DirectorAlexandre O. Phillipe
Release Date(s)2017 (February 27, 2018)
Studio(s)IFC Midnight (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B+
The importance of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Psycho can hardly be measured. It has the kind of influence that has informed generations of filmmakers and pop culture consumers the way very few films have managed to do. 78/52 (later retitled as 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene) gets into every possible nook and cranny of the film’s infamous shower scene, delving into the decisions behind those 78 camera set-ups and 52 edits, exploring the cultural impact of the film, and analyzing the mechanics of how it does what it does in an interesting and well-constructed way.
When I first heard about 78/52, it seemed like a ridiculous idea to me. An entire documentary devoted to one scene in a film? That really seemed to be pushing the limits. However, my fears were eventually grounded once I actually saw it. The film speaks to a number of folks within the industry, including Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo Del Toro, Mick Garris, Eli Roth, Walter Murch, Danny Elfman, Richard Stanley, Illeana Douglas, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Bob Murawski, Scott Spiegel, and Jamie Lee Curtis, among many others. The information itself is available on the internet ad infinitum, but the film manages to make it compelling. It even takes the time to discuss which types of sound effects were used for the stabbing, lining up rows of melons and chopping into them one at a time. A totally obsessive work, 78/52 is, ostensibly, film school.
Scream Factory presents the film with an excellent Blu-ray presentation. The video quality is superb within its own limits, meaning that it features a mix of high definition footage and lower resolution archival footage and stills. Everything is presented well with excellent detail and lovely black and white cinematography. The recreation segments, in particular, have very potent black levels. Depth wavers slightly, depending on the footage shown, but brightness and contrast is always excellent. The audio selection features tracks in English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH and Spanish. Although primarily a talking piece, the style of the documentary warrants the extra speaker space, which is devoted to score and sound effects. It’s not an overly enveloping experience, but some nice ambience is present while the interviewees’ words are never lost in the mix. It’s a fine presentation overall.
As for the extras selection, the disc opens with trailers for the IFC Midnight titles I Remember You, Walking Out, A Dark Song, and Killing Ground, all of which can be skipped at any time. The real cream of the crop are two bonus interviews, one an extended 56-minute interview with Walter Murch, and the other an extended 22-minute interview with Guillermo Del Toro. Both offer plenty of valuable information, particularly the Walter Murch interview. Anybody that’s ever read “In the Blink of an Eye” knows that this man has plenty of interesting things to say. Also included is the Stabbing Melons segment, which features a behind-the-scenes look at the director and his crew shooting the melon chopping sequences. In addition, there’s a theatrical trailer for the film, as well as a DVD copy.
Although Alexander O. Phillipe’s previous documentaries The People vs. George Lucas and Doc of the Dead have their merits, but 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene feels like a more mature and firm-handed work by comparison. Janet Leigh’s water-soaked cultural zeitgeist is explored from every possible angle, and comes out of it with a newfound appreciation for its subject. One could almost say that it’s required viewing, particularly for film schools as a reminder of how powerful a well-edited film can be. And Scream Factory’s presentation of it is a welcome addition to their catalogue.
- Tim Salmons