Dr. Philip Skerry Publishes "The Shower Scene in Hitchcocks Psycho: Creating Cinematic Suspense & Terror" (Studies in the History & Criticism of Film)
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Contact: Dr. Philip Skerry

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Date Posted: Thursday, October 20, 2005
Topic: Dr. Philip Skerry Publishes "The Shower Scene in Hitchcocks Psycho: Creating Cinematic Suspense & Terror" (Studies in the History & Criticism of Film)
Dr. Philip Skerry, professor of English at Lakeland Community College, has published the authoritative book on the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, called "The Shower Scene in Hitchcock''s Psycho: Creating Cinematic Suspense And Terror" (Studies in the History and Criticism of Film). The book examines the importance of Psycho’s shower scene as a defining moment in the cinematic horror genre.

“This is a unique text book,” says Dr. Skerry who teaches cinema at Lakeland Community College. “It’s the only book ever written on a single scene in a movie. But this scene is legendary. Nearly everyone who has seen Psycho can tell you where they were the first time they saw the movie and how it scared them and how it changed their lives.”

Skerry says he saw Psycho for the first time when he was 16. “I was so moved be the memory of this first viewing, that I’ve devoted an entire chapter on people who remember seeing Psycho for the first time. I’ve interviewed film makers, movie critics and people on the street. Everyone had a visceral reaction to this scene.”

Skerry was inspired to write this book after conducting six interviews with Janet Leigh, the young actress who is attacked in the shower, and Joseph Stefano, who wrote the screenplay. “I realized I was examining social history,” says Skerry. “Cinematic history is social history.”

“All the great horror directors since 1960 have been influenced by Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. That’s what makes the scene in the shower the most important scene in film history. It all began here.”

Skerry says the shower scene changed the way films were made after 1960. “The film linked sexuality and violence – explicitly,” says Skerry. “It broke the hold of the Production Code and ushered in a new era of sex and violence.” He says the scene set the tone of the 1960’s, ushering in Ozzie Osbourne, Manson and even the protests of the era.

Skerry’s 400 page book focuses on a 34-second scene that seems long but is actually brief. “That’s what makes it the most potent film segment in film history,” says Skerry.

Steven Jay Schneider of New York University agrees, writing in the Commendatory Preface,”After reading Professor Skerry''s book, I now want to add one other opinion: the shower scene is the most significant scene in film history.”

Skerry conducted the last significant interview with Janet Leigh before she died. That interview, too, is included. David Freeman’s reminiscences are also in the book. “He told me of his work with Hitchcock and, indeed, he wrote The Last Days of Hitchcock. He was a graduate of Willoughby Eastlake's North High School,” said Skerry.

Printed on acid-free paper with a cloth binding, the book is available at the Lakeland Bookstore and online at mellenpress.com. Mellen Press the publisher of the book, writes:

This study places the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock''s Psycho (1960) within its cinematic, sociological and critical contexts. It also locates the film within the personal and professional experiences of the author. The methodology depends upon a melding of first person narration with a close analysis of the film''s mise en scene and montage, as these techniques evolve in Hitchcock''s oeuvre and culminate in the seminal shower scene. The study also incorporates lengthy interviews with the star of the film, Janet Leigh; with the scriptwriter, Joseph Stefano; with the assistant director, Hilton Green; with the sound designer, Danny Greene; with the assistant editor, Terry Williams; and with the editor of the Gus Van Sant remake of Psycho, Amy Duddleston. The book culminates with first person accounts of the initial viewing of Psycho''s shower scene from filmmakers and from Hitchcock scholars and fans.

Dr.Philip Skerry teaches English and film courses at Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, Ohio. He holds a Ph.D. in English from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, an M.A. in English from Case Western Reserve University and a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts. Dr. Skerry has written numerous articles on film for scholarly journals and for anthologies.