One of the more enjoyable recent trends in the field of horror genre DVD’s is that of the extras-packed “series documentary.” Horror film series like Halloween, Friday The 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street have all gotten DVD-based retrospectives that supplement their main features with a plethora of extras that allow the hardcore genre fan to delve deeply into the minutiae their cinematic obsession has to offer. Shout! Factory has served up a fresh addition to this trend with their recent 2-DVD set of The Psycho Legacy and fans will be happy to know it fits the mold nicely.
The main feature is presented full-frame – the same ratio as the interview footage that forms its backbone – and looks as sharp and colorful as such a straightforward video presentation can. The producers stick to a simple 2.0 stereo mix for the main feature and this suits it well, allowing the viewer to concentrate on the talk-driven nature of the piece but also making solid use of the occasional bit of score by Jermaine Stegall.
The same can be said for the look and sound of the extras: the only quibbles are a few brief moments where the mixing on the “Shooting Psycho II” featurette allows the music to be become a little too prominent in the soundscape (thankfully, these instances are brief and not too distracting).
In keeping with obsessive completist approach of today’s horror-doc DVD’s, The Psycho Legacy appropriately adds around three hours worth of bonus features to supplement the main attraction. On the first disc, there is an extensive series of deleted scenes and extended interviews. The deleted scenes are mainly short bits, sometimes extensions of existing scenes, but they offer up some fun material. The best moment in this area is a story that Stuart Gordon tells about how Perkins helped him outwit some clock-watching producers during a shoot for one of his films.
The extended interviews are more substantial, sometimes offering between 15 and 20 minutes’ worth of material depending on who is interviewed. There’s plenty of interesting stuff in this area that didn’t fit the confines of the documentary: for instance, Katt Shea talks about how she used Psycho III as a learning experience to prepare for her debut directing gig on Stripped To Kill and Charles Edward Pogue talking about the concept he developed for a fourth Psycho theatrical film that never got used. Also worthy of note are the extended Diana Scarwid and Henry Thomas interviews because both really get into the technical elements of their acting work in the Psycho films.
The second disc is entirely devoted to a series of featurettes designed to flesh out additional areas that wouldn’t fit the documentary. There’s a short tour of the Bates Motel set on the Universal Studios lot, a brief montage of sound clips from a Psycho reunion panel, a piece where critics and fans discuss Robert Bloch’s Psycho novels, a session with editor Andrew London and writer Tom Holland where they go over various Psycho II memorabilia while discussing their memories of working on the film and a quick chat with the founder of the “Psycho Movies” website. Elsewhere, a visit with a Psycho memorabilia collector and a interview piece with artists who make Ed Gein-themed art allow the viewers to get up close and personal with the extremes of Psycho fandom.
That said, the two most interesting featurettes on disc two are an interview with Psycho II cinematographer Dean Cundey and a video of a Q&A session that Anthony Perkins did for a horror convention in 1988. The Cundey interview supplements the Psycho II section of the documentary by giving us an insider’s perspective on how the visuals were assembled: Cundey discusses the visual challenges of shooting a sequel to a Hitchcock film and the methods of study he and Richard Franklin used to approach this task. The Perkins interview is a delight: despite its jittery, fan-shot look, it is tons of fun to watch because Perkins is a witty, fast-talking raconteur who quickly gets the horror-fan crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. Anyone who appreciates this still-underrated actor’s work will find it a very rewarding view.
Thus, the filmmakers have assembled a generous and informative package for The Psycho Legacy. If you’ve ever been interested in the Psycho series, this set offers you many ways to explore that interest and is thus a worthy value for the horror fan.