Anthony Perkins himself got behind the camera for Psycho III, following in the directorial footsteps of Alfred Hitchcock and Richard Franklin – some very large shoes to fill – but who better to tackle the third film in the series than Norman Bates himself?
Psycho III starts off with a powerful scene where a nun screams against the existence of the God that she's had pledged her life to, while teetering at the top of a bell tower. Her fellow sisters beg her to reconsider her suicide attempt but before she can make good of it, one of the other nuns inadvertently falls through a week part of the bell tower to her death below. The nun, who we learn is named Maureen Coyle (Diana Scarwid), is sent out of the convent, with only the clothes on her back and her small suit case. She walks through the desert and is eventually picked up by a man named Duane (Jeff Fahey) who is on his way to California to hit it big in the music business. Duane can't keep his hands off the foxy young nun, however, and soon he's scared her off into the desert one more time.
Duane finds himself pulling up the Bates Motel to rest for a bit, and Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) eventually winds up giving him a job as his assistant. Later that night, Norman is scheduled to meet with a reporter who is writing a story on him and he meets her at a diner up the road (this diner should look familiar to fans of Psycho II). As the reporter, Tracey (Roberta Maxwell), quizzes Norman on his life, Maureen ends up walking in and it's here that Norman realizes what a striking resemblance she bears to Marion Crane (Janet Leigh's character from the original Psycho). He winds up offering her a place to stay – cabin one at the Bates Motel, obviously, and it's then that we realize that old habits die hard to Norman Bates and that maybe his stay in the psychiatric hospital didn't do him as much good as we thought it did in the last film.
Psycho III is a mixed bag and as such it tends to divide fans of the series. The good aspects? Well, Perkins' direction is solid (especially considering that this was the first time he'd ever directed) and the cinematography in the film is excellent. The movie makes great use of shadow and great use of the neon signs to give it an almost other worldly feeling at times. There are also a few keen twists in the plot that you probably won't see coming but that do make perfect sense in the context of the film and in the context of Norman's history. The script by Charles Edward Pogue, who also co-wrote the Cronenberg adaptation of The Fly, does make for a logical continuation of the events in the first two films (and as such you'll need to see them first to follow this one) and the storyline moves along at a decent pace. The score is also very good in this film.
The bad news it that at times, Perkins seems to be overacting. He chews through the scenery here and there and it's hard not to see Norman Bates as a bit of a cliché in this third film. The ending also feels rushed and borrows almost a little too much from the first movie, which makes the end result slightly on the predictable side. In the end though, it's an entertaining movie, even if it's marginal one.
Presented in it's original aspect ratio of 1.85.1 and enhanced for anamorphic playback, Universal's transfer of Psycho II looks very, very nice. There is only a slight hint of minute film grain present in a few scenes that is most notable during some of the darker moments but other than that this is a very strong and very consistent picture. Edge enhancement is kept to a minimum and there aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts at all. Flesh tones look lifelike and natural and the black levels stay strong throughout playback. There's a pretty decent level of both foreground and background detail in the picture, and no issues with motion blurring or trailing. Color reproduction is strong, the red and orange hues in the movie don't bleed out at all, and there's really not much to complain about here in terms of video quality – Psycho III looks really good.
You've got your choice of watching the film in either an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 track, or a Spanish language or French language Dolby Digital 2.0 dubbed track. Subtitles are optional in either English, French or Spanish. Sound quality is quite good for the most part. A few scenes exhibit some nice stereo effects that add to the mood and a few of the jump scares. The lower end is strong enough to work and this adds to a few of the more intense scenes. Dialogue is clean and clear and easy to follow and there are no problems worth noting in regards to hiss or distortion. What Universal has supplied for this release is a no frills mix that gets the job done nicely without any overkill.
The only extra feature that we get on this release of Psycho II is the film's original theatrical trailer. Scene selection and audio setup options are also provided off of the main menu screen.
Not nearly as strong as the first two films in the series, Psycho III feels more like a standard eighties slasher film than a follow up to Hitchcock's masterpiece of suspense. That being said, there are a few moments that make the movie worth watching and it is technically quite well made, but the replay value on this one is pretty low and the lack of extra features make this one worth a rental rather than a blind buy, despite the very nice audio and video quality on this DVD.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.