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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
Fine puzzler from Hitchcock.
The initial critical verdict of Vertigo was that it was not one of Alfred Hitchcock's better films. Time has turned it into his most analyzed and revisited movie and, in the eyes of many, his masterpiece. I still don't subscribe to the opinion that this is Hitchcock's greatest film (give me The Thirty Nine Steps, Foreign Correspondent or North By Northwest) but it is certainly a wonderfully absorbing mystery, and the original indifference that greeted the film from critics and audiences was totally unjust. It takes multiple viewings to fully appreciate what Hitchcock is up to in this movie - it is a sophisticated and multi-layered film that grows in stature the more times you view it.

San Francisco cop John "Scottie" Ferguson (James Stewart) has a hair-raising escapade on a rooftop while chasing a robber. Thereafter, he develops vertigo (a fear of heights) and retires from the force. Some while later Scottie is contacted by his old friend Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore) who wants to hire him for a little unofficial private detective work. Elster is worried by his wife's increasingly outlandish behaviour - she seems to go into a dreamy state of mind and wanders off for hours on end without any explanation as to where she has been. Scottie's job is to tail her and learn where she goes. The mystery thickens when Scotties starts following Madeline Elster (Kim Novak).... the more he learns about her and her wanderings, the more it seems that she is possessed by the spirit of her long-deceased ancestor Carlotta Valdes. Eventually Scottie saves Madeline when she tries to drown herself in San Francisco Bay, and soon after they fall in love. But just as Scottie begins to make headway into her psychological problems, she kills herself by leaping from a bell tower. Scottie is left in a state of mental shock but later, following his release from hospital, he bumps into a woman named Judy (Novak again) who is the exact double of Madeline....

Hitchcock generates a stunning air of mystery with Vertigo, coaxing brilliant performances from Stewart and Novak and using the location of San Francisco as almost a third leading "character" in his story. Stewart's obsession with Novak, and his descent into madness as he grieves over his inability to protect her, is brilliantly portrayed. As ever - in fact, more so than ever - Hitchcock keeps the audience off-balance with his disorientating camera work, ingenious plotting and atmospheric use of colour. Bernard Herrmann contributes a haunting score (his fourth for Hitchcock) that heightens the passion and suspense even further. The solution when it comes is extremely clever, and proves (as if proof is needed) that Hitchcock has a masterful touch when it comes to clever plot twists. The film's chief drawbacks, for me, are the excessively studied pacing in the first half, and the somewhat abrupt ending. On the whole, though, this is a superb film which is always a pleasure to come back to.
2007-08-07
A Sad Disappointment
It's always tough to be the odd man out, it's even harder to be just that on a film by one of your favorite filmmakers. Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo is often considered one of the all-time greats for the Master of Suspense, and it really pains me to disagree with the vast majority, but that is how these things often go.

Vertigo tells the story of a retired San Francisco detective played by Jimmy Stewart who suffers from vertigo. Stewart's character is hired by an old friend to tale the friend's wife who has been exhibiting odd behavior recently, her husband believing she is channeling the spirit of a 19th century woman. The premise is well set up, and the starting paces play out superbly, but when the story starts trying to explain all of the supernatural with a Sherlock Holmes-style deduction, I find the film hard to swallow. The film becomes more far-fetched when it tries to explain realistically all of the supernatural events rather than just letting it be a ghost story. As well, the romance between the characters played by Stewart and Kim Novak, who portrays the woman Stewart is following, just develops too quickly to be believable.

As I said, it pains me to talk such as this. The film had been so built up before I finally saw it, that I guess I expected something completely different than what I got, but what I got was something that started out as one thing, and then midway through the film transformed into another that just negated all of the things I loved about the first half of the film. Want my advice, if you love Hitch, try Rear Window or North by Northwest. Way more suspense, way more mystery, and way more fun.

I give Vertigo a 4 out of 10!
2010-06-27
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!
2008-07-07
Over-rated sellout
Alfred Hitchcock is the master of thrills and mysteries... so knowing that he made this just makes me hate it even more.

Every old Hollywood glam cliché is thrown at you. you like elegant women staring off into the horizon? damsels in distress? Kissing on the beach and the waves crash in the background?

This movie's got you covered!

The plot is straight forward enough, you know what's happening ten minutes in, what the movie banks on however is your investment in the character and watching their decent into obsession.

The actors were pretty good (though those eyebrows were distracting... did she use a sharpie to make them?) and the overall movie very scenic but it didn't feel like a Hitchcock movie until the very last scene, that's you're only clue to who could have this twisted sense of justice. otherwise it just felt like a sell-out, this is popular so do this, people like that so add it in...

