Psycho IV: The Beginning

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Psycho IV: The Beginning
Based on Characters created by Robert Bloch
Written by Joseph Stefano
Directed by Mick Garris
Starring Anthony Perkins
Henry Thomas
Olivia Hussey
CCH Pounder
Music by Graeme Revell
Bernard Herrmann (original score)
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Executive producer(s) Hilton A. Green
Producer(s) George Zaloom
Les Mayfield
Editor(s) Charles Bornstein
Cinematography Rodney Charters
Running time 96 minutes
Production company(s) Universal Television
Distributor Universal Media Studios
Original network Showtime
Original release
  • November 10, 1990 (1990-11-10)
Preceded by Psycho III

Psycho IV: The Beginning is a 1990 made-for-cable-television film sequel and prequel to Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film Psycho, as it includes both events after Psycho III while focusing on flashbacks of events that took place prior to the original film. It is the fourth and final film in the Psycho series. Directed by Mick Garris, it starred Anthony Perkins, Henry Thomas, Olivia Hussey and CCH Pounder and premiered on the Showtime cable network on November 10, 1990.

The film was written by Joseph Stefano, who also wrote the screenplay of the original film. The original musical score was composed by Graeme Revell and the title theme music by Bernard Herrmann from the original film was used.


Norman Bates is released from the mental hospital again, after having been re-incarcerated at the end of Psycho III; after spending several years there, he is judged rehabilitated for the second time. Norman is now married to a young nurse named Connie and is expecting a child. Norman secretly fears that the child will inherit his mental illness, so he must seek closure once and for all.

Radio talk show host Fran Ambrose is discussing the topic of matricide with her guest Dr. Richmond, Norman's former psychologist. Norman calls the show, using the alias "Ed", to tell his story.

Norman's narrative is seen as a series of flashbacks set in the 1940s and 1950s, some slightly out of order. When Norman is six years old, his father dies, leaving him in the care of his mother, Norma. Over the years, Norma (who is implied to suffer from schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder) dominates her son, teaching him that sex is sinful and dressing him in girl's clothes as punishment for getting an erection in her presence.

The two live in contented isolation at the large house as if there is no one else in the world until, in 1949, she becomes engaged to a brutish man named Chet Rudolph. Driven over the edge with jealousy and suffering from Norma and Chet's constant abuse, Norman kills both of them by serving them poisoned iced tea, then steals and preserves his mother's corpse. He develops a split personality in which he "becomes" his mother to suppress the guilt of murdering her; whenever this personality takes over, it drives him to dress in his mother's clothes, put on a wig, and talk to himself in her voice. As "Mother", he murders two local women who try to seduce him during their stay at his newly-opened motel.

In the present day, Dr. Richmond realizes "Ed" is Norman and tries to convince Ambrose to trace the calls. Richmond's worries are dismissed. Norman fears he will go insane and kill again. He tells Fran that Connie got pregnant against his wishes and that he does not want to create another "monster". He then tells Fran he realizes that his mother is dead, but he fears that his mother may repossess him and kill Connie "with my own hands, just like the first time."

Norman takes his wife to his mother's house and does attempt to kill her, but Connie reassures Norman that their child will not be a monster, and he drops his knife. Connie forgives him. Finally, Norman impulsively sets fire to the house where all his unhappiness began. As he tries to escape the flames, he hallucinates that he sees his victims, his mother and eventually himself preserving her corpse. Norman barely flees the burning house alive.

He and Connie leave the next day. Norman happily proclaims, "I'm free," indicating that his mother will never again haunt his mind and drive him insane. Then, the wooden doors of the house cellar close on the rocking chair that continues to rock, at which point "Mother" screams for Norman to release her before the sound of a baby crying is heard.



Psycho IV: The Beginning was filmed at Universal Studios Florida in Orlando, Florida from June 4 to July 13, 1990. The facade of the Bates Motel and the Bates mansion were re-created at the theme park. The production was originally to be filmed before the opening of the park but due to delays and the studio's desire to have a high-profile production on the lot, the film was shot while the park was open. This led to tourists being able to watch the filming of several scenes at the motel and house on the back lot. Anthony Perkins wanted Noel Black, who directed him in Pretty Poison, to direct the film,[1] and he even came up with a pitch for the film along with Psycho III's screenwriter, Charles Edward Pogue. But Psycho III was a critical and financial failure, so Universal rejected this idea and Mick Garris was brought in.[2] Joseph Stefano, the screenwriter of the original film, was brought back to write the fourth film. He had disliked the two films between I and IV, feeling that they were too commercial and catered to the conventions of slasher movies. In an interview, Stefano stated, "Gearing up for Psycho IV, I decided to ignore the two sequels – like the business in II about Norman’s mother."[3]

Actress Olivia Hussey was directly offered the role of Mrs. Bates. It was the intention of writer Joseph Stefano to make her at a young age as attractive as Norman had been in the first film.[4] When Henry Thomas was cast as the young Norman Bates, Perkins wanted to meet with him and discuss the role. Thomas stated, in the documentary The Psycho Legacy: "Looking back on it now, he knew he had to have this conversation with me but I don't think that he was really into it. He just gave me a few broad strokes and told me to play the character real, that was it."[5] During filming, Perkins was diagnosed with HIV and had to receive treatment during production. Director Mick Garris has stated in numerous interviews that he had some creative control issues with Perkins. "He would get into long, drawn-out discussions in front of the crew, testing his director, making sure choices were not made 'because it looks good,' and seeing how deep the understanding of the story and process were. He could be very forceful, just shy of bullying, but also really appreciated helpful direction. I would have to say he was the most difficult and challenging actor I've ever worked with, but he ended up going on and on about how happy he was with the film. That," Garris says, "was gratifying."[6]


