years and he successfully produced the HALLOWEEN documentary 25 YEARS OF TERROR, as well as the recently released HIS NAME WAS JASON: 30 YEARS OF FRIDAY THE 13TH. He also did a HALLOWEEN featurette titled THE SHAPE OF HORROR which I did a bit of music for. He’s also a huge PSYCHO fan and a firm believer in this doc. I’ve been working on it for so long that I wasn’t exactly sure how to get this out there. I just have so much on my plate as it is that I needed a “producer” to help me finish it. Since he has experience with franchise docs, he offered to be a part of it and essentially help me cross the finish line. He’s been a tremendous help. Also, while I love his 2 previous doc’s, mine is definitely very, very different from those 2. The 12 minute promo piece that’s been on-line for the last several months is a good interpretation of what the full length version of THE PSYCHO LEGACY will be like.
John: Jeff Fahey is one of my favorite-ever actors. Can you share how the interview went down, and what he was like?
Robert: He’s definitely one of my fave actors too and that interview was truly magical! I’m so, so glad it came together the way it did. The short version is… Jeff was doing a rare convention appearance in New Jersey about an hour and a half away from me. Most people don’t know this but at the time, Jeff was living in Afghanistan! Now, it is to my understanding that Jeff would work on a few films in the States and then take the money to better things over there. So, he was very difficult to get to, BUT… once GRINDHOUSE had come out, he was set to do his first ever convention appearance. There was a slight misunderstanding when I got there – the place was packed, I don’t even think the convention “manager” told him I was coming to see him, but less then 5 minutes of me explaining the project to him, he asked me where I was based out of. When I said New York, he said, “Well, my sister’s there. How ’bout we meet up Monday morning when I go to see her?” So, to his word, he called me 2 days later and (with his sister!) met me at my friend’s apartment in Manhattan. What was amazing about his interview is that it came together so fast, so as we’re rolling, he was thinking back & remembering things about PSYCHO 3 for the first time in over 20 years. That’s probably my favorite interview because of that! Also, I missed one great tid-bit before we started rolling. He mentioned that he met with Gus Van Sant on the PSYCHO remake, I believe for the part of Sam Loomis, which eventually went to Viggo Mortensen.
John: Tell us about the wonderful greetings to PSYCHO fans you got many cast and crew to record. That’s a genuinely warm thing you did there, and something not many in your position would bother to undertake.
Robert: Well, thank you so much for saying that. I wanted to make sure from the get-go that everyone knew how much this all meant to me and that I was always keeping the fans in consideration with every decision. I’m a die-hard fan of these movies myself and I tried to think of what I would want to see, as a fan from the doc. Plus, I was trying to think of a way to make this more interactive with the fans. And I thought what better way then to have these people thank us for the continued support? So, once every interview was wrapped, I explained to each person how important it would be for the fans if they sent along a greeting. Everyone complied and I love them for it. AND, I do forward the clips to each person, so they’ve all seen the comments that fans have left below their videos. Another reason I did the greetings was because for me as a fan, I know I would just want to see what a lot of these people looked like nowadays! I mean, isn’t Sharen Camille from Part 4 still absolutely adorable?! Those greetings will make for a nice collection on the eventual DVD release.
John: What is your favorite and least favorite PSYCHO series entry and why?
Robert: That’s a really tough question. I honestly and sincerely love each and every movie for my own reasons. The first is obviously a classic and not only one of the best horror films ever made, but one of the best movies ever made. I love PSYCHO 2 because it’s a beautifully crafted murder-mystery. There’s also never been a sequel like it, nor do I think there ever will be. It takes place 22 years later? With the lead actor reprising his role? That’s unheard of! Nowadays, it’d just be remade. I love 3 because that’s the one I caught on cable a hundred times as a kid, and it always kind of scared me because of the sleaze factor to it. (That and, well… the nuns.) Perkins with his direction gave us an interesting PSYCHO movie straight from the head of Norman Bates. And lastly, and I know I’m in the minority, but I love PSYCHO 4 as well! It’s probably my favorite thing that Mick Garris has ever done. Perkins is fantastic in it, and both Henry Thomas and Olivia Hussey deliver great performances.
