According to the Sight & Sound critics’ poll of 2012 Vertigo is the greatest film of all time so it is overdue that ABCD should screen it. Judy’s husband is suspicious of her behaviour and hires Scottie, a PI, to investigate. The film displays Hitchcock’s characteristic theme of flawed hero with duplicitous, blond heroine, and we see the acrophobic Scottie (James Stewart) become embroiled in a sexual entanglement with Judy (Kim Novak). A twisted and heady melange of murderous and passionate intent ensues. “A bell tower at a mission terrifies him [Scottie], and Hitchcock creates a famous shot to show his point of view: Using a model of the inside of the tower, and zooming the lens in while at the same time physically pulling the camera back, Hitchcock shows the walls approaching and receding at the same time; the space has the logic of a nightmare.” Roger Ebert.com
Dir: Alfred Hitchcock 128mins USA 1958
Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Vertigo (his 45th feature) is one of the most powerful, deep, and stunningly beautiful films – a film noir that functions on multiple levels. At the time of its release, however, it was not a box-office success – but has since been critically regarded as one of the greatest films ever made. Hence, in 2012, in Sight&Sound‘s sixth ten-year poll of the top 100 films (comprising nearly 850 critical voting entries), it finally triumphed over Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941) after the latter’s fifty year reign as the Greatest Film Ever.
The work is a mesmerizing romantic suspense thriller about a macabre, doomed romance – a desperate love for an illusion. It is also an intense psychological study of a desperate, insecure man’s loss of equilibrium, as it follows his obsessive search to end his acrophobia (and deaths that result from his ‘falling in love’ affliction). Hitchcock was noted for films with voyeuristic themes, and this one could be construed as part of a trilogy with that preoccupation, viz, Rear Window (1954), Vertigo and Psycho (1960).
The screenplay is based on the 1954 mystery potboiler D’Entre les Morts by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac – who were also authors of the story for Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques (1955). The film spawned several clones with similar themes, such as Brian DePalma’s Obsession (1976), and Kenneth Branagh’s Dead Again (1991). In its release
year, Vertigo was the recipient of only two Academy Award nominations, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration and Best Sound, and was left without a single statuette. (It was passed over by the lightweight confection Gigi, which scooped a record nine Oscars including Best Picture.)
Neither James Stewart’s performance nor Kim Novak’s marvellous transformations have ever quite been matched in the recent history of cinema. Novak’s performance as a cool, icy blonde recalls the way that Hitchcock often presented and treated his ethereal leading ladies – who included Madeleine Carroll, Grace Kelly, Vera Miles and, famously, Tippi Hedren.
Acknowledgements: Tim Dirks, Filmsite Movie Review
“Alfred Hitchcock engulfs you in a whirlpool of terror and tension!
He Thought His Love Was Dead, Until He Found Her In Another Woman” Vertigo publicity poster tagline
“[It is in Scottie’s obscure compulsion that] the pleasure principle of Hollywood cinema [finally] succumbs to the death instinct. Never has a work of light entertainment been this dark” Peter Matthews, Sight&Sound
John ‘Scottie’ Ferguson – James Stewart
Madeleine Elster/Judy Barton – Kim Novak
Midge Wood – Barbara Bel Geddes
Gavin Elster – Tom Helmore
Coroner – Henry Jones
Director – Alfred Hitchcock
Producers – Herbert Coleman, Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay – Alec Coppel, Samuel Taylor
Cinematography – Robert Burks
Original Music – Bernard Hermann
- Fantastic – there’s always something new to see with each viewing of this film. Great shots of San Francisco and Route 101 – but with so little traffic!
- A classic! I can recommend visiting the Palace of the Legion of Honour
- I loved it! The tension throughout was great and so nice to go down memory lane with all those lovely old cars
- A gripping story – I thought I’d followed it all until the final twist!
- Brilliant – what a fantastic load of tosh! Totally enjoyable
- With a few tweaks, that film could have been made last year!
- Straightforward yet gripping story and suspenseful from beginning to end. Definitely worth the Sight and Sound rating
- Remains an excellent experience, with James Stewart’s performance progressing throughout the picture. Whether it’s the greatest film of all time is open to debate …
- How can a film make you feel so tense?
- So good to actually hear the conversations! When did American films become so incomprehensible?
- What a well dressed flower seller!
- Judy, Judy, Judy …. the music alone deserved an Oscar