Sign in to follow this  
TopBilled

Norman Bates' subtext

62 posts in this topic

I wish our laws could reflect that sentiment about men and women are equal. Right now, it is hard to tell. Also, I am going to agree to disagree with you regarding the transgender movement. They are people too, and their lives matter regardless of how freaky it looks to those who don't understand and don't want to. 

 

Of course everyone's live matters and everyone should be treated with respect and dignity.   Implying I might feel otherwise is just a smoke screen to avoid addressing the issue of whether their desires are innate or driven by psychological pressures. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Of course everyone's live matters and everyone should be treated with respect and dignity.   Implying I might feel otherwise is just a smoke screen to avoid addressing the issue of whether their desires are innate or driven by psychological pressures. 

I am not implying anything. Sentiment is sentiment. The reality of our laws do not reflect the sentiments we feel. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I thought about this thread recently, because I had found a washed-out print of Curtis Harrington's THE KILLING KIND on Amazon Prime. I believe it's been restored and issued on DVD, and I may look for a copy of it in that format later on. 

 

***Spoilers ahead***

 

John Savage (an appropriate name for an actor playing a Norman Bates type character in a horror film) costars as Ann Sothern's son, and he's just come home from a two-year stint in prison. He had been caught up in a gang rape, depicted in the opening moments of the film, but was innocent at the time. Now that he's out and living with mama again, he wants revenge on the people who put him behind bars. He becomes a serial killer, and as the film progresses, we watch him deal with his homicidal rages. 

 

In an interview years later, director Curtis Harrington said that people praised the film for accurately showing what motivates a young man to be a compulsive murderer. I am not sure if a guy being kissed by his mother would exactly prompt him to go off on a bunch of killing sprees. Also, there are some scenes where he flirts with the idea of killing someone-- specifically, an incident in a swimming pool where he violently dunks Cindy Williams but does not drown her. If he had such impulses to kill, what would have stopped him? Why is he toying around with the idea of killing an innocent girl staying at his mother's place. If he was full of rage, wouldn't he just take care of business and get it over with the first time (he ends up killing her later in the movie). 

 

While I think the film definitely has some weak spots, the similarities between THE KILLING KIND and PSYCHO are obvious. In a way, this 1973 film plays out like a version of Norman being released and coming back to the motel, where his mother is still alive after all. Can a guy like this ever be cured? Curtis Harrington suggests in this story that he cannot be cured, cannot be saved, and that eventually the mother must do away with him, in order to save the rest of society from the monster she's created. 

 

Perhaps we can look at the scene where his mother murders him to be a form of incestuous suicide (my phrase). Seems like heady stuff, doesn't it? 

 

The subtext that Harrington weaves throughout the story is that the young man was innocent of the incident that sent him to prison in the beginning, because he was impotent and couldn't get it on with the victim of the gang rape. So maybe when he's toying with Cindy Williams in the pool, he is toying with his own power over females. But how much of this is meant to be an indictment about his own sexuality, we cannot really tell. Instead, as the murderous impulses flare up, we are shown that he is now increasingly violent-- perhaps because when he was in prison, he learned to start liking things rough. Or is it because he's been smothered with so much mother love, like Norman and Mrs. Bates, that he is lashing out, like any good boy would...?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"The Killng Kind" is very unpleasant film and while watching I thought that Savage's young good looks were really being exploited.  But perhaps this the point Harrington was trying to make.  I agree it's a variation on "Psycho" making Norman's peculiarities more explicit.  But would Mother have killed Norman if she had known what he was up to?

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"The Killng Kind" is very unpleasant film and while watching I thought that Savage's young good looks were really being exploited.  But perhaps this the point Harrington was trying to make.  I agree it's a variation on "Psycho" making Norman's peculiarities more explicit.  But would Mother have killed Norman if she had known what he was up to?

Good question. Do you mean Mother in the physical sense...or Mother in Norman's mind? Lot of ways you can read that.

 

I wondered if Savage was Harrington's boy toy when they made THE KILLING KIND-- where a young guy is relatively new to movies, willing to do things for a director and let himself be exploited, so he can make a name for himself and start building towards stardom. But that's almost besides the point. I think this film works. You said it was unpleasant, and I believe it's supposed to be unpleasant, unsettling-- so we can see what makes a young serial killer tick. 

 

I do feel that if the film were made today, the gang rape during the opening moments would be even more explicit. We'd probably also see him raped in prison. It would be a lot more violent-- the acts perpetrated on him, and the ones he perpetrates on others when he gets out.

 

In some ways, though it was 1973 and the production code had been abolished, THE KILLING KIND is tamer and more restrained than you'd expect a picture about this subject to be. It's definitely unpleasant, but it's not altogether horrifying.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Savage was 24 when he made "The Killing Kind" and the way Harrington photographs him does seem to border on exploitation- but this is the same way that straight director  film young female stars.  "Mother" of course could never kill Norman- after all a boy's best friend is his mother ;)

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Savage was 24 when he made "The Killing Kind" and the way Harrington photographs him does seem to border on exploitation

I re-watched THE KILLING KIND after our last bit of dialogue in this thread. I certain agree with you that Harrington exploits Savage's body in this film. There is a shower scene where the mother (Ann Sothern) grabs a camera and pulls the curtain back and snaps a shot of him naked. Harrington makes a point of letting us see, with his movie camera, what she saw through her Kodak camera-- a shot of his perfectly positioned rear-end. LOL

 

I thought it was ironic-- since we are talking about Norman Bates and PSYCHO (which has a famous shower scene of its own)-- that we have a shower scene of another kind with this film.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you are gay director and cast a good looking actor in the lead you are allow to have some fun

Apparently so. And what about Ann Sothern-- did she have fun filming that particular scene? LOL

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I thought about this thread recently, because the daytime serial Days of Our Lives recently concluded a storyline about a necktie serial killer. That itself borrows from Hitchcock's FRENZY. But when the killer was revealed, he turned out to be a young man with a series of emotional problems (obviously). After a few weeks of terrorising the town, he was finally captured and his final scene took place in a prison holding cell, where he was wrapped in a blanket. Obviously, the writers were going for the Norman Bates effect at the end of PSYCHO.

