Saul Bass and Psycho

inspiration, storyboards

Did you know that Saul Bass, arguably the most influential graphic designer/title sequence designer/logo designer/[insert other title I’m forgetting] of the modern era was also responsible for the legendary shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho??

I certainly didn’t. Not until leafing through Saul Bass: A Life in Film and Design (big thanks to my good friend, Jeff Smith, for hooking me up with this as a birthday gift). We movie lovers and film theorist types tend to get so caught up in auteur talk that we sometimes gloss over the collaborative nature inherent in filmmaking. Especially when it comes to directors like Hitchcock. The thing is, Hitchcock himself, in his famous conversations with Truffaut, “neglected” to mention Saul Bass’s contribution when asked about the shower scene, so he definitely helped perpetuate the misinformation a bit. Which is interesting, because, as the book points out, Hitchcock had enlisted the help of artists for key sequences of some of his other films (ex. Salvador Dali’s dream sequences in Spellbound) so it’s not like that was any sort of secret to keep. And in fact it made him look like a pretty cutting-edge guy bring in someone of Bass’s caliber to design such key scenes (not only the shower scene, but also the murder of the detective and the reveal of Mother’s dead body).

Maybe it has to do with the fact that Hitchcock was allegedly pretty lukewarm on Bass’s take on the scene. When Bass pitched it to him, Hitchcock didn’t take to it because all the fast cutting was contrary to his signature style consisting mostly of long takes. It wasn’t until Bass himself filmed a rough version of the scene with Janet Leigh’s stand-in that Hitch was convinced and, to his credit, even let Bass direct the scene! So cool.

Check out the boards and then the scene itself.


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