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Psycho on Audiocassette

Mark Russell

Psycho has been released on audiocassette three times in the UK. All three versions are abridged. The first was released in 1988 (Listen for Pleasure EMI) with an approximate running time of 3 hours and was read by Kevin McCarthy. The second was released in 1997 (Magmasters Spoken Entertainment), again with a running time of 3 hours and was read by William Hootkins. The third adaptation was originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4 for their series 'The Late Book' which ran for 8 fifteen-minute episodes from 8-17 June 1998. The audiocassettes were released in 2000 and came to a running time of 1 hour 50 minutes. The reading was by William Hope.

All three versions vary to some degree. The first is introduced by McCarthy himself, giving the title and the author. The second opens with a cacophony of discordant strings with Hootkins also giving the title/author and 'read by...' The third version begins with a voiceover (not Hope): 'Psycho - by Robert Bloch. Read by William Hope.' We then hear the gradual sound of rain, which sets the mood nicely. We hear rain again at the end of chapter 1 into chapter 2, and beginning of chapter 4. Both McCarthy and Hootkins versions begin with the opening line but the Hope version begins with; 'Norman Bates looked up hastily…' The Hootkins version covers more text of chapters 1-3; more of Norman's dialogue with his mother (ch.1), Sam's conversation with Mary (ch.2); Mary's visit the previous summer to see the town and store (ch.2) and Norman's dialogue with Mary (ch.3).

The McCarthy edition includes Norman's dream of Mother (and himself) in the swamp (ch.5) and the text with the elderly couple (ch.10).

The Hope version doesn't include Norman's reading of The Realm of the Incas or Mother going out after Mary's murder (ch.5), and despite being heavily edited and substantially shorter than the other two, it does include text that isn't in the other two editions: The ornate table lamp with the glass shade and the crystal fringe and Norman thinking to himself about Mother refusing to get rid of it and having lived in the house for forty years of his life (ch.1); Cassidy's advances at Mary (ch.2), Mary sitting in the car contemplating her actions (end ch.2); her preferring a bathtub to a shower, and the décor in the parlour of the Bates' house (both ch.3); Arbogast asking Norman whether he and the girl had had a party (ch.9); Norman stating that the motel used to have a cigarette machine and his description of life being like electricity - a force you can turn off and on (both ch.14); and the description of the bathroom and kitschy décor of Mrs. Bates's bedroom (ch.15).

The Hope version also jumps back and forth - when the text reaches the point where the Lowery Agency didn't even know of Sam's existence, it goes back to the point when Mary first met Sam, the cruise and up to Mary ruing the fact that she would be 29 by the time Sam had paid off his father's debts. Here the text goes back to later in the chapter where 800 miles on the scale map is a mere four inches. Once again, we hear rain as Norman appears out of the gloom (end of ch.2 into ch.3).

Chapter 6 begins with Respighi's music in both McCarthy and Hootkins versions, but with Sam hearing Lila rattling at the front door in the Hope version.

The Hootkins edition includes Norman's interest in occultism, metaphysics, psychology, parapsychology and Ouspensky etc, and also mentions Norman's self-diagnosis of probably having a mild form of schizophrenia/ borderline neurosis.

The Hope version is heavily edited (as stated earlier). Chapter 7 ends with Arbogast telling Sam and Lila he'll be willing to call it quits - do the whole missing persons routine - the text here goes to chapter 8 where the phone rings in Sam's store. Chapter 10 also jumps back and forth (as in ch.2) - the chapter begins with Norman asking his Mother to give up her room for a week or so - here the text returns to earlier in the chapter where it 'took a grown man to get rid of Arbogast's back to Norman telling Mother that someone would come enquiring about the detective. The Hope version also omits the Sheriff's search, his relaying of the search to Sam and Lila (ch.12) and his awaking Sam (ch.14).

Both the McCarthy and Hope editions mention the towel service truck (ch.9) and the Hootkins and Hope versions mention the State Highway Trooper stopping by (ch.9).

All three editions include Norman's relocating of his Mother to the fruit cellar (ch.10) but unfortunately none include the final sentence ending the chapter - one of my favourite pieces of the text.

The murder in the shower is made to good effect in all three with Hootkins probably the best - the string accompaniment during the scene reaching a crescendo at the end of the chapter, adding suspense. Hope's reading describes Norman having to touch Mary's belongings and the disposal of Mary's body with intensity. Music also appears in the Hootkins version at the end of chapter 8; at the end of Arbogast's murder (ch.9); the Sheriff stating he was one of the pallbearers (ch.11); the bayonet of the Civil War statue looking like cutting off Lila's head (ch.12); Norman hitting Sam over the head with the bottle (ch.14) and the finale in the fruit cellar (ch.15).

Chapter 13 in the Hope version begins with a rumble of thunder. The thunder can be heard through the scene where Norman hits Sam with the bottle.

The Hope version has Norman contemplating where the girl kept the $40,000, and if he had known, he probably would have given himself away to the detective. Hope also mentions the Sheriff stating that maybe Mrs. Bates was pregnant, or that Considine was already married (ch.11), and the money being found in the glove compartment without even a speck of mud on it (ch.16).

Hootkins version has more text of Lila in the basement (ch.15) and more of Sam's reporting of Norman's story to Lila (ch.16).

Nearly the entire last chapter is covered in both McCarthy and Hootkins versions with the Hope version edited slightly.

All three actors do a good job with the story and characterizations but Hootkins stands out most - his interpretations are excellent, especially Mother, the Sheriff and old man Peterson.


This essay is © 2004 by Mark Russell and appears here with his permission.