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Vertigo
Year:
1958
Country:
USA
Genre:
Crime, Thriller, Mystery, Romance, Film-Noir
IMDB rating:
8.4
Director:
Alfred Hitchcock
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
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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Reviews
Terrible, terrible, terrible
"Terrible" is the word that comes to mind to describe this movie.

The overall plot and interaction between characters is so implausible that at one point I began laughing at how bizarre it became.

The main character (Scottie) is a retired police detective/former lawyer. He comes off as a gigantic dimwit. Clueless throughout the entire film, clumsy, unsure of himself and completely gullible. He doesn't act, talk or carry himself like you would expect someone playing the role of "clever detective" to. It would have made much more sense to cast him as something more mundane like a professor or accountant. At least then it would give credence to the irrational decisions you wouldn't expect a detective/lawyer to be making. Of course, the reason for this character's profession was to give reason for his friend's request he act as a private investigator (which could have been just as plausible with any profession, in my opinion).

For example, if you're going to covertly tail someone you probably shouldn't stand 3 feet behind them staring at their hair.

The script was rushed and I agree with criticisms that Hitchcock did so to fit it within 2 hours. For example, Scottie falls in love with Madeleine even though he's met her only several times. We're supposed to believe he's truly in love with her but from my perspective he comes off as a guy with a hard-on for a hot blond. Even the most desperate romantics would be wary of a woman exhibiting psychotic behavior that you don't even know that well, right? I also think if the viewer is expected to care about Scottie's despair/struggles, they probably shouldn't have made him what most today would be considered a home wrecker. There wasn't even an "oh gee, I feel kind of bad for starting an affair with a married woman, let alone married to one of my friends".

The acting is over the top. I thought "Midge" delivered the best performance but unfortunately her role served almost no purpose to the overall plot.

The facial expressions became an annoyance. It was almost insulting that the viewer can't be expected to notice something without doing close up shots followed by Scottie's overly exaggerated eye-squinting and head cocking.

This was all set to the most annoying part of the film: suspenseful violin music. It was like a 5 minute track set on loop for the whole film.

Overall, I was just purely disappointed. The plot didn't make sense. The script was over the top. The acting was terrible. I couldn't find much about this film I found entertaining.
2016-02-15
The Dizzy Heights of Excellence
Retired detective, who is scared of heights, is hired to follow another mans wife and there follows intrigue, mystery and suspense. A super melodrama! The acting,directing, sets, costumes, script, music, etc are all excellent. And near the start of the film there is one brilliant 10 minute period when there is no dialogue but the action is controlled only by the music. A sensational analysis of the movie is by Roger Ebert: see external reviews. This picture is worthy of maximum marks.
2004-04-29
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.
2001-08-02
A fascinating psychological suspense masterpiece which worked on the audience on several levels...
Scottie Ferguson is a retired detective with a paralyzing fear of heights… He had quit detective work after he sees a colleague falling to his death, and nearly he looses his own life at the same time while chasing a crook across some San Francisco rooftops…

An old college friend gives him the job of following his blonde wife Madeleine who had some kind of mental problem or might even be possessed from beyond the grave by a figure from the past whose portrait she stares at in a museum…

Scottie follows Madeleine around San Francisco and when she tries to drown herself in San Francisco Bay, he rescues her and falls promptly in love with her… But Scottie' s vertigo made him powerless to save her when she climbed to the top of the bell tower at the mission at San Juan Batista, and jumped from the tower to her fatal end…

Scottie must spend the second part of the movie regaining from the trauma… His loyal ex-fiancée Midge helps him overcome his psychological torment…

One year later, completely recovered from his nervous breakdown, he meets a red-haired woman who seems the living image of Madeleine...

Stewart gives a terrific performance of a man recognizing his own limits, suffering by his acrophobia... When he is given the chance to pursue this enigmatic woman, his boring life takes on new meaning... He is drawn into her romantic obsession with the past… Madeline makes him feel important in her life… This is something totally new to his world: a lovely straight-forward woman who takes him into a haunting dream... When he fails to keep her alive, his real world was suddenly shattered…

Stewart delivers an accurate portrait of an annoyed human being searching for the unattainable… He is a pragmatic man dealing with events in the light of his intuition…

Kim Novak is so delicate as Madeleine… Her performance is skilled and highly refined… She is a pretty woman, very sensitive, not sensual, yet conscious of her charm and magic…

This fascinating suspense masterpiece reveals something new with each viewing…

Note: Hitchcock appears after eleven minutes of the beginning of the film, walking past a Shipbuilding Co.
2009-02-09
Oh Dear - What a MESS!
This film is exceedingly annoying to watch - unless you happen to be one of the multitude of pretentious fools who think their intellect is better than everyone else's because they "get it". Well, I have news for those dumb-asses: There is nothing to get.

