Oh, what a memorable toilet scene

Posted on 20 July 2011

From the first flushing toilet ever shown in an American film to the worst ever conceptualised on screen to how four disparate movies with at least one bathroom scene are connected by trivia.

Psycho (1960)

This Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece is noteworthy for more than a few reasons, besides the obvious infamous brutal bathroom stabbing scene.

It is, in fact, the first-ever American film to show a toilet flushing on screen.

Psycho’s scriptwriter, Joseph Stefano, was adamant about showing a flushing toilet to add to the realism of the film.

Therefore, Hitchcock challenged him to come up with a scene that made a flushing toilet indispensable.

And he did.

Stefano wrote the scene where Marion Crane (lead actress Janet Leigh’s character) counts the money and flushes the paper down the toilet.

And if you’ve seen the movie, you would know that this toilet scene is pivotal to her murder later (as it revolves around her having stolen the money), and she is the lady who subsequently gets stabbed in the shower.

And that stabbing scene, which lasted all of 45 seconds in the movie, is reported to have taken seven days to shoot using 70 different camera angles.

The Shining (1980)

Talk about brutal.

If Hitchcock was being a perfectionist for doing so many takes in Psycho, his work ethic can only be matched by Stanley Kubrick in The Shining.

Known for his punishing perfectionism that puts his actors into physically and emotionally-draining roles, the ‘Heere’s Johnny!’ scene where Jack Nicholson hacks open the bathroom door with an axe took three days to film and made used of 60 doors.

The funny bit?

Jack Nicholson, having volunteered as a fire marshal before, hacked the doors made by the movie’s prop department too easily. So they had to build stronger ones.

And that lady with the knife looking scared? That’s Shelley Duvall.

She was tormented by Kubrick for real throughout filming to put her in the state of mind as a worn out and terrorised wife.

And for all that hard work? Shelley Duvall got a Razzie Award Nomination for Worst Actress, which is the equivalent of a toilet bowl compared to the Oscars, for her acting chops.

Psycho, on the other hand, got nominated for four Oscars.

Trainspotting (1996)

Now for the worst toilet ever shown on film.

Trainspotting takes full honours for conceptualising and glamourising horrid waste.

And yes, horrid waste refers to both the addicts and the most memorable scene in film history about digging through faeces.

Although it looks thoroughly offputting, the faeces in the Worst Toilet in Scotland was actually made from chocolate, and therefore, smelled quite pleasant and were perhaps tasty.

Unlike the pale-faced and tormented Duvall who was heckled by director Kubrick for her role in The Shining, Ewan McGregor (shown here in this clip) was placed on a simple diet that did not include alcohol or dairy products to play the skinny heroin-addicted Renton (who is blissed out after diving into the toilet where the opium suppositories kick in to aid him in weaning off heroin).

He lost enough weight in two months to reach Renton’s desired drug-addled size.

But director Danny Boyle did prepare the actors for their roles by making them watch Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange that featured rebellious youths.

Boyle also paid tribute to Kubrick by shooting the Volcano nightclub scene in Trainspotting similarly to the Milk Bar scene in A Clockwork Orange.

The track playing in the Volcano nightclub is by Heaven 17.

Heaven 17 is a name from A Clockwork Orange.

Dark Water (2002)

If bathrooms and faucets can be made any scarier, you can count on the Japanese.

Although Dark Water isn’t straight-up horror in the same vein as 1998’s Ring (both are by director Hideo Nakata), it qualifies as a slow-burner of spooks and a prophetic filmic testament to domestic problems, eruptions, urban dystopia, alienation, disconnect, discontent and decay.

As in Psycho, the violation of the expectation that the bathroom is a place of privacy and mundanity, plus the violent invasion of an unexpected but lurking ominous presence (a real psycho waiting to relapse or source-unknown perpetual dampness), is terribly frightening.

Janet Leigh (that lady who got stabbed in Psycho) professed to never taking any showers unless absolutely necessary after she watched herself getting stabbed on screen.

For this Dark Water clip, do check out the 4 min and 43 sec bit where a chunk of hair pops out of the tap.

You can imagine this to have been the case in Woodlands block 686B just last month, what with the corpse in the water tank.

That’s dampness and violent death all rolled into one. Urban decay, anyone?

And here’s the funky connective part: In the 2005 American remake of Dark Water featuring Jennifer Connelly, Shelley Duvall (yes, the same tormented actress in The Shining) appears in a bit part.

Now, talk about tying up loose ends.

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Wang Pei can be considered a new citizen of Singapore. She has been here all her life, just that her environment's changed beyond recognition.

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