John: PSYCHO IV: THE BEGINNING is my hands-down favorite of the sequels. But the ending with the Ghost Mother Bates has always nagged me as tacky and ‘untrue’ to the story preceding it. Do you know if that is something that was scripted, or network-forced?
Robert: Judging from my conversations with Mick Garris, the film was done in a short period of time with a tight budget, but stayed very close to Stefano’s script. In fact, there’s a video introduction with Janet Leigh on YouTube where she mentions that 4 endings were shot to keep the film’s finale a surprise. Mick debunked that and said they never filmed multiple endings, they only filmed one. So as far as I know, that’s what was always scripted, and that’s what they shot. I personally always thought they should’ve ended the moment Norman hangs up the phone!
John: What is this documentary’s relationship with the awesome thepsychomovies.com?
Robert: I really wanted Jay Allentoff, the creator and webmaster of ThePsychoMovies.com to make this movie with me! But he’s extremely busy with his job and couldn’t find the time to do it. Like most fans, I just like visiting the site. As you just said, it’s awesome. So, we’re good friends, and as we gear up to finish the doc, I’ll try to debut some cool stuff over there, as well as on the official MySpace page.
John: You’re well known for the Icons Of Fright website – were you able to use contacts from there as resources?
Robert: Honestly, I couldn’t have made THE PSYCHO LEGACY without accumulating 5 years of experience doing Icons Of Fright. I never realized it, but it essentially was the perfect training for interviewing people and being comfortable with getting the most information in the shortest amount of time from interviews. I also have done a few articles for FANGORIA and it’s interesting, because putting together an article is a lot like editing. You’re pulling out the best quotes from the interview and reworking them into the appropriate order that will tell a story. That’s exactly how you edit interview footage, so both Icons Of Fright and FANGORIA were truly the best preparation I could’ve had for making this doc.
John: In the extended promo on MySpace the doco clearly has slick professional editing. Who’s responsible for that?
Robert: My friend Kat Arroyo early on expressed interest in helping me out with the doc and she introduced me to Jon Maus (pronounced “mouse”), who’s an incredible editor & the editor both on the promo piece and now the full length version. He’s seriously my editing soul-mate. For the most part, we’re totally on the same page and to this day I’m amazed that we put together that 12 minute piece as quickly as we did. We debuted it at the Fangoria Weekend Of Horrors back in April of 2008, and we worked on it for 4 Sunday’s previous to the con. They were long days! But technically, we only worked on it for those 4 days, and it came together great. Now, the full length has been far more challenging! Maus and I don’t always agree on everything, but we’re getting there and happy with the results. We will be licensing footage from the actual PSYCHO movies, so there will be clips in the final version of the film. Plus, Tom Holland provided me with 60 personal Polaroids from the set of PSYCHO 2, none of which have EVER been seen. Juliette Cummins did the same for me with PSYCHO 3. And I inherited a lot of Richard Franklin’s belongings from PSYCHO 2 including every single newspaper article & clipping from the film’s original release, as well as all the original blueprints for the house and diner when they were reconstructed for PART 2. I’m doing my best to incorporate ALL this material in some way to the DVD.
John: Will you be covering the remake and interviewing any of its personnel?
Robert: As of right now, I have very little about the remake. No one really wants to talk about it! Including Gus Van Sant, whom I did reach out to. I figured it’d be interesting for him to revisit the film now 10 years later, but he politely declined. It won’t be mentioned in the full length doc, but I am cutting together a featurette on the remake for the bonus materials on the DVD. That could change though. The one person I’m still trying to talk to is Vince Vaughn. I’d love to hear his thoughts on PSYCHO now in retrospect.
John: Since you’re not directly covering it then, what are your frank opinions of it? I thought it was a good experimental idea, but I had problems with it. They updated some things but not others, so it seems to take place in a strange present day USA that never really progressed much passed the 50′s/60′s.