The film was met with mixed reviews when first broadcast on Showtime. Henry Stewart of L Magazine said: "Garris evinces high-grade professionalism, but his comic-book approximations of real emotions—like desire, madness and murderlust—feel empty. Hitchcock this most certainly ain’t."[7] Some reviewers received the film with greater optimism. Ninja stated: "This is a good tv movie, way better than its reputation, and continues the tradition of great acting in the series."[8] Cult said: "The film is shot well, the fire sequence, by Rodney Charters, is particularly stunning. The only real trouble with this film is the bad writing, which, considering that it was the baby of the scriptwriter of the original, Joseph Stefano, is very disappointing indeed."[9] Matt Poirier of Direct to Video stated: "This was a pretty unmemorable movie. It tried to make references to the original, like one where Perkins cuts his thumb, and the blood going into the drain mimics the blood in the famous shower scene. Way too obvious and pretty obnoxious."[10] Despite some negative reviews, the film received high Nielsen ratings with around 10 million viewers watching the premiere. 2 years after the film was released, it was nominated for a Saturn award for Best Genre Television Series.

Although Stefano did not immediately disclose his decision to ignore the two sequels (thus ignoring the character of Norman's aunt Emma Spool), horror fiction writer and critic Robert Price has noted that "Psycho IV seems to be intended as a direct sequel to the original Psycho, with no reference to Psycho II or III. Norman may have been healed and released from his first confinement, not from the confinement that takes place at the end of Psycho III."[11] Horror writer James Futch regards this as a defect, complaining that the film "ignores much of the Psycho mythology".[12]

DVD releases[edit]

Psycho IV: The Beginning was released on DVD in Region 1 as part of a triple feature package with Psycho II and Psycho III on August 14, 2007 by Universal Studios Home Entertainment.[13] Universal has also released some four-title Region 2 packages that include the 1960 original.[14][15] A single-disc Region 2 version of Psycho IV (titled Psychose: L'origine) was released in France in 2007 by Aventi Distribution.[16]

Series continuity[edit]

As noted in Production, screenwriter Joseph Stefano chose to ignore the events in Psycho II and III in ways that a few critics such as Robert Price and James Futch (see Reception) found detrimental.

Several characters common to film II and III are absent from IV including the new town sheriff, while several characters seen previously only in I reappear in the "prequel" material of IV such as Dr. Richmond. However, Price devoted an entire essay to the shifting identity of Norman's mother, whom over the series we alternately believe to be either Norma Bates or Emma Spool,[11] although both are mad.

Psycho II introduced the character of Norman's aunt Emma Spool, and in that film both the audience of Psycho II and Norman Bates were led to believe she was Norman's real mother. (Indeed a few recent sources still refer to her as Norman's real mother.)[17] In Psycho III, it was revealed she only delusively believed she was Norman's mother, and furthermore Spool had been in a love triangle with Norman's father and mother and that she had killed Norman's father.[18] By Stefano's conscious decision, Spool is wholly absent and never even mentioned in Psycho IV, according to which Norman's father died of multiple bee stings. However, in this final film, Norman tells Fran, "After the last murder four years ago, um, murders, plural..."; this matches the timeline set up in Psycho III, which was released four years earlier, and indicates this is his (second) release, this time from the confinement that takes place at the end of Psycho III.

The events of the earlier and little-seen TV pilot Bates Motel in which Norman dies are also ignored in Psycho IV.

Reflecting on all these discontinuities, Robert Price writes "It seems that all the different Psychos drift into and out of one another. There is no real sequence. All are variant versions of the same myth. The deep conflict being rehearsed and resolved in these movies is that of the Oedipal complex".[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bergan, Ronald (4 August 2014). "Rep Diary: Noel Black on Pretty Poison". Film Comment. Retrieved 28 February 2015. 
  2. ^ "Who Owns Norman Bates?". Bright Lights Film Journal. November 2006. Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  3. ^ Interview: Psycho Screenwriter Joseph Stefano By Steve Biodrowski • September 16, 2008
  4. ^ PSYCHO LEGACY Facebook Clip 8 - Olivia Hussey on Mother on YouTube
  5. ^ Robert V. Galluzzo (November 2010). The Psycho Legacy (DVD). Icons of Fright Productions. 
  6. ^ Interview with Director Mick Garris at "The Psycho Movies"
  7. ^ Mark Asch and Henry Stewart. "Psycho, the Book, the Sequels". The L Magazine. Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  8. ^ Ninja Dixon (August 6, 2009). "Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990)". Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  9. ^ "Psycho IV: The Beginning". April 28, 2010. Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  10. ^ "Psycho IV (1990)". Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  11. ^ a b c Off Their Rocker: The Many Faces of Psycho's Mrs. Bates by Robert Price
  12. ^ The Psycho Sequels by James Futch
  13. ^ Psycho Package at
  14. ^ page of 4 movie set
  15. ^ Review of 4-movie Region 2 set at Digital Retribution dated 2005
  16. ^ Review at French website
  17. ^ Skerry, Philip (2005). The shower scene in Hitchcock's "Psycho": creating cinematic suspense and terror. Edwin Mellen Press. p. 355. ISBN 9780773460515. 
  18. ^ Armstrong, Ken Byron (2003). Slasher films: an international filmography, 1960 through 2001. McFarland & Co. p. 237. ISBN 9780786414628. 

External links[edit]