5 Things We Learnt About Psycho’s Shower Scene From Netflix Doc 78/52

From finding a body double for Janet Leigh to using Hershey's syrup for blood, we look at some memorable things director Alfred Hitchcock did to craft the iconic scene

Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most influential directors in the world. His most famous film, arguably, is Psycho (1960), and its most famous (or infamous) scene is the “shower scene”. The Netflix documentary 78/52 explores why the scene is so iconic. Featuring insights from people who worked on the film including screenwriter Joseph Stefano, as well as other filmmakers, the documentary is a must-watch.

Here are 5 pieces of trivia about Psycho shower scene that we learnt from the documentary:

The nude body you see on-screen is not Janet Leigh’s but Marli Renfro’s

Hitchcock knew that American men were curious about Janet Leigh and used that to his advantage. Marli Renfro, a pin-up model, heard about the requirement of a body double for a nude scene for a Universal Studios production from a photographer she was working with. She had to strip in her audition. She got the part as her body type was similar to Janet Leigh’s. In the scene, when Leigh’s Marion pulls down the curtain, you can spot her disfigured ring finger that she cut off accidentally as a 3-year-old trying to help her brother with a lawn mower.

The blood going down the drain is chocolate syrup

Hitchcock said that he deliberately made the film in black and white because otherwise “the draining away of the blood is too repulsive”. They used Hershey’s chocolate syrup instead. Who would’ve thought!

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The sound of stabbing is actually the sound of a knife stabbing melons

The sound man came up with the idea that the sound of stabbing flesh could be mimicked by stabbing melons. Being the perfectionist that he was, Hitchcock called for some two-dozen variety of melons. He chose the Casaba melon as it sounded most like sinew. Then, he interspersed that sound with the sound of a knife stabbing a big slab of sirloin. For your information, the sound man had that steak for dinner that night!

The title of the documentary pertains to the number of camera setups and cuts used

78/52 is a technical term representing 78 camera setups and 52 cuts, the extraordinarily labour-intensive work that went into the shower scene. No wonder that it took seven days from of a 30-day schedule.

The last shot of the scene where the camera moves from dead Marion’s eye and cuts back to the shower spewing water is actually a cover-up

When Alma Reville, Hitchcock’s wife saw the film, she pointed out that he shouldn’t release the film as Janet Leigh could be seen breathing at the end of the scene. This detail had escaped everyone else, including all the executives. Since they couldn’t reshoot it because of budget constraints, they simply cut back to the shower head spewing water. It’s so well done that it doesn’t seem like a cover-up, but the touch of an auteur.

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"Gauri Awasthi: Gauri Awasthi is a writer who truly believes that storytelling can change the world. She loves being a critic of pretty much everything on the planet. When she is not writing, you can find her running a vegan blog for sustainability and climate change.."
  
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