30 August 2006

RIP Joseph Stefano

Sad news that one of the genre's greats has passed away: screenwriter (and songwriter!) Joseph Stefano died last Friday at the age of 84. Now considering that this is the man who brilliantly adapted a nasty little paperback novel into a certain chiller called "Psycho" and who also produced the innovative anthology series "The Outer Limits", I would've expected at least a mention in the major news outlets (as of today, the IMDB still lists him as living). I'm certainly not going to underplay Hitchcock's involvement in the conception of his esteemed (and once loathed) 1960 horror classic, but it was writer Stefano who altered Robert Bloch's structure to focus the first act on Marion ("Mary" in the novel) Crane, extend her shower murder into an excruciatingly brutal slashing (a swift decapitation in Bloch's book), refashion Norman Bates as an amiable nerd (he's an overweight, sweaty creep as created by Bloch), and bravely stage the denouement in the form of Simon Oakland's lengthy academic treatise on sexual schizophrenia.

Stefano revisited the Bates character in writing Mick Garris' underrated TV movie "Psycho IV: The Beginning", which featured Henry Thomas a young Norman and Olivia Hussey as "Mother" in a flashback drama that is surprisingly moving and far less cheesy than you'd expect (certainly, it was an improvement over Anthony Perkins' dismal "Psycho 3", but then what wouldn't be?). In honour of Stefano's legacy, you might want to track this one down. He shares his thoughts on "Psycho" in a 1990 interview here.