Norman Bates, you'll be pleased to know, is happily married to this nice lady who tended him in his rubber room at the home, and he's now living a quiet life in suburbia.
That sounds like the end of the story of Norman, the deranged transvestite who has slashed his way through three theatrical films and now a fourth for the Showtime pay-cable service. But as the show's full title suggests, it is but a setting, a pretext, for telling the beginning of the saga of Norman and his mother, the details of which were probably lost amid the blood and gore of the earlier shows.
"Psycho IV: The Beginning," an original production for Showtime, airs on that service Saturday at 9 as part of a "Psycho" retrospective. The evening is hosted by Janet Leigh, who took the most famous shower in film history in the 1960 horror classic that started it all.
"'Psycho IV' answers many of the questions we really wanted to know" 30 years ago, said Tony Perkins, who once again plays the role that made him infamous -- the former manager of the Bates Motel, the fellow with the peculiar mother. "It tells, how come? How did it happen? Why did it happen? What were the tragic turns of events that made this story the way it was?"
The show opens with Perkins' Norman Bates -- the Hamlet of horror roles -- becoming a midnight caller, dialing up CCH Pounder, who hosts a call-in show. Tonight's topic: matricide. Who better to phone her up than Norman?
There follows, in flash-back fashion, a recap of how Norman got to be so strange. There's Henry Thomas as young Norman, as the confused by his mother as he was by "ET." Olivia Hussey plays his mother, a woman with troubles of her own.
And all the while, the adult Norman recalls for Pounder -- the strongest performer in the show -- how it all came to be, while he waits for his pregnant therapist-wife (played by Donna Mitchell) to come home from work and help him celebrate his birthday.
If you missed the previous "Psychos," Perkins offered a simple -- sort of -- Cliffs Notes on the life and times of the homicidally inclined Norman.
"Let's put it this way," he said. "All you really have to know is that Norman once again got hauled off to the rubber Ramada and, as he says, he wanted to be either executed or locked away forever so that he would never hurt anybody again, because Norman is, at heart, a benevolent soul, with a dark side. But Norman's conscious mind is always on the positive things in life. So once again he's in and once again he's out."
The Bates saga began in with a 1960 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock that is still considered a classic. "Psycho II," 23 years later, was considered by a number of critics to be a sturdy sequel. But by 1986 and "Psycho III," some thought the bloom was off the rose. The TV movie, "Bates Motel," should not be considered a part of the "Psycho" quartet, said Perkins, who directed "Psycho III."
"I think that Norman shows a progression in his personality," said Perkins. "In the second 'Psycho' picture, we saw a Norman that was far more aware of his potential for violence than in the first film. In the third film we saw a more saddened Norman ... So I think the development of the character keeps it from begin a carbon copy of the original."
Assuring a certain fidelity to the original theme is the presence of screenwriter Joe Stefano, who wrote the original "Psycho" script. Hilton Green, who worked on the other films in various capacities, is the executive producer of this one. George Zaloom and Les Mayfield, who assisted Green on "II," are the producers. Mick Garris, who did "Critters 2," is the director.
The film was shot at Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., using a house that is a replica of the original Bates home, which has become a popular landmark on the Universal lot in Los Angeles. (For familiar-face watchers, that dark-haired, bearded fellow in Pounder's studio is film director John Landis, who reportedly had a hand in pulling the project together.)
Showtime's "Psycho Night" begins Saturday at 9 with the debut of "Psycho IV." It is followed by a screening of the 1960 original, said to be its first TV outing in an uncut, uninterrupted form (VCR alert), and it comes with an enhanced digital sound track. Subsequent playdates for "IV": Nov. 16, 21 and 25, and Dec. 2.