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Crime, Thriller, Mystery, Romance, Film-Noir
IMDB rating:
Alfred Hitchcock


          Vertigo IMDb    Vertigo Wikipedia    Vertigo Soundtrack

James Stewart as John 'Scottie' Ferguson
Kim Novak as Madeleine Elster
Barbara Bel Geddes as Midge Wood
Tom Helmore as Gavin Elster
Henry Jones as Coroner
Raymond Bailey as Scottie's Doctor
Ellen Corby as Manager of McKittrick Hotel
Konstantin Shayne as Pop Leibel
Vertigo Storyline: John "Scottie" Ferguson is a retired San Francisco police detective who suffers from acrophobia and Madeleine is the lady who leads him to high places. A wealthy shipbuilder who is an acquaintance from college days approaches Scottie and asks him to follow his beautiful wife, Madeleine. He fears she is going insane, maybe even contemplating suicide, he believes she is possessed by a dead ancestor. Scottie is skeptical, but agrees after he sees the beautiful Madeleine.
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Classic Hitchcock and Stewart
An interesting psychological piece that richly displays Hitchcock's talents. It is unfair to compare this film to the suspense thrillers of today which are subjected to more realism in sex and violence. Hitchcock had to be more subtle in 1958, where I'm sure a work like this, that seems tame by today's standards, appeared bizarre and risqué. Also the acting here seems histrionic; not that people actually spoke like that in the 50s but the audiences liked such dictionally refined dialogue back then as opposed to the lines of modern-day scripts that more accurately portray the way individuals speak.

James Stewart and Kim Novak are appealing on numerous levels, the former mainly because he doesn't wander far from the amiable joe we have come to expect (even though he does weird-out near the conclusion) and the latter because she maintains a veneer of vulnerability that we can relate to.

This is not a film I especially like (I couldn't watch it again and again) but I respect for its strong filmmaking.
The Ultimate San Francisco Movie
My father took me to see Vertigo and I instantly LOVED this classic. It influenced me to settle in San Francisco, as it is indisputably the ultimate San Francisco movie, with Bullitt a very respectable second. I have personally visited almost every real location depicted in the movie, and I love to give my out of town visitors the Vertigo tour of the places that still exist. Vertigo is a great tour of some of the many beautiful spots in and around SF.

I love Alfred Hitchcock films and though Rear Window is my favorite, I think Vertigo is his best and perhaps most personal. From the opening titles and wonderful Bernard Hermann music soundtrack to the haunting conclusion, Vertigo is a visually lush and grandly entertaining example of masterful storytelling. I cannot articulate enough how great this film is and do it justice in 1000 words. The viewer is drawn in voyeuristically with the Jimmy Stewart character as he feels the tension of escalating obsession and the just-out-of-reach frustration with an unobtainable illusion. The use of music is one of the best ever in film as it reflects the inward emotion perfectly. You can hear what Jimmy Stewart is feeling. First there is curiosity, then rising tension, rising hope, and then release and resolution. Vertigo has one of my favorite film shots in it too (possibly the first time it was ever used), the zoom-in-while-backward- tracking shot, later seen in films like Jaws. Oh! And Vertigo has one of the greatest on-screen kisses of all time too, so very passionate (and I think shot on a turntable). The way Alfred Hitchcock was able to imply such sexuality in Vertigo without showing even nudity, I think, made the situations even more sexually charged, as what one imagines is far better.

This is a film that earns a rare but well deserved 10/10 in my book.
A very apt pupil
Perhaps the best word to describe Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo" is "bizarre". The film even gives this impression with the twisting imagery and hypnotic music of its title sequence. Next, John Ferguson is introduced as a detective that retires due to his inexorable fear of heights. An old friend of John's contacts him and asks him to investigate his wife's strange behavior, which he explains is a result of supernatural forces. John is skeptical and reluctant, but quickly takes the case and begins to observe a bizarre chain of events.

James Stewart plays the role John Ferguson and is effective at portraying the transition from impartial investigator to an increasingly involved and even unnerving one. Kim Novak is also excellent as the enigmatic and sporadic Madeleine Elster. Barbara Bel Geddes is also memorable as Midge, particularly in the "painting" scene.

