Hitchcock proves the past master as 'Psycho' tops poll for film terror

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The Independent Culture

Even in an era of big-budget pyrotechnics and stunning special effects, present-day Hollywood cannot apparently match the adrenaline rush of a madman and a shower curtain.

Psycho, the work of Hitchcock genius that changed the bathing habits of a generation of cinemagoers, has earned the plaudits of the great and good of the American cinema industry more than 40 years after its release.

Norman Bates and his flashing blade propelled the 1960 film to the front of the American Film Institute's 100 most thrilling movies, ahead of Jaws and The Exorcist in second and third places.

Even 21 years after Hitchcock's death, the Master's work is still held in high regard: he had nine films in the list including North by Northwest at number four and The Birds at number seven.

Of the newer breed of directors, Steven Spielberg came closest with six top-ranking films including Jaws and, at 10, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Psycho's success was no surprise to the film's leading lady, Janet Leigh, who was so affected by her death scene in the shower at the Bates Motel that she now only has baths.

"Psycho scared the hell out of me when I saw it finished. Making it and seeing it are two different things," she said. "That staccato music and the knife flashing. I still don't take showers, and that's the truth." While tales of horror were in abundance, the list also featured The Godfather at 11, The Great Escape at number 19 and Casablanca at 37. Even The Wizard of Oz managed to feature at 43.

The list was chosen by about 1,800 directors, actors, studio executives, critics and others in Hollywood, who voted from a field of 400 nominated films, including 16 by Hitchcock.

Jean Picker Firstenburg, the institute's director, said the list "cuts across drama and disaster and epic and horror and music and noir and sci-fi and sports and Westerns.Each of these genres can affect you with the same emotional response, which is that your heart races."

The newest films listed were from 1999. The Sixth Sense was at number 60 and The Matrix at 66. There was no place for Pearl Harbor.