The Bates House and Motel were constructed on the backlot at Universal City Studios in 1959 for the production of Psycho. It has been said that the house, designed by Art Director's Joseph Hurley and Robert Clathworthy, was loosely based on an Edward Hopper painting called House By The Railroad. The spooky-looking house loomed over the L-Shaped Bates Motel down at the bottom of a hill. The vantage point was perfect for what the filmmakers wanted to achieve. The house and motel sets were actually empty shells, also known as facades. When the house was originally built, there was no right side of the house, since the right side is never seen on camera in the original Psycho film. Interiors of the Bates House and Motel were constructed on Sound stage 18-A at Universal, just a short walk from the actual exterior locations making production convenient for all involved. After production had wrapped on Psycho, the house was featured in several television productions including The Virginian and Boris Karloff's Mystery Theater.
In 1964, Universal Studios opened it's patented Studio Tram Tour. The right side of the house was then added and the set was unceremoniously dubbed "The Psycho House." The house and even the motel went on to appear in several shows such as Night Gallery, The Hardy Boys and even in films such as Invitation To A Gunfighter and Modern Problems with Chevy Chase. The motel was torn down in 1979 and the Psycho House was moved to an alternate location on the backlot to accommodate the new tour. In 1982, Richard Franklin and Hilton A. Green announced plans to film Psycho II. The house was then moved to a location that best matched the original hill and only about 40 feet of the motel was actually re-built. The rest of the motel in the picture was a matte painting. TV shows during the 80's promoted the Universal Tour and prominently featured the Psycho House including Amazing Stories, Knight Rider, Welcome To My Nightmare, and Different Strokes.
In 1985, the Bates Motel was fully re-built for Psycho III to be directed by Anthony Perkins. During the actual filming of Psycho III, studio tour visitors were treated to seeing the film in production when the tram would go by during breaks of filming the exterior locations. One day, Jeff Fahey was having trouble with a scene. The tram went by. Tony Perkins announced to Fahey and his crew to wave to the tram tour visitors. He stated "Everyone of those people is a butt in the seat." In 1987, the NBC-TV network announced plans for a TV pilot entitled Bates Motel. The motel in the film was re-modeled to look very Spanish like. This version of the set remained until 1994 when the new renovations were taken away and the motel was put back to look the way it did in the original Psycho. An episode of Murder, She Wrote from the early 1990's featured the Psycho House and Bates Motel as key locations in the popular Angela Lansbury series.
In 1988, plans for Psycho IV: The Beginning were underway at Universal. Plans to shoot the movie in Orlando, Florida were set into motion and the film crew constructed an amazing full-scale replica of the Bates Motel and Psycho House at the soon-to-be built Universal Studios Florida. The final dressing and painting was done by the Psycho IV art department crew in 1990, but the house and motel was fully built in 1988 long before the 'production team was assembled for the project. After production wrapped, the sets were left as attractions at the park until 1998 when it was torn down to make room for a new kiddie play area.
In 1998, the Psycho House in California was renovated to preserve the set. All of the rotting wood was replaced and the set had a new paint job. That same year, plans to remake Psycho were announced. It was originally announced that Gus Van Sant was going to be using the original house and motel sets. However, the production team built a new Psycho House directly in front of the old one, and the motel was updated to look like it was from the 1960's. The new Psycho House was moved next to the original house and remained there for about three years after production. In 2003, due to popular demand, the remake's Psycho House was torn down and the motel was restored to the original way once again. More recently, the house was featured in the direct to video horror release The Backlot Murders with actress Priscilla Barnes and the Frankie Muniz comedy film Big Fat Liar.
The Psycho House and Bates Motel sets are the two most popular tourist attractions in Hollywood. They are also instantly recognizable from people all over the world, even if they hadn't seen any of the Psycho films. Today, you can go and see up close, the Psycho House and Bates Motel on the Universal Studios Hollywood Tram Tour.
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