Most of the story doesn't rely on direct plot twists, but rather a methodical investigation of the mystery presented near the film's beginning and the interesting and peculiar behavior of the subject under investigation. The film is well-made such that it doesn't tip its hand early as to the solution to the mystery, but when the film's major twist does come it is brilliant. This methodical approach is effective, although personally I preferred other Hitchcock films that featured more twists over this one. The film's bizarre quality is developed with the help of eerie music and unorthodox effects sequences, including an interesting effect to represent John's fear of heights.
For Me, VERTIGO Keeps Getting Better Over Time
(No fooling -- SPOILERS galore here!) It's hard to believe now, but when I was younger, I used to have a love/hate relationship with Alfred Hitchcock's classic romantic psychological thriller VERTIGO. I loved its suspense, moving performances, haunting love story, dreamlike quality, and poignant yet powerful Bernard Herrmann score -- so why did it take me years to embrace VERTIGO as wholeheartedly as our beleaguered hero John "Scottie" Ferguson embraces his beloved Madeleine Elster? James Stewart plays Scottie, a former police detective who finds out the hard way that he has acrophobia (fear of heights, to us laypeople) when he can't save a patrolman from falling to his death during a rooftop chase. Since VERTIGO is a Hitchcock movie, what better place for our hero to live and wrestle with his phobia than San Francisco? While working on a cantilever bra invented by an engineer (nice work if you can get it!), Scottie's gal pal, designer Midge Wood (wry scene-stealer Barbara Bel Geddes) tries to help him overcome his fear gradually with stepladders ("I look up, I look down..."). Too bad the ladders happen to be next to Midge's high-rise apartment's window. Poor guy, it's always something! Scottie's old college chum Gavin Elster (suave Tom Helmore) offers him a private investigator job tailing his lovely but troubled young wife, Madeleine (Kim Novak in her finest and most challenging performance). Seems that Madeleine -- one of the coolest and most elegant of the director's legendary "Hitchcock blondes" -- thinks she's possessed by the spirit of her late great-grandmother Carlotta Valdes, and is behaving accordingly. Scottie tails Madeleine all over San Francisco to the places where the tragic Carlotta lived, loved, and went mad after her sugar daddy "threw her away" and kept their love child. Our detective finally comes face to face with his quarry after saving her when she jumps into the bay in one of her fugue states.

As the song says, the hunter is captured by the game. Soon Scottie and Madeleine are mad for each other -- but it seems poor troubled Madeleine is also mad in a less romantic way. When she confides in Scottie about her recurring morbid dreams about the Mission at San Juan Bautista, Scottie brings her there in hopes of curing her obsession. Bad move, Scottie -- Madeleine bolts to the bell tower. Scottie gives chase, but his vertigo paralyzes him halfway up the stairs (great spatial F/X here). He hears a woman screaming, sees a body fall past the window...and his beloved Madeleine is no more.

Or is she? After he recovers from a grief-induced nervous breakdown, Scottie spies shopgirl Judy Barton (the versatile Novak again). Except for her red hair and somewhat tacky fashion sense, Judy's a dead ringer for Madeleine! As their relationship grows, so does audience apprehension as Scottie obsessively tries to give Judy the ultimate makeover, recreating his lost love. (Where's the WHAT NOT TO WEAR crew when you need them? :-)) Judy's a quick study -- because she's really Madeleine! See, Judy was Elster's mistress, and he coached her to look and act like the real Madeleine Elster as part of a murder plot. 'Twas the real Mrs. Elster who died at the mission that day, and Elster's real purpose for poor Scottie was to witness the "suicide." Since Judy truly loves Scottie, has all the self-esteem of a squashed grape, and doesn't want to spill the murder plot, she's willing to play Eliza Doolittle to Scottie's macabre Henry Higgins. But the jig is up when, post-makeover, Judy wears a necklace Scottie recognizes as part of Madeleine's Carlotta Valdes collection. Furious at being played for a sucker, he takes Judy to the mission tower and forces her to confess. A black shape looms. Guilt-ridden Judy is so spooked by what turns out to be a curious nun (Judy must've gone to one of those tough parochial schools) that she loses her balance and falls...and a shattered Scottie loses his Madeleine a second, final time, looking like he wants to join her.

