Arrow Video fans certainly have much to get excited about at present. The imminent release of a brand-new 4K restoration of John Carpenter’s classic remake of The Thing is one reason. Another is the new July 2017 Arrow Blu-Ray re-issue of Richard Franklin’s 1983 sequel Psycho II.
At first glance, it was always a tall order and major challenge to see whether anyone could match Hitchcock’s 1960 chiller; whether it could be consistent with the original’s level of shock and surprise after such a long hiatus, whilst bringing it in line with the Halloween / Friday The 13th crowd. Happily, even thirty-four years after its theatrical debut, Psycho II transcends expectations and is one of the classic exceptions to the rule of diminishing returns in sequels.
Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) is deemed fit for society twenty-two years after the dark and tragic events of the original film by a local court, despite the objections of Lila Loomis (Vera Miles) - the sister of Janet Leigh’s character in the original - who has mounted a petition to stop him from being released. He goes back to his motel and house and takes a job at a local diner, where he meets waitress Mary (Meg Tilly). His doctor. Bill Raymond (Robert Loggia) helps him adjust as best he can, whilst advising the local sheriff to keep an eye on him.
However, it isn’t long before the past starts to play with his mind-set, with notes being left under phones in the house and on the order wheel at the diner. His motel has other issues, with the present manager, Warren Toomey (Dennis Franz) making a more open policy on guests to increasing resentment and objections…..
Tom Holland’s script keeps a compact and playful leash on both the characters and the audience - and all the key motifs that defined the original film are there, right down to the film opening with the immortal shower scene, a key set-up for what is to follow.
In his sleeve notes for the soundtrack to Halloween, John Carpenter stated that Psycho was ‘the film that inspired Halloween’ and it is a logical progression that Dean Cundey should be the person to have laid the canvas on director Franklin’s film. Like The Fog, Psycho II is richly and beautifully shot, adding to the air of unease. Perkins was never going to escape his role as Bates, a fact Hitchcock lovingly stated when he claimed he ruined Perkins’ career through Psycho. Jerry Goldsmith’s music is faultless, one of several great scores he did throughout the 1980s, and done around the same time he was nominated for another Oscar for his work on Roger Spottiswoode’s Under Fire (highly recommended if you can get hold of the CD).
After you’ve enjoyed the film, you can look forward to a host of special features on the disc, including writer Tom Holland’s audio commentary, archive interviews and press kit material and – if you are lucky enough to buy the film on its first release – a collector’s booklet with new writing on the film and a reprint of the Psycho II chapter from Richard Franklin’s unpublished biography.
All in all, Arrow Video have a gold-plated winner with Psycho II.
PSYCHO II / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: RICHARD FRANKLIN / SCREENPLAY: TOM HOLLAND / STARRING: ANTHONY PERKINS, VERA MILES, MEG TILLY, ROBERT LOGGIA, DENNIS FRANZ / RELEASE DATE: 31ST JULY