One of my least liked movies by Hitchcock, skip it and watch a good one like rear window.
2016-05-18
Among the very best.
In Boileau-Narcejac's French novel "D'Entre les Morts"= from among the Dead"),the revelation only comes in the last pages,but Hitchcock lets the cat out of the bag long before the end. Boileau-Narcejac's novel is a pure detective story,but the Master wanted more:the movie already outdistances the book in a first part visually wonderful,with memorable scenes,wrapped in mystery ,such as the one with the sequoia,symbol of immortality or the one down by the sea,to rival with the best romantic movies of all time.In the second part,Hitchcock explains in the Truffaut's book,we know but Scottie( James Stewart) does not .And he tries to recreate a dead woman,to transform Judy into Madeleine.This folie à deux ends where the first tragedy occurred ,which gives the movie a strength that the book had not.Read it and you'll realize how its end ,speaking in terms of cinema,had to be modified for the screen.That's Hitchcock's genius.

When Boileau/Narcejac learned that Hitchcock wanted to transfer "Celle Qui N'Etait PLus " (=les Diaboliques" )to the screen,they immediately wrote "D'Entre les Morts " on the same pattern for Hitchcock to direct.
2001-08-12
A Masterpiece of Obsession
While pursuing a criminal on the roofs of the buildings in San Francisco, Detective John "Scottie" Ferguson (James Stewart) has a severe trauma when his partner falls off the roof trying to save him. He suffers from acrofobia and is retired from the police force, since his fear of heights provokes vertigo on him. He is contacted by the former mate from college Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), who runs the shipyard of his wife Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak), and Gavin asks him to follow his wife. Gavin explains that she has an odd behavior and seems to be possessed by the spirit of Carlotta Valdes, having blanks of memory every now and then and presenting suicidal tendencies. The skeptical Scottie follows the beautiful blonde on the next morning: she buys some flowers and is drawn to places from the past related to Carlotta Valdes, visiting her grave in an ancient cemetery; staring her portrait for a long time in a museum; and finally moving to the Hotel McKittrick where Carlotta lived. In the end of the day, Scottie reports his findings to Gavin. When Madeleine jumps in the water of San Francisco Bay, Scottie rescues her and brings her home. He has a crush on her and they fall in love for each other. When they go together to a mission outside San Francisco, Madeleine runs to the bell tower of the church and the disabled Scottie is unable to reach her; she jumps off the tower, committing suicide. There is a trial and the traumatized Scottie is interned with a breakdown. When he is discharged from the hospital, he meets the brunet seller Judy Barton by chance and her resemblance with Madeleine is amazing. Scottie approaches to Judy and expect to have a second chance in love until he sees a souvenir of a killing.

"Vertigo" is a masterpiece of obsession of Alfred Hitchcock. The timeless complex story is perfect and full of suspense and psychological and sexual tensions. Kim Novak is extremely sexy and has an extraordinary performance in her double role and James Stewart is awesome as usual performing a charismatic character that becomes obsessed when he sees Judy. Barbara Bel Geddes performs an important support character that helps to develop James Stewart's character. The open conclusion is also excellent and the music score is also spectacular and gives a suspenseful touch of class to this film. This time, the cameo of Alfred Hitchcock is walking in front of the entrance of the shipyard carrying what seems to be a musical instrument. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "Um Corpo que Cai" ("A Body that Falls")
2009-12-05
I Adore Hitch: Bores Me To Tears
Spoilers Ahead:

Do not take just my opinion about this movie. My family contains two other Hitch collectors and nobody has this in their collection. I have 39 steps and The Lady Vanishes, Foreign Correspondent. This movie is simply boring beyond belief. There is a reason this was one of Hitch's worst box office performers. Since then, it has become a Rorshach test for people's projective values into the movie. They see so much; I am sorry, Freud said projection is almost an unavoidable human failing. When I read so many of these, really it is inside of you not the movie. The narrative is straight forward: a man commissions Stewart to watch his wife, Kim Novak, because she is acting crazy. She seems to be transforming into some woman in a painting. The movie follows Stewart tooling about following her. This is the central flaw in the movie. Long periods of the movie are Stewart driving here and there first following the putative wife, after she appears to have jumped off the building, he follows a look alike that he inadvertently runs into. She has red not blond hair but her face is a dead ringer for the dead wife he failed to protect. He is publicly humiliated at a hearing though exonerated criminally. The endless following, which consumes the movie is why the title is a misnomer. Stewart's vertigo while important is not the bulk of the movie: Obsession that is what the movie is about.

From the beginning, intelligent viewers suspect the man who hires Stewart, the sight of her suicide being so congruent with his weakness, trust me, you will figure out halfway through this bore fest what is going on right away. In my living room, guys were yelling out,"Yeah, he hired him cause he's up there with the dead wife already, come on." Do not let the movie's length fool you, it feels like Ben Hur only slower. Hitch was a genius but all great men make mistakes this is Hitch's greatest one followed later by The Trouble With Harry. All three of the Hitch collectors, in my family, got this in a multi Hitch Blu Ray collection and all three of us threw it away. Boring like no other Hitch movie, devoid of action except at the beginning and ending; it is one long following a woman all about town. Shadow Of A Doubt I consider to be his best, better than the more acclaimed Psycho or Rear Window; that is slow but there is more going on under the surface than Stewart driving all over town following the two women.

