Thursday, April 28, 2011

Be Kind, Rewind: The VHS Reviews ~ Bates Motel (1987)

”Under New Management”

Synopsis: After being found guilty of various murders, including the poisoning of his mother, Norman (played by former Anthony Perkins stand-in, Kurt Paul) is sent to the state mental asylum. Once in the institution, Norman (who is apparently rehabilitated) rooms with a troubled young boy named Alex West (Bud Cort, "Harold and Maude", "Invaders from Mars") and they start a friendship that lasts nearly twenty years. After Norman dies, Alex inherits the Bates Motel that has remained vacant since the time of Norman's arrest. Alex heads to Fairvale, California where he meets Willie (Lori Petty, "Point Break", "Tank Girl"), a teenage runaway who’s been living in the empty house, and they decide to re-open the motel together.

My Thoughts: Coming off a pair of fairly successful “Psycho” sequels, Universal and NBC attempted to cash-in on the franchise with a spin-off TV series in 1987. Completely ignoring the storyline from Psycho’s 2 & 3, writer/director Richard Rothstein decided the show’s pilot episode (which premiered as a NBC Movie of the Week) would begin with Norman Bates incarceration in 1960. 

Okay, this was obviously a bad idea from the start and the way it was carried out was just terrible. The idea that psychiatrists at a nut house would allow a serial killer to be a mentor to a troubled little kid is way too unbelievable. There’s also this unrelated side story, that doesn’t start until an hour into the movie, where this woman checks into the hotel and the whole thing turns into a really bad episode of Fantasy Island (which tells you what direction the TV series would have gone if it got picked up).

This poor excuse for a movie has none of the atmosphere of the other films. I realize it was made for TV and there were limits to what they could get away with, but this is so tame they could have aired it on a Saturday morning. Not one person gets offed the entire time and there isn’t even any decent scares.

The main actor (Cort) is so irritating and his performance is so bad that twenty minutes in you wish Mrs. Bates would pop out of her chair and stab him in the head. The funny thing is, as bad as he is, Lori Petty (who always plays the same annoying character) is worse. The two of them seemed to be in some kind of duel to see which one could act more retarded.

 Anthony Perkins actively boycotted this film in interviews and television appearances in the months leading up to its premiere. He thought the film was an exploitative cash-in on Psycho 3, which he had directed less than a year earlier. Perkins felt that the continuity of the "Psycho" franchise had been ruined by the Bates Motel storyline. My guess is that he just demanded too much money, so the studio decided to kill him off and make the series without him. Perkins did, however, get the last laugh. When the pilot was aired in July of ’87, the ratings were so low that both Universal and NBC shelved the idea of turning the production into a TV series. In 1990, Perkins was brought back as Norman Bates to tell the story of his childhood in Mick Garris’ Psycho IV: The Beginning, which follows the storyline of the original films and disregards the Bates Motel pilot entirely.

My Rating: 3 / 10

Bates Motel has only been released on VHS in Sweden and Finland by Esselte Video. There’s a ton of bootlegs out there, most of which look like they’ve been copied and recopied 50 times over. If you really wanna see this crap no need to buy iy, just click the link below and watch it on youtube.

"click here to watch Bates Motel"

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