Vertigo is plodding, annoying, and the pacing is terrible. The characters do not act like real people; it's yet another film where this is the case. What makes it all the more infuriating is that there IS a clever story buried under all the sewage, clawing to get out. And it never does. Even at the end, there's a brief moment where things actually make sense - where there is some semblance of reality - only for it to be dashed by one of the most ludicrous finales I HAVE EVER SEEN. It's THAT BAD. That ending would be laughed out of the cinema today (and probably was back then), but because this film is considered a 'classic', it's applauded as some kind of masterpiece. It isn't. It's just an exceedingly daft finale to a grossly unrealistic film.

The only way I could possibly enjoy Vertigo is if I had very little logical thinking. Unfortunately for all the die-hard movie buffs masturbating in unison, I am not a conformist who feels a need to nod their head in agreement, just because society says I am in the presence of brilliance. I was not in the presence of brilliance, just stupidity. The emperor has no clothes.

My rating: 1/5.
2015-11-05
Hitchcock's most stunning achievement. A fascinating masterpiece which improves with each year and viewing.
I get a bit tongue-tied talking about Hitchcock's greatest movies because they are just so remarkable, so astonishing, so entertaining, so multi-levelled, that it's very difficult to put into words what makes them great. Hitchcock made some of the greatest movies ever made, and 'Vertigo', though by no means his most accessible film, is quite possibly his crowning achievement. It is without any doubt a masterpiece, and I cannot fault it in any way. Every time I watch it I am knocked out, and every time I see something new, some nuance or moment that I appreciate more than I did the previous viewing. Jimmy Stewart, one of the most popular movie star in Hollywood history, gives a remarkable performance throughout, one of the best in his career. Stewart had worked with Hitchcock before, and had always been superb, especially in the much copied suspense classic 'Rear Window' a few years prior to this, but he plays against type in 'Vertigo' and is jaw-droppingly good. It's difficult to remember now that 'Vertigo' is regarded as a movie milestone, that it received many bad reviews when it was originally released, and was a relative failure for Hitchcock. A lot of this had to do with Stewart's intense performance I think, and also the difficult subject matter. 'Vertigo' is essentially a tale of sexual obsession, something most people were probably not expecting at the time! Almost as good as Stewart is Kim Novak ('The Man With The Golden Arm') in a role that she will always be remembered for. 'Vertigo' is a virtuoso piece from Hitchcock, and a movie that will no doubt continue to inspire other film makers over the years to come. However the most important thing about it is that it is still wonderful viewing, and a movie experience that you will never forget. In my mind it is one of the three of four greatest American movies. Simply astonishing.
2003-01-15
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.
2007-11-01
The Most Overrated Film of All Time
Vertigo is a decent film, but it is not the greatest film of all time. Far from it. Without Hitchcock's name attached to it, the film would be ranked far lower than it is. If you read all of the glowing, pretentious reviews of this film before you watch it, then you're likely setting yourself up for disappointment. Orson Welles thought Vertigo was a very bad film. I disagree. It's an okay film that's worth watching, but it's not worth the accolades that it has received from modern critics.

The Good: Jimmy Stewart. Bernard Herrmann's score. Some of the scenery.

The Bad: It drags along, then drags some more. Midge - Why was she even in this film? A plot that is predictable, yet convoluted.
2017-04-03
I love Hitchcock but...
Although often regarded as one of Hitchcock's finest thrillers, Vertigo failed to impress me as much as I had hoped. There are the expected Hitchcock visual flourishes (plus one really trippy scene that is downright freaky), the dreamlike score by Bernard Hermann is suitably eerie, and Barbara Bel Geddes plays a fun character, but most other aspects of this so-called classic left me cold.

James Stewart is rather wooden in his role but is suitably matched by Kim Novak, whose pencilled eyebrows have more screen presence than the rest of her (not surprising given how huge they are!); Hitch must have been directing on Valium, such is the slowness of the pace; and the story is really mundane, with little in the way of excitement or suspense save for the opening rooftop chase scene. Quite what other Hitchcock fans are raving about when they claim this is amongst his best work is beyond me—I struggled to stay awake.
2013-09-26
quick reviews!
yes, quick, as others reviewers have gone into greater depth, and i can't add anything new.Oh baby, what a film! 1958!!! This has plot twists, even effects that put movies of today to shame. One of the most complex films ever made, with something new arising with each viewing, I think this, along with The Seven Samurai, is the best movie of all time. The first time I watched it, I had no idea how it would end, and what would become of Scotty and Madeleine. My only qualm is the fact that Midge completely disappears from the movie in the second half. Why?! It's not important though. Superbly shot, and immaculately directed, as always. 10 out of 10
2004-05-23
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