Psycho III is the dark horse of the Psycho theatrical-film trilogy, the offbeat one that took fans and critics a while to catch up to. It’s built a pretty decent cult following since its initial release in 1986 but fans have had to make do with basic, extras-free “catalog title” tapes and discs during its home video history. Thankfully for those fans, Scream Factory has put an end to that with their new special edition blu-ray of Psycho III.
Things get off to a swimming start with a good-looking new high-def transfer of the film. It’s able to handle the visual variety of Bruce Surtees’ cinematography, which includes everything from arid daytime desert vistas to a lot of dimly-lit interiors and night sequences gently illuminated with neon light. The black levels are appropriately velvety in their appearance, the textures are quite vivid (particularly in the closeups) and the frequent use of primary-colored lighting really pops on the screen. 5.1 and 2.0 lossless stereo mixes are offered for this transfer: the 5.1 option was used for this review and it handles the layers of the sound effectively, making good use of surrounds and bringing out the complexities of Carter Burwell’s ambitious musical score.
The first is a commentary track featuring screenwriter Charles Edward Pogue and moderator Michael Felsher, whose Red Shirt Pictures did all the featurettes for this disc. Pogue looks back at Psycho III with fondness and wit as recounts how he got the gig, the experience of working Anthony Perkins and how the actors worked with him in different ways about figuring out their characters.
He’s not afraid to be critical – he points out the one place in the film he thinks Perkins made a directorial mistake and explains why – but he also frequently praises Perkins both as director and actor. He also reveals a lot of interesting trivia, including the other pitch he had devised for Psycho III and a storyline he and Perkins worked on for a proposed fourth theatrical Psycho film. Felsher gives him plenty of room to talk but also subtly guides the proceedings with questions that give the track a nice conversational vibe. The results move fast and deliver plenty of info that Psycho fans will enjoy.
Psycho III fans will be happy to see four new featurettes on this disc, all from Red Shirt Pictures. “Watch The Guitar” is an interview with Jeff Fahey, who speaks with nostalgic fondness about working with Perkins and discusses how he turned a stunt-related mishap into the occasion for an inspired practical joke. There’s also an anecdote that connects the film with his experiences on Grindhouse. “Patsy’s Last Night” features actor-turned-director Katt Shea, who performed her final role in Psycho III. She contrasts Perkin’s oddball charm as director/co-star with the physical and makeup-FX rigors of her short but memorable role, including just how un-fun it was to shoot those ice chest scenes.
“Mother’s Maker” offers an interview with Michael Westmore, who designed the makeup effects on Psycho III. He walks the viewer through all the major challenges he dealt with and the methods used, including some fascinating info about the slit-wrists scene and the difficulties it presented. He also praises Perkins, who reunited a group of old Universal vets for the film and taught him a trick about using makeup on male actors that he uses to this day (watch the segment to find out what it is). The most unique of the interviews is “Body Double,” which involves Brinke Stevens talking about her gig as Diana Scarwid’s stand-in during the bathtub scene. She covers everything you could want to know about this scene in five minutes – and like everyone else interviewed, she speaks fondly of Perkins.
The package is rounded out by some promotional material. There are two trailers, one theatrical and one that appears to be a t.v. spot. Both show off what unique visuals this film has and do a good job of selling it with flashy editing. The final inclusion is a click-thru image gallery with a bevy of stills, publicity photos and a little ad art.
In short, Psycho III fans have finally gotten the special edition they’ve been waiting for with this Scream Factory disc – and both fans and newbies will appreciate the quality of presentation it gets here.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of Psycho III, click here.