Color, 2010, 90m.
Directed by Robert V. Galluzzo
Starring Anthony Perkins, Henry Thomas, Olivia Hussey, Diana Scarwid, Jeff Fahey, Stuart Gordon, Tom Holland
Shout Factory (US R1 NTSC) / DD2.0

One of the more unlikely horror franchises in movie history, the Psycho series began in 1960 when Alfred Hitchcock released an adaptation of Robert Bloch's unassuming horror novel (loosely inspired by the real-life antics of serial killer Ed Gein, less so in the film) which proceeded to scare the pants off an entire generation of moviegoers. The film is usually cited as the real genesis of the modern slasher film, primarily thanks to its groundbreaking shower murder which combined brilliantly edited violence, the illusion of nudity (with a little actually shown in soft focus), and shrieking music into a sequence that came to define the future of onscreen carnage. For many years Psycho was considered an unassailable institution, often imitated but treated more like a museum piece thanks to a new generation of film critics pounding the drums for the auteur theory.

Then in 1983, Universal did the unthinkable; in the middle of summer, Psycho II opened under the directorial hand of Hitchcock disciple Richard Franklin and became a surprise hit, earning favor from both critics and audiences alike who expressed surprise at how cleverly it continued the saga of Norman Bates after being released from a sanitarium. Three years later, star Anthony Perkins took over the reins for his directorial debut, the underrated Psycho III, while frequent Stephen King adapter Mick Garris brought Perkins back one last time for the redundant but occasionally interesting Psycho IV: The Beginning, which also marked the only sequel written by the original's screenwriter, Joseph Stefano.

This quartet of films forms the center of The Psycho Legacy, a sprawling overview that might be more accurately titled The Anthony Perkins Psycho Legacy. Norman Bates and his antics inspired plenty of other projects including some Bloch sequel novels, a bizarre made-for-TV pilot called Bates Motel with Bud Cort, and of course, Gus Van Sant's freakishly misguided color remake, but those are relegated to fleeting nods at best in the extras for this release. Instead, the Perkins cycle understandably gets the focus for a thorough study that combines rarely seen interview and convention footage with the late star along with pretty much every single living participant in front of and behind the camera for the four films. This documentary-and-extras treatment has become something of a standard for established series in recent years, resulting in packages ranging from magnificent (Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy) to adequate (Halloween: 25 Years of Terror) to frustrating (His Name Was Jason). The Psycho Legacy basically comes in a notch or two under Never Sleep Again and really justifies itself by finally digging deep into the sequels, which have always been treated as shabby, quickie releases by Universal on DVD (who even debuted them on the format by tossing them over to Goodtimes Video).

The list of participants here is pretty staggering as the main feature, the 90-minute The Psycho Legacy, begins with the inception of Hitchcock's film and walks through each installment step by step. Among the participants (besides the deceased Perkins, Franklin, and Vera Miles in archive footage) are Jeff Fahey, Diana Scarwid, Mick Garris, Psycho II scribe and future Fright Night director Tom Holland, Robert Loggia, Psycho III writer Charles Edward Pogue, the still-lovely Olivia Hussey, and Henry Thomas, along with historians and fans including Stuart Gordon (a very articulate horror director and horror expert who worked with Perkins on The Devi's Daughter), Fangoria's Tony Timpone and Mike Gingold, Hatchet director Adam Green, Katt Shea, Brinke Stevens, David J. Schow, The Dead Hate the Living director Dave Parker, and plenty more. There's a ton of interesting material here (especially an extended sequence on the bad on-set relationship between Perkins and the conspicuously absent Meg Tilly), and the lengthy treatment of Psycho III is gratifying as it gets the surviving stars to really go depth on a film that has been misunderstood for way too long. (It's also nice to know that the nods to Blood Simple were indeed intentional.) Thomas and Hussey also give some nice observations about their film, including some amusing notes about the queasy incestuous factor that everyone had to handle. Director Robert V. Galluzzo obviously spent a huge amount of time putting all this together (several years, apparently), and his devotion for the project really shines through with a brisk, entertaining, and slick final product, complete with an amusing "Herrmannesque" score by Jermaine Stegall that gives Richard Band's Re-Animator a run for its money. (And yes, Stuart Gordon talks about that notorious chapter in soundtrack history, too.)

Shout Factory's double-disc release features the central feature on disc one, presented as shot in full frame (which is really odd for such a recent doc, but at least it matches the archival camcorder footage better); quality is fine considering it was all apparently shot on DV. Then the rest of disc one and the entirety of disc two splatter the screen with a horde of extras, kicking off with a complete fan panel chat with Perkins, audio from a cast and crew reunion discussion, a "Revisiting Psycho II" featurette with Franklin's own archive augmented with comments from Holland and Galluzzo, a great interview with ace cinematographer Dean Cuncdey about his work on Psycho II, a tour of the Bates Motel set (the real one, apparently, not the fake tour one), peeks at memorabilia fan Guy Thorpe and some onlien appreciation, a ton of extended and deleted interview bits, and a barely-related gallery of "psycho"-tic artwork. Die-hard fans of the original film only might find the bulk of this of minor interest, but any horror fans with a fondness for the '80s in particular will be richly rewarded with a surprisingly extensive tribute to a film series often overlooked in favor of more trendy, costumed maniacs. Now, if someone decides to put together one of these puppies for the Children of the Corn series, God help us all...