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Today in Movie History: September 8

There’s only one movie today, but we’re guessing you’ve heard of it. Following the success of North by Northwest, Alfred Hitchcock acquired the rights to a Robert Bloch potboiler loosely based on the Ed Gein serial murder case. Paramount — who found the book morally repulsive — refused to give him the budget he wanted, so he shot it in black and white on the Universal lot using the crew of his Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV show. He gave up his fee in exchange for owning a piece of the print, and — freed from normal studio constraints — he was able to push the boundaries of the crumbing Hays censorship code in ways none of his previous films did.

The film was Psycho, and today it sits on the short list of the greatest movies of all time. Above and beyond the copious sex and violence (scandalous for the time), it shattered narrative conventions (killing off the protagonist 30 minutes into the picture), explored deep currents of Freudian psychology, and more or less invented the slasher genre out of whole cloth, all while ensuring that none of us ever took a shower again without just a little hesitation. It opened today in 1960. The horror genre is still trying to catch up.

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