 

Up until the point of the big revelation, the killer had been presented entirely as a 'normal' heterosexual male. But it is worth noting that one of his victims was the show's openly gay male, Will Horton. All the other necktie victims were female. So perhaps the subtext was that the killer had latent homosexual urges that came to the surface during a moment of violence.

 

Overall, it was not a very original story as far as soaps go, but I did think it was interesting that they made one of the victims a gay male which can be read a variety of ways.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The sexual implications in the scene were obvious.

 

WILL1014.jpg?quality=0.85&format=jpg&wid

 

Will Horton about to be murdered by Ben Rogers.

Thanks for providing the photo and I mostly agree with your assessment of how the scenes played out. I do think the weaker point of the plot was having Ben fly into a rage about what Will saw. That did not seem like enough of a motive to target and kill Will, because I don't think that would have caused enough rage in Ben. Ben's real rage would have been directed at Chad for being with Abby in the first place. And if Ben was setting up Chad for the murders, it doesn't seem like Chad would have killed Will for watching him have sex with his girlfriend. Some guys kind of get off on that. So that part was a little far-fetched in my opinion.

 

But with Ben going after Will, bringing up whatever feelings he might have had repressed about Will and Will's open sexuality, that is definitely an interesting part of the overall story. The writers could have explored that a bit more by having Ben act like sort of a voyeur about Will's own sex life. But I don't think that is what the writers wanted; I read comments that they wished to get rid of all the show's main homosexual storylines so offing Will simply became a part of Will and Chad's conflict. Now that the dust has settled, I don't think it was a popular decision among the show's core fans.

 

And as you and I have been discussing, the writers borrowed quite a bit from those earlier Hitchcock classics. The irony is that most of today's young viewers of Days of Our Lives probably never saw those films and thought this was an original plot. Ben is supposed to be coming back in a few months for several episodes (my guess is that someone, likely Chad, visits him in the psych ward). The actor who portrays Ben comes across in my view as neither gay nor straight, sort of an in-between metrosexual, if that exists. Up until his character strangled Will Horton, there was no inclination that his character was anything but heterosexual, not at all 'abnormal' in a Norman Bates sort of way, at least not on the surface.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for providing the photo and I mostly agree with your assessment of how the scenes played out. I do think the weaker point of the plot was having Ben fly into a rage about what Will saw. That did not seem like enough of a motive to target and kill Will, because I don't think that would have caused enough rage in Ben. Ben's real rage would have been directed at Chad for being with Abby in the first place. And if Ben was setting up Chad for the murders, it doesn't seem like Chad would have killed Will for watching him have sex with his girlfriend. Some guys kind of get off on that. So that part was a little far-fetched in my opinion.

 

But with Ben going after Will, bringing up whatever feelings he might have had repressed about Will and Will's open sexuality, that is definitely an interesting part of the overall story. The writers could have explored that a bit more by having Ben act like sort of a voyeur about Will's own sex life. But I don't think that is what the writers wanted; I read comments that they wished to get rid of all the show's main homosexual storylines so offing Will simply became a part of Will and Chad's conflict. Now that the dust has settled, I don't think it was a popular decision among the show's core fans.

 

And as you and I have been discussing, the writers borrowed quite a bit from those earlier Hitchcock classics. The irony is that most of today's young viewers of Days of Our Lives probably never saw those films and thought this was an original plot. Ben is supposed to be coming back in a few months for several episodes (my guess is that someone, likely Chad, visits him in the psych ward). The actor who portrays Ben comes across in my view as neither gay nor straight, sort of an in-between metrosexual, if that exists. Up until his character strangled Will Horton, there was no inclination that his character was anything but heterosexual, not at all 'abnormal' in a Norman Bates sort of way, at least not on the surface.

No, killing off Will Horton on "Days Of Our Lives" was a very bad decision on the part of the new writing team.

 

And Will Horton was a "legacy character".

 

I agree with you that Robert Scott Wilson's Ben took on different kinds of coloration when he suddenly decided to kill Will Horton.

 

Because, let's face it, just because Will found a tie in Ben's wastebasket could have been so easily explained with, "Yeah, that's my tie, I hate it, so I threw it out."

 

I do think that he wanted to have sex with Will and "topped him", strangling him "excessively" at the same time, like the murderer in Hitchcock's "Frenzy".

 

Having let "that demon" out of the closet, when Ben kidnapped Abigail and held her hostage, he let other "demons" out of the closet

 

Because Abigail finally realized that fiance Ben was something other than she thought, he probably wanted her - and her baby - to die.

 

Judging by the way he killed Will and then treated Abigail, he could see that he has the capacity to be a totally strange and alien human being.

 

And, don't forget, that so much of the chlidhood abuse that he talked about with his estranged father had the taint of sexual abuse.

 

There was also a scene where his father was obviously indulging in some very inappropriate behavior..

 

clyde-gives-ben-a-stern-warning-on-the-a

 

Ben's father, Clyde - how warped was Clyde's relationship with his son, Ben, and, as a consequence, how warped is Ben himself?

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us