When I first saw VERTIGO in my college years during its 1980s re-release, I thought it was well worth seeing, but Scottie's necrophilic mania to recreate Judy as Madeleine really upset me. I found myself rooting for, angry at, and sorry for Scottie and Judy all at once. Stewart's portrayal of a man obsessed is tragic and unnerving; Hitchcock really knew how to tap into his leading man's dark side. As if the ghoulishness of Scottie's romantic obsession and the malleable Judy's heartbreaking lack of self-esteem weren't frustrating enough, even the department store salespeople and salon personnel in the film go along with Scottie's demands ("The gentleman certainly seems to know what he wants.") despite Judy's anguished protests. My husband Vinnie aptly noted that everyone on screen acted like Scottie was having a dog groomed.

On my first time around, it seemed to me that Hitchcock gave away the mystery's solution too soon, making the rest of the film anticlimactic. But my appreciation for VERTIGO grew over the years as I matured and learned more about life, people, and emotions. By the time we saw the beautifully restored version of VERTIGO at NYC's Ziegfeld Theatre in 1996, Judy's revelatory letter touched my heart and added to the suspense of waiting for the other shoe to drop for Scottie. There's no question that VERTIGO has long since become one of my favorite Hitchcock films!
Accomplished If Not "Fun" Hitchcock Drama
Considered by many to be Hitchcock's masterpiece, "Vertigo" may be tough to warm up to on a first viewing. It's an enigmatic and extremely slow-moving film, and it feels personal in ways that many of Hitchcock's other, more playful movies don't. You get the sense that Hitch is working through his personal demons on screen -- the fetishes and obsessions that played such a major role in so many of his films leading up to "Vertigo" feel like characters in and of themselves here.

James Stewart delivers a frightening performance as a man who plunges into a world of weird sexual obsession when a woman with whom he's formed a romantic attachment dies (or seems to). He finds another woman who looks amazingly like the first, and proceeds to force a complete physical makeover on her in an attempt to recreate his former love. Kim Novak plays the two women in her typical icy fashion; for once, her stilted, awkward acting works for a role and comes off as an attribute rather than a liability.

In its new remastered life on DVD, "Vertigo" looks stunning. San Francisco and its surroundings are bathed in ethereal, dream-like lighting, and Hitchcock pays more attention to art direction and the use of color than he ever had previously. Also, there's that amazing swirling Bernard Herrmann score that haunts the film, and accompanies one of the most memorable opening credits sequences ever filmed.

There are still a number of other Hitchcock films I would rather watch before "Vertigo," and many others that I would qualify as much more fun, but I can't deny that this one certainly has an allure.

Grade: A
A fall from grace...

I don't think that I have made an effort to like or, at least, respect any movie more than I have Alfred Hitchcock's VERTIGO. I have seen it maybe half a dozen times on the big and small screens, read reviews and analyses of it, as well as essays about it in a couple of Hitchcock biographies. I recognize just how it fits into Hitchcock's filmography and how it details his notorious obsessions. It is an important film as far as the study of Hitchcock is concerned. But, in the end, VERTIGO is just not a very good movie. I don't see why it is considered to be one of the greatest films of all time; indeed, I wouldn't even place it in Hitchcock's top twenty. Instead of appreciating it more each time I view it, I find myself resenting the way it distracts from Hitchcock's better efforts.

The premise -- basically a variation of "Frankenstein" by way of a dark and brooding "My Fair Lady" -- involves a man's attempt to reshape a woman into the image of a woman he thought he loved and lost, not realizing they are the same woman. The concept is intriguing in theory, but largely unbelievable in execution.

The film is told in two halves, the first being a detective story. It involves the type of ludicrously contrived murder scheme that only works in old self-mocking whodunits ("'You see,' explained Nick to Nora, in between sips of his martini, 'Gavin had to use Scottie as his patsy, because a man who was not deathly afraid of heights might have climbed to the top of the bell tower and discovered....'") You get the idea. Almost like a trial run for the far superior PSYCHO, Hitchcock concocts a convoluted thriller storyline which ultimately only serves as a set up for the psychological drama in the second half. This may be the only aspect of the film that shows Hitchcock's genius: using a far-fetched mystery narrative as a way of luring the viewer into the murkier melodrama that is the real center of the story. But, it seems Hitchcock was so fascinated in elements of the latter part of the story that he wasn't concerned with the plot holes and dubious logic that make the first half largely unbelievable. And, unfortunately, part two is hopelessly entangled in the clumsy web spun in part one.

