Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery...
“We all go a little mad sometimes…”
I know my horror genre lovers know this line. Yes, it was lovingly placed in Wes Craven’s movie “Scream”. Actor Skeet Ulrich, portraying Billy Loomis in the movie (a movie nerd, cool guy, psycho with mommy issues), quotes that exact line right before shooting another SUPER movie nerd in the shoulder.
If you already saw the movie, or watched the spiffy you tube video above , you might recognize that Billy’s quote was borrowed from another movie, Alfred Hitchcock‘s “Psycho”. The famous line was spouted from the famous lips of actor Anthony Perkins, who portrayed Norman Bates (a super weird motel owner with mommy issues), during a dinner scene with actor Janet Leigh as Marion Crane.
As writer Charles Caleb Colton noted, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. So Robert Albert Bloch would’ve been very pleased to see his work become pop culture legend through more than one piece of work throughout different decades.
There might be a few people that don’t know who Robert Bloch was. He was the creator of the novel “Psycho” and that famous line I placed above originated from that very book. You have to be a pretty talented person to get the attention of Alfred Hitchcock!
However, that alone isn’t overwhelmingly shocking. There are a lot of movies that originated in novel form first, right? What’s a novel but a screenplay waiting to happen? Sometimes the most interesting and unfortunately macabre tidbits are usually in the raw footage, planning and research.
It’s no secret where the chain of inspiration started for Mr. Bloch’s novel. Most people know he studied and based his character Norman Bates off of the infamous serial killer, Edward Theodore Gein.
Ed Gein wasn’t a wayward motel owner like Bates, but he did stay on a farm in the middle of nowhere. And in November 1957, police found the headless, gutted body of a missing store clerk, Bernice Worden, at Gein’s farmhouse. That of course led to the police investigating further.
By the end of their search, the authorities had exposed furniture and clothing, including a suit, made from human body parts and skin. He also had a collection of human skulls. They found the remains equaling up to 10 women in his home. However, he was only linked to killing two of them. The other eight were dead and buried before Gein had gotten to them, desecrating their graves. He told police that he specifically dug up the graves of recently buried women who reminded him of his mother.
“Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Silence of the Lambs”, both classics in horror circles, were also said to be loosely based on Gein’s crimes. Ed Gein’s life was described as a very unhealthy existence even before he committed any crimes at all (tragic nature + horrible nurture= very scary things). His mere existence in the world was a reminder that there are blood-curdling things to find in it. However, his story also serves as a reminder of how we as humans overcome the way we feel about the things that go bump in the night. Through artistic expression we continue to face our fears head on. Writers write about them, directors make films about them, readers and moviegoers consume the fictional (yet sometimes all too real) perils in reality that we all are in danger of encountering. We don’t allow the monsters to keep us locked away and terrified in our homes. Instead, most of us opt to be safely frightened while immersed in a good horror book and/or film, and on some level, educated of the ways we are truly vulnerable to those monsters. That makes it possible for creators like Bloch, Hitchcock and Craven able to eventually morph the horrible deeds of the few into artistry to be enjoyed by the masses.
*Just for fun*
Here’s some major difference to be found from the novel version and film version of “Psycho”.
Thanks to this link I was able to share this very cool list: http://thatwasnotinthebook.com/diff/psycho