I need to once more register outrage at the rape of Alfred Hitchcock‘s Psycho on the just-out British Bluray (and the forthcoming U.S. version). Because no one, it seems, is mentioning or agreeing with what I said two months ago, which was that two aspect-ratio versions should have been included in the Bluray package.
It should offer the top-and-bottom-cropped 1.78:1 version and the 1.37:1 version that everyone, his sister and his brother-in-law saw in many theatres in 1960, and then on broadcast TV, VHS and laser disc for decades hence. Because the latter is the true-blue version that everyone should see. I feel like I’m going nuts as the only one on the planet taking pains to point this out.
No one is faulting the Universal Home Video guys for cropping the original version to conform to the 1.78:1 aspect ratio of plasma/LCD screens, but their failure to offer a concurrent 1.37:1 version is a case of visual vandalism, pure and simple. Alfred Hitchcock protected his 1960 classic so it could be shown in theatres and on TV with a 1.37 to 1 aspect ratio. Some theatres back then were using 1.37:1 or 1.66:1 aperture plates, but the Psycho norm was never intended to be 1.78 to 1. It was screened at this aspect ratio here and there and, okay, yes, it’s a tolerable a.r. if you want to watch Psycho this way, but it’s not the desired one. Anyone who claims otherwise either can’t “see” this or refuses to.
I recognize that 1.85 aperture plates had begun to be used by projectionists in the mid to late ’50s, but for the most part Hitchcock expected his film to be shown within ratios of 1.37:1 (next door to a perfect box) or 1.66 to 1 (moderate rectangle) because he knew that (a) 1.37 or 1.66:1 aperture plates were also in use and (b) he knew or certainly suspected that down the road most people would see Psycho on TV.
It is a stone fact that Psycho was shot to look best with a 1.37:1 aspect ratio — it’s obvious when you compare the versions.
And people who claim otherwise are either delusional or dishonest. They know the truth of it (and can see the obvious proofs in the 1.37 vs. 1.78 aspect ratio comparisons I posted on 6.11) but will nonetheless take a sip of coffee, put on their best earnest expression and say, “No, that’s not the case — Psycho was meant to be seen in a 1.78 aspect ratio.”
If I was U.S. emperor these people would be hunted down and prosecuted. I’m serious — I would literally press charges and seek fines and jail terms. What they’ve done — I’m not exaggerating — is precisely the same thing as taking a razor blade and slicing off the tops and bottoms of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” in the Louvre.
Think of it! Future generations may never see Psycho in the aspect ratio that it was shot in and meant to be seen in and clearly looks best in (1.37 to 1 framing offers breathing-space grace notes throughout the film). History is being made as well as censored, and all because of the high-def aspect ratio mandate of the times and the laissez-faire greed of Universal Home Video executives. (And I don’t mean Universal archivist/preservationist Bob O’Neil — he just handles the elements, doesn’t oversee home video.) Shame on these scoundrels.