I hate being stuck in that between Christmas/New Year’s netherspace where there’s nothing to do but eat stale cookies, put on my best fluffy socks and debate if I’m accomplished anything with my year and/or existence.
I’ve just survived finals, the flu and Seasonal Affective Disorder Madness Night, aka the shortest day of the year. I needed a break. I needed some movies.
But I was at my parents’ house for the holidays, so it was the Mr. Bean Christmas special and figure skating highlights from 2002, because that’s all that you can get for free these days from Comcast.
My sister asked me if I was interested in watching that new Netflix documentary about the Russian doping scandal, and I was up for it, but she backtracked once it started: “I don’t like seeing people who are cold and getting injected with stuff.”
But fortunately, before the full stir-craziness could totally set in, my mom grudgingly checked out the good On Demand menu, you know, the one that costs money. My mom is from a time and a place where paying more than a nickel for a movie is highway robbery, so this was a big deal.
When we were little, my mom rented IMAX movies at the library. The librarian would try to dissuade her, explaining that IMAX films are designed to be watched on a screen the size of a skyscraper, but my mom would insist that our little ’90s TV would be more than sufficient. Then we would sit down to watch a movie that was filmed at the top of Mount Everest and say, “Mom! This is crap! We’re supposed to feel like we’re there!” My mom would reply, “Why do you need to see snow on a gigantic screen? Just go outside!”
Anyway, my mom broke her solid rule for one reason and one reason only: Psycho.
Psycho is my mom’s favorite movie, and a new documentary just came out called 78/52 which is a 90 minute examination of the shower scene from Psycho. Its audience is basically three kinds of people—Hitchcock nerds, horror movie nerds, and my mom.
She insisted on waiting until the last possible second to rent the movie because she didn’t want to waste any of the 48 hours that the documentary would be hers. She waited until we all sat down, everyone had their snacks and put their phones down, and then she took a deep breath and said, “Okay, this is it. $7.99. Here we go.”
My dad snuck a look at his phone while it was starting and my mom yelled, “Are you watching? This movie cost eight dollars!”
“I guess between the three of us—plus the dog, that’s four—that’s only two dollars a person.”
The dog fell asleep but fortunately she let him snooze.
To get across just what a shock it was for audiences back in the day to see a huge star like Janet Leigh get murdered a third of the way through a movie, one of the interviewees suggested that the modern equivalent of the Psycho shower scene is the death of Ned Stark in Game of Thrones.
My mom, who has absolutely zero interest in Game of Thrones and makes fun of us for being obsessed with it, screamed “SPOILER!”
My mom is such a Psycho fanatic that even a movie which was 90 solid minutes of directors, film critics, professors, and assorted nerds discussing a 3 minute scene left her wanting more.
“They never mentioned that Janet Leigh’s eyes aren’t dilated after she’s dead!” she said. “That’s medically wrong! That’s a great piece of trivia!”
But no, not even the film composer with a soundprint of the Psycho shower strings tattooed on his forearm brought that up. Oh well. Maybe they’ll make a sequel.
Later, A and I watched the episode of The Crown where the Queen gives birth to Prince Andrew via forceps delivery, because the 1950s were some kind of cosmic punishment to women since we apparently hadn’t suffered enough.
At least they knocked you out beforehand. Like completely, so you were dead asleep while another person was dragged screaming out of your body. Because if there’s one thing doctors in the ’50s knew how to do, it was sedate ladies.
I recently watched The Man Who Knew Too Much, which came out in 1956, and there’s a scene where Jimmy Stewart, not wanting to admit to his wife Doris Day that their son has been kidnapped, berates her into taking sedatives so she’ll be unconscious while he tries to find their kid. She protests, claiming “Six months ago you told me I take too many pills!” (welcome to the ’50s!) so Jimmy Stewart, who was 6 foot 3, forces her down onto a bed and physically strong-arms her into taking pills that he just conveniently had in his briefcase in case any women asked too many questions. Then Doris Day passes out and he doesn’t even try to find the kid, all he does is pack their stuff and book a plane ticket to London. He could only accomplish that while his wife was passed out?
Anyway, The Crown featured several ominous close-ups of the forceps that would be shoved up the royal chasm of mystery and A said, “Oh, are those the stirrups for her feet?”
I said, “No, those are forceps. That’s what they use to yank the baby out.”
“Because it was the ’50s.”
My dad said, “You know, I was a breach baby and I had to be turned around with forceps—fortunately no head damage. I think!”