This is why it bombed at the box office. In the movie Hitchcock, when Alfred proposes Psycho, the executives first words are,"Is this going to be another Vertigo? You know, where we lost our shirts?" Some of Hitch's earlier movies, like Foreign Correspondent or Jamaica Inn, have slow parts: this is a slow movie with tiny scenes of action. You will likely be asleep by then. My review is easy: Do you really not enjoy Hitchcock? Disliked some of his films? Do not watch the movie. If you adore every Hitch: give it a try but do not say I didn't warn you. I think the dreadful Motionless Picture moves faster. A long coma inducer which has been canonized into a reputed masterpiece. When it was released, audiences left in droves for a reason, watch the movie.
2015-07-27
overwhelming
The score, the post-transformation kiss, the ending. I've seen Vertigo six times now and it still thrills me.

James Stewart is just plain brilliant as Scotty. He starts off as a light-hearted, good natured guy and becomes very manipulative, very single-minded, very scary, very un-Stewart-like. And yet, even as he's leading the woman he thought he was in love with up the stairs in an emotionally manic frenzy, Scotty's still a completely sympathetic character. He's manhandling Judy, screaming at her, and at that moment you can really *feel* that his heart has been ripped from chest. You don't want Judy to come to harm, but you can't begrudge Scotty his rage either. Whatever happens, you know there can be no happy ending. And as Scotty stands in the bell tower looking down at his lover's corpse for the second time, you and he are utterly crushed. Now *that's* cinema.
2005-10-11
VERY boring
I really don't understand all the positive reviews. I was curious before watching but also critical (I've read all the positive reviews on 'Psycho' : one of the worst movies of all time and a big disappointment for me). Don't think I hate "all old movies". For instance ; I watched 'Citizen Kane' and 'Casablanca' after reading all the positive comments. That ARE two very good classics I'm positive about.

Now VERTIGO : NO SUSPENSE !! NOWHERE NEVER NEVER NEVER !!!! And just a dull story about Judy 'possessed by her grandma' (hehe) and Scottie , who suffers from vertigo (hehe) , who's 'obsessed' (with her). It's 'love at first sight' (hehe) when they meet. I have to admit that one plot twist was unexpected (NOT : surprising , (understand....?) ) and that the story of Psycho is worse. There were also some nice (1958) visuals.

The plot is NOT hard to follow , please.......

The ending is SO predictable. TOO predictable. EXTREMELY predictable. Also stupid. And NOT dramatic.

The fact that Vertigo is an unbelievable story doesn't bother me. I have no problems with unbelievable stories. I'm not saying the acting or directing is bad , that's not the problem. The problem is VERTIGO.

Watching it in 1958 I also wouldn't have liked it.

I really tried hard....

(I remembered the "beautiful setting in San Francisco" and "Judy stepping out of the bathroom" after reading some reviews........ thanks for reminding me , hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaaaaaa !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
2000-06-28
A Hitchcock Masterpiece
Many believe that this was greatest work of a master renowned for the outstanding direction of suspense thrillers. Alfred Hitchcock creates a vortex of emotion and deception in this classic film about obsession.

There are so many complex themes to this story that it requires several viewings to appreciate. It metamorphoses numerous times, shifting from a detective story, to a love story, to a murder mystery, and finally to neurotic obsession. It is a deep character study of flawed characters. Some are not what they appear to be and others change before our eyes.

Hitchcock's direction is superb, not only from the standpoint of assembling the story, but from a technical perspective as well. The photography, lighting and perspectives are brilliantly done and locations wonderfully selected, especially the shots at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. Hitchcock also brings forth outstanding performances from Kim Novak and James Stewart. Stewart generally played admirable and heroic characters in his career so the deeply flawed John Ferguson was a clear departure for him. This is probably his best and most gut wrenching performance and I don't think it would have been possible without Hitchcock's direction because Hitchcock was the master of bringing such characters to life. Novak and Barbara Bel Geddes (most famous as Miss Ellie on TV's `Dallas') also give excellent performances.

Bernard Herrmann's musical score is superlative. It is beautiful, compelling and chilling and brought additional power to almost every scene. Hitchcock had such great respect for Herrmann that he stated during production that whether the scenes of the film worked or not depended completely on the music Herrmann would write. He trusted that Herrmann would create just the right mood, and he was correct.

The DVD version presents us with a completely restored version of the film with rich color and powerful sound. The new DVD is the only way to watch this film if one hopes to experience it the way it was originally presented in 1958.

This film is ranked number 61 on AFI's top 100 movies of the century. I rated it a 10/10. It was virtually ignored at the Academy Awards garnering only two nominations for set decoration and sound. However, it endures in the opinion of many as one of the best suspense thrillers ever made.
2001-01-02
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