Friday, November 13, 2009

Psycho II, by Robert Bloch

(pb; 1982: second book in the Psycho trilogy)

From the back cover:

"You remember Norman Bates -- the shy motel manager with the fatal mother fixation. Now, years after his bout of butchery that horrified the world, Norman is at large again, breaking free from the psycho ward, cutting a shocking swath of blood all the way to Hollywood -- where, it so happens, they are making a movie about Norman's life and crimes.

"A movie that suddenly and terrifyingly becomes a lot like real life."


The first portion of the book, viewed from Norman's point of view (POV) -- he knows who he is, and he's pissed at his dead Mother -- is exhilarating, delightfully bloody and shocking, and deeply disturbing: it seems Norman has picked up a few sexual kinks in the years since he was institutionalized. This is Bloch at the height of his powers, writing a worthy sequel to Psycho.

When the POV switches to that of other characters, notably Dr. Claiborne, the plot and writing becomes less potent, removed from the intimate, almost-unbearable intensity that is Norman's psychosis.

Seen through the other characters' eyes, Norman is an active bogeyman -- a cautionary tale to scare people, nothing more.

That's not to say that there aren't plenty of pulpish thrills in this. Bloch's macabre wit punctuates the prose, and his jabs at Hollywood and its denizens are dead-on.

As a murder mystery Psycho II works. It has lots of twists (some of them forced; pulp-writing relies heavily on constant shocks), dark humor and alarming content.

As a Psycho sequel, this failed, though the first section -- seen through Norman's eyes -- is great.

In short: good novel from a spectacular writer.

Followed by Psycho House.

A film, sharing the same title and main character, but otherwise unrelated to Bloch's second Psycho novel, lit up stateside silver screens on June 3, 1983.

Richard Franklin directed the film, in which Anthony Perkins reprised his role of Norman Bates. Vera Miles reprised her role of Lila Loomis (previously named Lila Craine). Meg Tilly played Mary Loomis. Robert Loggia played Dr. Bill Raymond. Dennis Franz played Warren Toomey. Tom Holland, who scripted the film, played Deputy Norris. Oz Perkins (son of Anthony Perkins and Berry Berenson, and elder brother of musician Elvis Perkins) played "Young Norman" (he was billed as "Osgood Perkins").

An uncredited Virginia Gregg reprised her voice-role of Norma Bates, Norman's mother.

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