It is part two of the story that also fascinates the film's admirers (who tend to ignore or forgive the sloppy set up of part one). Having established that James Stewart as Scottie, has fallen in love with Kim Novak's Madeline, only to see her apparently commit suicide, the film introduces Judy, also Novak, who is a dead ringer for Madeline. On meeting Judy, one would think that a trained detective like Scottie would immediately be suspicious and begin to investigate her past, instead he starts playing Henry Higgins and begins training Judy to again look and act like "Madeline." Judy, who should realize that Scottie can implicate her in a murder, plays along, presumably because she has fallen madly in love with Scottie. But basically, no one does anything logical in this film, everybody being hopeless enslaved by the rather silly plot, rather than by obsessive love or psychological turmoil. The film just doesn't stand up to close scrutiny, either dramatically or psychologically.

Okay, films, especially Hitchcock's, are less about plot than style. But even so, the film is substandard, especially for a Hitchcock film. There are a few clever shots and striking images, but that is overshadowed by slow pacing, a very hokey dream sequence and stilted dialogue. And there are some odd choices involving the use of color that prove particularly annoying. At first, I thought the muddy, muted look of the film was the result of badly aged prints, but seeing the restored version proves this not to be the case. And for some reason, Jimmy Stewart's face seems bright orange in every print of the film I have seen. The look of the film is so annoying, that the last time I watched it, I turned the color off on my TV set. The film actually plays better in black and white, reflecting its pulp film noir elements.

It seems that the reason the film's reputation has skyrocketed over the years has less to do with Hitchcock's skill at making it, than that VERTIGO represents a convenient checklist of all his phobias, fetishes and obsessive visions. Those who have laboriously defended the film seem to skim over the gaping holes in its logic, dwelling on the film's paper-thin psychology: The film's protagonist Scottie representing Hitchcock and his not-so healthy desire to control and abuse women of a certain type. Okay, maybe that is so. But a psychological profile is not necessarily the same as a work of art -- or even passable entertainment. Hitchcock may -- or may not -- be revealing his psyche more in this film than in any other he ever made, which makes it Jim-dandy for discussion of his entire career, but that doesn't mean VERTIGO stands up on its own.

Rather than representing the epitome of what the name Hitchcock stands for, VERTIGO should represent some sort of embarrassment. The story is poorly plotted and poorly told. Novak and Barabra Bel Geddes give solid performances, but Stewart is just terrible in the central role; it just may be is worst screen performance. And Hitchcock's stylistic touches seem self-consciously obvious, detracting form the drama rather than underscoring it. But, as a dress rehearsal for what he would soon accomplish, VERTIGO works decently enough. The red herring first act, the unexpected death of the leading lady, the psychologically scarred protagonist with necrophilic leanings (played by an actor with an established boy-next-door image), the denial of a one woman's death by creating the illusion she exists in another person's body; these are all elements that would rise again in PSYCHO, Hitchcock's true masterpiece. PSYCHO realizes the vision that VERTIGO only promises.
Love, love, love this movie!
Okay, so I love this movie just a little! But what's not to love! One Of Hitchcock's greatest movies in my opinion. There are so many good characters in this movie - but I almost think my favorite character is the city of San Francisco. Not really, it's Jimmy Stewart. BUT San Fran sure figures prominently in the movie. What a gorgeous city. Perhaps I'm a little partial because my husband & I spent our honeymoon there 20 years ago. The cinematography alone is worth seeing this movie as it is filmed beautifully. Also, there is some artistic twists like the green lights and haze in Novaks apartment.

This movie is definitely a great plot twister the 1st time you see it. It of course loses some of the bang with subsequent viewings since you know the twist. However, subsequent viewings are still enjoyable as I always notice different tidbits and details I didn't catch before.

