MovieChat Forums > Psycho (1960) Discussion > Why does Sam push Norman in to racing ba...

Why does Sam push Norman in to racing back to the house?


The purpose of someone talking to the man in the motel office while another looks for Mrs. Bates is to ensure that the latter is not caught. Why, then, does Sam make incendiary comments to Norman? He should realize that he is only going to give the owner of the lodging an excuse to storm away and perhaps even use physical force. I know that Sam and Lila have questions and suspicions, but the first person should not try to get to the bottom of the matter through Norman without assistance, especially while Marion's sister is sneaking into the Bates home.

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@TM. Your question is interesting. The script lampshades the problem Sam faces: Lila says 'Just keep him occupied' and Sam relies 'You'll never be able to hold him still if he doesn't want to be held.'

From the fact that Sam nonetheless immediately goes along with Lila's plan and that his *first* move after that is to block the door on Norman, Sam has decided to go 'all the way', trust his size and strength against Norman (whom he knows, probably went to high school with - Sam's a football player type who's *sure* he can take N. if he keeps eyes on him). No matter what Norman's not getting past him. It may take Norman a minute or so to figure out that he's being held by Sam, that this is a showdown, but Sam's ahead of him and trusts that when the full physical confrontation comes there'll be nothing N. can do. (Sam's wrong about that.)

You argue that Sam, by making less incendiary, more ignorable chat about the weather, baseball, politics, etc., would have been able to stall for more time before the inevitable full physical confrontation (with its dangerous chance element) arrives. Maybe. Aggressive chat keeps Norman in a sense pinned down and in front of Sam. Any chat that's more ignorable risks Norman ignoring it and trying to go around Sam precipitating a fight (with its dangerous chance element) immediately.

So Sam's strategy makes sense to me. Perhaps he could have bought a little more time by backing off the aggressive questioning a bit (perhaps not bringing up the money), but conversation in real time is hard to control, so my own view is that he probably couldn't have stalled for much more time (before violence) than he did.

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I agree somewhat, swanstep, but I disagree in other respects. We both go to the script from time to time(great guide that it is), but here the dialogue(in the script?) and Gavin's performance have always suggested something different is going on. But maybe at the same time as the elements you bring up.

Its this(to me): Sam accepts the assignment to "keep Norman busy," but the more he LOOKS at Norman, the more he HATES Norman. Sam is certain that this comparative pipsquick (from a high school perspective) has SOMETHING to do with his girlfriend's disappearance. Did he kill her? Rape her? Is he holding her prisoner in the house? I think Sam feels less and less inclined to "just make small talk" with Norman , but can't overtly just beat him up.

So Sam needles Norman. Living alone like this "would drive me crazy." Suggesting Norman would like to "unload this place."(So Norman reacts angrily: "This place? This place was my whole world...") And then confronting Norman about the 40 thou(which Norman has absolutely no IDEA about -- in the book Arbogast told him. Much better, for suspense, here.)

In short, Sam fails mightily at his assignment and, yeah, probably felt if a confrontation could come sooner rather than later, all the better. Norman did SOMETHING to Marion, and Sam wants to make him pay. Surprise! Norman bests Sam in this physical confronation, and knocks Sam out.

There is in this scene what I call "Hitchcockian sophistication." Sam could have just made inane small talk for a long time but then -- Norman wouldn't feel pushed. It wouldn't work dramatically. (Oh, I suppose Sam could talk about nothing until Norman got the same line: "Where's that girl you came here with?" But to move the suspense along... Sam pushes him...and we understand why. Again: Sam knows he is looking at someone who harmed his lover. He wants to hurt him. Its a man thing.

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@ Ecarle. I agree with your emphasis on Sam (understandably from a macho guy's perspective) losing control a bit.

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I think its there, and I'm not looking to discount your analysis. I think everybody sees a scene "through their eyes"(with me, its thinking about macho SAM FINALLY seeing someone who is intimately connected with his girlfriend's disappearance ---I hesitate to say "Marion," because I think Sam at least feels possessive of her if not full love), and..just starting to dig in.

But sure, these are tactics and Sam may well simply be wanting to keep Norman cornered until Lila "gets something" from Mother. His physical blocking of Norman in the doorway is a start...

By the way, this: I've always liked how while Norman wins the confrontation in the motel parlor, Sam wins in the fruit cellar. Its as if the fight continues and a "new winner" emerges.

Also: I do love how the very Spartan setting of that motel office is used very differently for various character meetings: Norman and Marion(the basic checking in, in dim nighttime light, though things eventually move to the parlor for the main conversation), Norman and Arbogast: (all those close-ups in the shadows -- much darker than when Marion checked in -- from low and high angles); Norman and Sam(the office flooded with daylight, the camera kept far enough away in medium shot, to show how Norman and Sam resemble each other AND how Sam towers over Norman.)


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You have an intriguing observation, ecarle. Your suggestion is that Sam is initially caught between protecting Lila and catching Norman, but once the men have their own space, the first one's rage overtakes him. That fits perfectly with one of the major themes of the movie: gender.

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Gender is an issue in Psycho, isn't it?

Sam is the "man's man" of the piece. (And he's the one to ask "Why was he...DRESSED like that?") Arbogast is a pretty cool dude, but just can't handle Mrs. Bates in the murderous clinch.

Interesting to me: because of the set up of the story, WE think the danger is up at the house(Mother) where Lila is, but since Sam think's that mother is "OK," he likely thinks Norman IS the killer as he faces him across that desk. He's right, but for the wrong reasons. Of course, he's hoping that Marion is still alive, but if she was killed...Norman's the killer, Sam's sure of it.

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Sam does not believe that Mrs. Bates is normal. In fact, he has seen evidence that she isn't. He probably thinks that Norman is the culprit simply because the son is male, just as Arbogast suspects that Marion would want a man to cover her crime. There is peculiar irony in the scene that you mention, but I don't see Norman's mother as the most obvious threat. However, that is a topic that I need to give its own thread.

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Fair enough. Psycho, like other great movies, merits an in-depth look in any number of scenes.

I will note that Sam says something like: "The money...what you did to get it. We think your mother will tell us." Sam sees Norman and Mother as a criminal team....

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That is a creative angle for the question about the money, ecarle. I take Sam's comment to mean that since he hears that Mrs. Bates and her son don't get along, the mother will have no reluctance reporting Norman once she gets the chance. Either one could be right, though.

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Mrs. Bates and her son don't get along, that the mother will have no reluctance reporting Norman once she gets the chance.

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Hey, i like that too!

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Either one could be right, though.

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Either one could be right. Hitchcock(among others) said that different viewers drew different meanings from his films and his scenes.

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Thank you, ecarle. Yes, one of the greatest rewards of films is the room for different theories to expand our learning and understanding.

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Thank you, swanstep. You think that Sam is too physically prepared to fight Norman to consider how to ease in to a conversation. That is a smart view and could be correct, even though it contradicts Marion's boyfriend worrying about Lila's safety. Maybe Sam heads to the office with simple talk in mind, but forgets it when he is finally alone with Norman.

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