June 16th is the 60th anniversary of the release date of the film Psycho.
Alfred Hitchcock’s film is based on a novel by Robert Bloch. It is the story of Norman Bates, a lonely motel caretaker who is seething with psychotic rage due to his mother’s domination.
Robert Bloch was an author of pulp science fiction and crime stories. A protégé of H.P. Lovecraft, he grew up reading Weird Tales magazine and after high school began writing science fiction stories for the magazine himself.
Bloch moved away from science fiction and into horror themes like black magic, voodoo and demon possession. He began writing crime stories and in 1959 wrote Psycho which would be adapted into the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock film.
Psycho is strikingly similar to the story of infamous murderer Ed Gein. However, Bloch wrote most of the book before Gein was caught. Strangely, while writing Psycho, Bloch lived only 35 miles away from Gein in Wisconsin.
The film’s screenplay is relatively faithful to the novel, although there were some significant changes to the character of Norman Bates. In the novel, Bates is a middle-aged alcoholic who is overweight and blatantly unstable. Screenwriter Joseph Stefano sought a more sympathetic character. In the film, Anthony Perkins portrays Bates as an awkward, shy, semi-adolescent.
Although Bloch wrote sequels to Psycho, the sequels to the movie are completely different stories. Bloch wrote a speculative screenplay for his own sequel, but it was never made.
Robert Bloch’s papers are available at the UW American Heritage Center. The collection consists of materials related to Bloch’s personal life and professional career, as well as the development of the horror and science fiction genres. Contents of the collection include extensive personal and professional correspondence, a large selection of science fiction and horror books and periodicals, convention announcements and programs, and annotated screenplays, scripts, and manuscripts produced by Bloch and his contemporaries, among other materials.