There are fourteen documentaries about the "Star Wars" saga. There are five or six docs about "The Sound of Music". There is at least one doc about the making of "Gone With The Wind". In fact, there are four films about Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho". But never before has anyone devoted an entire ninety minute documentary to one scene in a film.


That one scene is the famous shower scene in which Hitchcock masterfully directs screen legend Anthony Perkins to butcher a naked Janet Leigh while she showers in her room at the Bates Motel. It was a scene that horrified movie goers back in 1960 and has withstood the test of time as one of the grimmest scenes ever. It literally popularized the term "Slasher Movie".


As a explicit fixture in pop culture, that one scene was in the back of every baby boomer's mind every time they stepped into the shower and drew the curtains. Director Alexandre O. Philippe (who also directed one of those docs about "Star Wars") gathers an eclectic group of enthusiasts to disect and examine that one scene.

The title refers to the 78 different camera setups and 52 cuts require to film that single four-minute scene. They cover everything from the water to the music to even the significance of the painting Susanna and the Elders that Perkins has covering his peephole.


The film is more than just a fan club shout out, instead it tries to explain why the scene creeped everyone out and was a major breakthrough in the war between filmmakers and censorship. We get a chance to meet the girl who was the body double for Leigh - Marli Renfro - who was a pin up girl who just happened to fit the bill.


The group discusses the music, the various camera angles of every item in the scene. They examine how the stabbing sound was developed. They discuss the crucial editing by George Tomasini (who also edited "Rear Window", "Vertigo", "North by Northwest" and "The Birds").


Even Janet Leigh's daughter (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Anthony Perkins son (Oz Perkins) chime in about their parents monumental fright film. It is amazing how many people that one prticular scene affected.


Accordingly Philippe shot his doc in black and white, just as Hitchcock did with "Psycho".


"78/52" is surprisingly fun to watch and interesting. You may even find yourself watching the old 1960 classic again, just to see if you catch all the plot points that are discribe in the doc. [VOD]   -- GEOFF BURTON