August 9 marks the 30th anniversary of the full release of Tim Burton’s directorial debut, “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” while September 8 is the 55th anniversary of the release date of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” In honor of these two great films, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on these timeless classics. [SPOILER WARNING.]
If you haven’t watched either of these films lately, you should. Both films look incredibly good for their ages. At 55, Psycho still thrills. At 30, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure still delights.
And here’s the thing: these movies are more alike than you think.
Sound absurd? Stay with me for a moment.
Tim Burton’s characteristic whimsical, yet creepy, style echoes Alfred Hitchcock’s characteristic dark humor, and the two films explore issues of obsession, madness, and identity. Psycho is a horror film that is often comedic. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure is a comedy that is often horrifying. Pee-wee is living a child’s fantasy. Norman is living a grown-up’s nightmare.
I’m not saying you have to watch the films side by side, Dark Side of the Rainbow style. (Although you certainly can, and I recommend it.) But there are some striking moments of similarities. Have a look:
Both Psycho and Pee-wee’s Big Adventure...
1. Center around something stolen: $40,000 cash and Pee-wee’s bike. (And to clinch the likeness: the $40,000 cash and Pee-wee’s bike are introduced to the plot at precisely the same moment, eight minutes and 47 seconds in!)
2. Norman and Pee-wee live in their childhood bedrooms...
3. ...alone in strange houses...
4. ...where they talk to themselves.
5. Follow a main character driving in a vintage car through the desert landscape of southern California...
6. ..and then having run-ins with the police.
7. Feature frightening bathroom scenes.
9. Norman and Pee-wee have thoughts about being loners...
10. ...and have something to say about going crazy.
11. They have stints as hotel receptionists, though we all know it's not their real job.
12. Reveal undead women who died in violent circumstances 10 years ago.
13. And the list wouldn’t be complete without a little crossdressing.
Oh, and in case you haven’t heard the good news, Pee-wee will be back in the upcoming Judd Apatow-produced Netflix movie, Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, due out on Netflix next year. WHEE!