Psycho Dressed Again. Intramedial Adaptation between Tacit Reworking and Mould



Although the term adaptation is usually applied to cases of intermediality, it can be conceptualized also in intramedial terms, that is, as an adaptation of a work inside the same medium, as is the case with the film remake. Intramedial adaptation is a continuum between two poles: the first is that of the tacit reworking, which is so different from the original that makes the term remake inadequate (and it does not pose copyright issues); the second is that of the mould, that is, an extreme form of remake which reworks in a meticulous manner the narrative and stylistic features of the previous film. In this article we will address the matter by examining how Dressed to Kill (Brian De Palma, 1980) and Psycho (Gus Van Sant, 1998) relate to Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960). Dressed to Kill makes no explicit reference to Hitchcock’s masterpiece; nevertheless, it is an evident, albeit tacit, reworking of the latter. On the contrary, Psycho (1998) is notorious for being an almost shot-for-shot remake of the original Psycho (both screenplays were written by Joseph Stefano). In other words, it is a narrative and stylistic mould of the previous film more than a new adaptation of Robert Bloch’s namesake novel (1959). Dressed to Kill − which follows the structure of Psycho’s plot while changing the story – updates the themes of the latter (the deadly sexual drive, the dissociative identity disorder) to a period following the sexual revolution, making clear what in Hitchcock’s film was only allusive. Contrariwise, Psycho (1998) is such an extreme remake that it both looks like an adaptation of the story to the contemporary period and like an adaptation of the entire form of the original film, that is, as an almost identical occurrence of both the narrative and the stylistic features of the first Psycho.

Keywords: Intramedial Adaptation, Film Remake, Dressed to Kill (1980), Psycho (1960), Psycho (1998)

DOI: 10.24193/ekphrasis.22.6