Of all the horror/thriller performances I’m looking at this October, Anthony Perkins’ in “Psycho” is arguably the best.
Credit for the 1960 masterpiece also has to obviously go to the brilliant direction of Alfred Hitchcock as well as Janet Leigh who played Marion. However, it’s undeniable that Perkins’ acting was an integral part of making this a film for the ages.
From the first time Norman Bates is introduced, Perkins’ superb work shines through. He makes plays the role in a way that gives Bates his signature timid manner. Bates is soft spoken, seemingly welcoming, yet it’s easy to see that there’s something not quite right about him.
Perkins fantastically lets just a little bit of tension come up every now and then through the character, so while Bates seems nice enough, there’s always a bit of suspense and it puts the audience on edge.
These two scenes are great examples:
Even better than that balance of Norman’s kindness and madness, though, was his nervousness. In the following two moments, Perkins wonderfully displays an anxiousness that actually makes an audience become invested to see if his ploys will work.
The second scene is especially well done. Once again, one has to acknowledge the work done by Hitchcock in this sequence, yet Perkins’ acting completes it. An audience can instantly see that this is likely the first time Bates has ever been questioned in such a manner and Perkins perfectly portrays the character trying not to crack under the pressure.
As expected, the most important part of Bate’s character is his dual personalities that have developed. In his last moment on screen, using only his expressive face, Perkins leaves the audience with pure chills as the ending monologue is delivered.
All together, Perkins’ portrayal of Bates is one of the best a horror/thriller has ever seen. His balance of being awkward while also defensive and easily upset puts an audience in a state of suspense every time he was on screen.
The same way Cary Grant helped make another Hitchcock picture, “North by Northwest” a classic, Perkins does the same for “Psycho.”