Apr 20, 2017

Podcast Portal Review: Inside Psycho

If you released a film in the 1960's, it seems like a great time to get some fan appreciation. Not too long after FX released the show Feud detailing the making of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, the new podcast network Wondery set out on an audio tour of the making of Psycho. It's a story that most people know very well. The twists are ingrained so much into pop culture that even the music will send glimpses into the audience's mind. So, what exactly does host Mark Ramsey have to add to the Psycho mythology? Well, not much that isn't already known publicly. However, what he does add is a new life to the story by creating an audio drama that mixes fact with reenactments of board meetings and calls that lead to the making of the film. It may seem familiar, but the production alone makes Inside Psycho one of the more compelling podcast debuts of 2017 so far.
The story begins the way that any proper telling of slasher films go: with the story of the man who inspired it. In most cases, that man is Ed Gein. Inside Psycho spends the first episode not with Hitchcock or any cast and crew. It instead tells the true crime side of the story, providing a nauseating journey through Gein's twisted soul. It's a bit misleading as a first episode, as nothing that follows is quite as graphic or dark. Still, Ramsey does his best to get the points across in a half hour episode while bringing to life a tour of Gein's house. There becomes an immersive element to the podcast that allows the listener to feel like they are living in the moment, seeing the sick world that Gein created. It's also the genius behind what makes the show tick.
Subsequent chapters detail how Robert Bloch came to write "Psycho" and sell it to Hitchcock. Soon it begins to explore their psyches by detailing their personal lives alongside the desperate phone calls that it took to make Psycho a reality. For a director of Hitchcock's stature, Psycho seemed like a retread, or a step backwards from the hits that he had been making. There were deals that had to be made to even get financing. It is all laid out through wonderful detail. Even the introduction of actor Anthony Perkins is memorable in Ramsey's construction. In fact, it helps to add justifiable context as to why Perkins would play Norman Bates in the first place.
Despite being only six episodes, Inside Psycho covers a lot of ground in a rather short period. No episode was over an hour and the film's release wasn't even the last chapter. What was present was the passion in making the film with the disappointment that came when Hitchcock failed to get an Oscar for his performance. Ramsey even suggests that the Honorary Oscar that followed was "a little too late." There's a lot that helps to understand not only the psychology of the famous character, but of the people who created the film. By the end, it is an engaging experience through the audio landscape that will inform those unclear of Psycho's rich history. Most of all, it will do it very well.
It is unclear as to how many more podcasts will be made like Inside Psycho. Not all of film history is gifted with memorable back stories. Still, it is a fascinating new ground for audio dramas. The show manages to expand on the informational intent of You Must Remember This and creates a sense of life through sound effects and performances. Even if you're familiar with Psycho, there are odds that you haven't heard told quite this way. This is an example of history being literally brought to life. It's part of the future of the medium, and hopefully one that will continue to warrant fascinating results later on.

OVERALL RATING: 4 out of 5

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