I love Jimmy Stewart in his love-sick puppy, obsession role. I love the title theme music. It starts creating tension right off the bat, and keeps your pulse going throughout the movie, anticipating what is going to happen next.

I just recently re-watched the movie (probably my 5-6th time) with my 14 year old daughter, who was seeing it for the first time. I had yet been able to convince her to watch any old, classic movies with me ( too old fashioned in her mind). But for whatever reason, she agreed this time. And what a great 1st classic movie for her to see. I was surprised but she not only stuck with it all the way to the end, but was actually somewhat riveted throughout the movie! What surprised me is she somewhat predicted the ending ahead of time. That kind of shocked me because I never saw it coming the first time I watched.

I'm not sure why, but Midge's character creeps me out more with each viewing. Especially the painting scene - she seems like a stalker, obsessed lover. But Bel Geddes plays her beautifully.

You definitely have to see this movie. It is one of Hitchcock's best!
Obsession with mystery
The basic plot: An ex-police officer with fear of heights is assigned by a friend of his to keep an eye on his seemingly off-the-edge of sanity wife , but he soon becomes enamored with Madeliene and when she commits suicide ,he finds another girl with a passing resemblance to her who he has clothed, dressed , and done ultra-specifically like Madeliene, but then he learns her secret......

The praise: Incredibly dreamy and cool, actually an allegory of the human love of the difficult and mysterious, the strange and the icy(Madeliene), over the plain and familiar( Midge, his ex-fiancee ), and the natural urge to explore and obsess with the strange,scary and beautiful in the human sex urges. Oh,yeah and James Stewart and Kim Novak are truly great in their respective roles. Jimmy Stewart is near-perfect as the mild-mannered soul with kernels of obsession both sexual and for a single mysterious woman , with a phobic fear of heights, known as Scotty. Kim Novak is perhaps perfect, drawing on wells of truly deep emotion and currents of beauty untold. Oh yeah, there is a great swooning Bernard Herrman score. It is the most stylish movie , elegantly photographed and designed with a truly elegant beauty that is both modern,old, and religious.There also is great suspense along the way , thrills,chills and mood. Perfect Hitchcock. Must-see.

The flaws: The ending is too uncharacteristic and pat of the rest of the film.

Awful garbage
The use of colour is probably the only good thing about this slow and boring, overlong, dated film. The first half is much too long and slow and the repetitive driving scenes quickly become very tiresome. Kim Novak was always a poor actress, and looks ridiculous with her bleached platinum blond hair and thick dark eyebrows. Far too many scenes take place in the studio on very fake looking sets with painted backdrops. The opening scene is ruined because it is so fake, not that cops would be chasing a criminal over rooftops anyway. By far the worst thing however is the dreadful miscasting of Grandfather Stewart as Scottie. Stewart was clearly far too old to be playing romantic leads at this point in his career and he was actually more than twice Kim Novak's age (she was 24 and he was 49, though he looked at least 55). His grey wig is laughably bad and he just looks like an ugly old man chasing after his granddaughter. With a younger, better looking actor like Marlon Brando the film might have at least been watchable.
Alfred Hitchcock's Pre-"Psycho" Psycho
Vertigo has got to be one of the most absurd and disturbing movies about men and their "modern-day" mental illnesses that I have ever seen. It's true.

The mental illness that I'm talking about here is, of course - Men's totally twisted and fanatical obsession about having complete and absolute control over women.

You know, I'd say that when it comes to one of Hitchcock's most psychotic "movie-psychos" of all-time - Scottie Ferguson here in Vertigo makes Norman Bates from Psycho look, by comparison, as if he were "normal", yes, NORMAL. I mean, Scottie was one really whacked-out maniac, that's for sure!

Personally, I think that director Alfred Hitchcock went way too far out on a shaky limb with this one. And, being way out there, he ended up losing his balance and, literally, getting "vertigo", himself. This film is nothing but a bird's eye view of a supremely grotesque freak show with Scottie (representing the average American psycho, I mean, the average American male) as the main monster of attraction.

At a running time of 130 minutes, Vertigo really only begins to pick up steam in the last 30 minutes. The first 100 minutes of it is just endlessly drawn out 'build-up', extremely drab, most of it.
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