Central DOCS Club: ’78/52′ Review

The first of our co-hosted Central DOCS Club screenings with Picturehouse Central saw ’78/52′, the story of Hitchcock’s famous shower scene, screened and followed by a discussion.

Katie Jackson continues the discussion with her review of the documentary.

The most famous scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ (1960) is undoubtedly that shower scene: Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) enters the bathroom never to leave it again, only a third of a way through the film. The scene has transcended generations, with children growing up knowing it as a symbol of horror, even if they don’t know where it’s from. It has been re-done and reimagined time and time again in horror movies and spoofs alike.

It is this legacy that has led a trail of fanatics in its wake, re-watching this film over and over again. Alexandre O. Philippe’s ‘78/52’ is a tribute to all of those people, as well as Alfred Hitchcock and the team who created Psycho. It is a brilliant documentary, shot in black and white as a homage to the original film, which delves deep into the many layers of that scene.

It features detailed insights and fun anecdotes from a range of different people, including editors, horror directors, film historians and Marli Renfro, who played Janet Leigh’s body double. Hitchcock himself also makes a few appearances through old archive footage.

78/52 is a 90-minute-long documentary about a one-minute scene, which does at times feel like it’s being drawn out for the sake of it. However, it does meticulously unravel the many technical and contextual components that led up to and surround this scene, all given by a group of knowledgable people who clearly feel inspired by this movie moment, making it all the more compelling.

It is an almost undisputed fact in the world of cinema that Hitchcock was a (slightly crazy) filmmaking genius, who revolutionised cinema at the time. 78/52 perfectly demonstrates why this is true from every conceivable aspect, while putting its main focus on one of the most famous film scenes of all time, ending with an in-depth play-by-play.

One theme touched upon in the documentary is how voyeurism plays a central role throughout Psycho. Even this theme is brought into 78/52 itself as we sit and watch the likes of Eli Roth and Richard Stanley, enraptured by that iconic scene on the TV screens in front of them. It is small touches like these that make this a more sophisticated documentary than most.

Although 78/52 can seem a little pretentious and slow at times, and is another film in a long line of documentaries and movies about Psycho, it is definitely worth a watch for anyone interested in filmmaking or for those who love the genius of Alfred Hitchcock. Both Psycho fanatics and one-time watchers will definitely learn something from watching this film, leaving you with an undeniable urge to hold a Hitchcock movie marathon.

Join us at the next Central DOCS Club screening on November 27th: see and discuss ‘Jane’, the archival biopic of Jane Goodall! Click on the Facebook event HERE.

78/52 is out now in UK cinemas. Trailer below.

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