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October 1999, Week 5


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Ken Mogg <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 1 Nov 1999 10:08:03 +1100
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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Erin White asks about the NFB numberplate in PSYCHO.

Donald Spoto was the first to speculate in print that the initials stood
for 'Norman Bates', adding wildly (adducing no hard evidence) that the
middle initial stood for 'Francis' because Norman in the film stuffs
birds and that St Francis is the patron saint of birds (and animals).

Leland Poague, not to be outdone, later speculated that the 'F' stood
for 'Ford' because Hitchcock at the time was doing TV work sponsored by
the Ford company, and was using Ford cars in his films wherever possible
(which much, one gathers from reading Stephen Rebello's book on the
making of PSYCHO, is certainly true).

I think that David Sterritt in his book on Hitchcock may have another
explanation again for the F-letter ...

Meanwhile, director Richard Franklin (PSYCHO II) and his producer Hilton
Green attended a lecture given by Spoto on PSYCHO, in which Spoto made
his claim described above.  Whereupon, I am told by Richard, Hilton
turned to him with a bemused expression and whispered something in his
ear.  Hilton had been assistant director on PSYCHO.  And the numberplate
in question had been his, used for convenience when shooting the scenes
with Marion's car.

I think the reason that the camera holds on the numberplate has most to
do with Hitchcock's adage that the more you go into detail the more an
audience is drawn into the scene; and with how the camera has a
holding-power of its own provided that such power isn't vitiated by
pointless cutaways, etc.

Isn't the TV movie THE BATES MOTEL available for hire on video?

- Ken Mogg (author, 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story').

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