Psycho is probably my favorite Hitchcock. I've read that he directed it in the aftermath of North by Northwest (not my favorite Hitchcock) and wanted to do something cheap and fun. He secured an itty bitty budget, borrowed a production crew from his TV show, and headed out to Arizona (maybe it was California). Next thing you know, we have one of the best horror films ever made.
1. Starting small, there's a great scene with Arbogast that is full of Hitchcock's dry wit. Arbogast is visiting the Bates Hotel for the second time. You'll remember that, during the first visit, Arbogast had really pushed Norman's buttons. This time, he bypasses Norman and goes straight for the house. He opens the door without knocking, but takes his hat off before entering. Yes: Arbogast has enough manners to take his hat off inside, not enough to knock.
2. Another piece of dry humor: The movie starts off with Marion stealing $40,000. She can't make it all the way to Fairvale, so she takes a nap on the road side. She sleeps all night and gets awakened by a cop. He is pretty clearly (to us) trying to make sure she's OK, but she obviously thinks he knows about the money. Later, after Norman kills her and Arbogast comes by, Norman thinks that Arbogast knows about the murder when Arbogast is really only investigating the missing money. A little comment about how we're always a step behind real life, perhaps?
3. I've always wondered how Psycho survives so well without any real protaganist. First, we have Marion Crane, but she dies only halfway through. Then, we sorta have Norman, but his major screen time doesn't last long. Then, we get Arbogast, but he gets killed. Next, we switch to Sam and Lila hunting down Arbogast, but in the last scene, they give way to the psychiatrist explaining Norman's condition. And in the final scene, Mrs. Bates takes the stage and chills us to the bone with that look of hers. This parade of 6 characters--or, shall we say, "personalities"--shuffle onto the stage and fight for control of the movie. Sorta like how Norman and Mrs. Bates fought for control of his psyche, eh?
I don't have three down. That's how much I like this movie. They say it's not his best, but I'm really having trouble finding something I don't like about it.