Robert: I agree completely. I remember a “rumor” when the remake was first announced that it was going to be shot-for-shot up until the “shower scene” and then once we got past that, it would become a radically different movie. THAT would’ve been kind of cool, but alas it turned out not to the case. What do I think of it? Egh, it’s not a very good movie. I agree, interesting idea, but in order for that remake to work, you have to update more then just the amount of money Marion Crane steals! PSYCHO defined a lot of the genre for decades after it came out and was so imitated that you can’t get away with the stuff in PSYCHO anymore. It’s not shocking to kill the lead half way through the movie anymore. Everyone already knows that Norman is “mother” so the ending doesn’t work anymore. There’s also inconsistencies in Norman’s character. If a woman excites him, the “mother” side of him gets jealous and takes over. He wouldn’t stand there and masturbate! And when he’s mother, I’m not sure why he would see goats on the road or left over footage from the Nine Inch Nail’s “Closer” video. It didn’t make sense to add those little elements yet change nothing else, ya know?
John: Ditto for the under-appreciated (some would say for good reason) TV Pilot BATES MOTEL?
Robert: Same deal. not many people talked about the pilot. But I will cut together a bonus featurette about it. Same goes for all the Robert Bloch books. (Which do get mentioned in the actual doc, but the featurettes will delve more into his PSYCHO novel sequels.)
John: Ah yes, I’ve been meaning to catch up with those source novels one of these days. It’s well known Joseph Stefano’s screenplay differed greatly from the original novel, but how did the additional books compare to the flicks – was any material at all borrowed from them?
Robert: Oh, the novels are their own beast. While I like them for what they are, I know they pissed a lot of fans off when they came out, especially for their depiction of Norman Bates who is NOTHING like the sympathetic version that Tony Perkins created. I don’t want to spoil them for you, but they could never make a movie out of PSYCHO 2 – the novel. And Norman’s not exactly in PSYCHO HOUSE, the 3rd novel. They’re worth reading as a die-hard fan, but I definitely prefer the direction the cinematic sequels went instead.
John: I gotta ask… has it been difficult to get folks connected to part one since it’s a pretty old film now?
Robert: Yes. I got Hilton Green, which is great because he’s the one connection between ALL the films, including the remake. So it was important for me to have him there. Not sure where Vera Miles is. And John Gavin I haven’t been able to locate. Again, Laurent’s documentary covers the first one so extensively that I prefer to think of my documentary as a sequel to his. Or at least a compliment to his.
John: If they ever decided to do another PSYCHO, what would you like to see? Sequel or another redo? Who would you cast as Norman?
Robert: I personally have an idea on how to properly continue the franchise, but it’d have to be a reboot. And I’d combine elements of the 1st and 4th PSYCHO’s. Tell Norman’s story in chronological order, or at least open with him murdering his mother and assuming her persona. It’d have to be about him, his story and then the 3rd act could be elements of the first movie. Him going more and more insane and getting closer & closer to being caught. I don’t really see another known actor taking that role. I’d personally cast an unknown so there’s no pre-conceived notion about who Norman Bates is.
John: Lastly Robert, where are you at in the doco’s production right now and when do you see completion and distribution happening?
Robert: I’m literally in the process of ironing out the details for this right now, so I don’t want to jinx it! But, I’m aiming to release it October 2009. Just in time for the 50th anniversary of the original. I’m sure fans will be totally pleased with the full package we’re putting together. I just obtained some never before seen footage of Anthony Perkins at a Fangoria convention moderating a panel for PSYCHO 3, so he WILL actually be in the doc!
A huge thanks to Robert for participating! You can chase up more about the project at thepsycholegacy.com!
“Norman Bates is probably the most famous cinematic lunatic ever put on screen, and the year 2010 marks the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest American films ever made. Very few horror films have the longevity that Psycho has, and it’s the perfect time to take a look back on all of the films in the franchise in feature-length retrospective documentary.” -Anthony Masi