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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
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.
2004-11-22
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
Slow, boring, ridiculous, and predictable
I finally watched this old chestnut. I read somewhere that it was a flop when it came out but later became recognized as a classic. Apparently Alfred Hitchcock blamed James Stewart's being too old for the part. The two never worked together again. Well, Stewart wasn't the problem. The problem was the script, which is simply asinine. The public was right the first time: the movie is terrible.

The hero falls in love with a woman who is supposed to be nuts and who gives him no reason at all to fall in love with her. She has a few mad scenes with him but never engages in any conversation of any substance on any topic, never does any activities with him, etc. On top of that, she is his old friend's wife. Her only attraction is that she is good looking, but lust for a pretty woman isn't love, which is what the hero is supposed to feel. Totally implausible.

The movie runs 2 hours. There is a great deal of boring driving around San Francisco and the nearby California coast in the first half of the movie. I started looking at my watch at around 1:15 into the movie. Was this thing ever going to end? At about 1:30 the main plot is revealed. It is pretty silly and quite routine. The remaining 1/2 hour is torture. The plot gets more and more ridiculous, all the while getting more and more predictable. My impatience got more and more intense. When the truly idiotic end finally came, I was both relieved (over at last!) and outraged (what a waste of 2 hours).
2015-11-18
Get Lost in It.
Along with "Psycho", Hitchcock's best film that wraps itself around the viewer very fast and never does let go. San Francisco detective Jimmy Stewart is slowly going crazy due to a failed mission which did not work because of his intense fear of heights. This is all front-page news of course and Stewart is shamed about the whole event. But a ray of light shines as he gets a job to watch a man's wife (Kim Novak) who is supposedly having an affair with another man. Stewart believes this is his chance to put the past behind him, but sometimes the future is even darker. Stewart falls in love with Novak and the love turns into a dark and twisted obsession that becomes deeper and deeper as the film progresses. When tragedy strikes, that is the end. Right? Not quite. An amazing screenplay and arguably Hitchcock's greatest directing venture make the film solid and Stewart's stunning performance raises the whole project to a classic level. Somewhat ignored around the awards circuit in 1958, but ages beautifully as the years go by. 5 stars out of 5.
2002-07-06
Vertigo
Hitchcock was on a roll during that period. Vertigo is one of his most celebrated films, even though it's modeled after Rebecca in that it's 3 films rolled into one: a love story, a metaphysical thriller, and a suspense drama. Nevertheless, the difference between the Hitchcock of 1940 and the Hitchcock of 1958 is vast. The Hitchcock of Vertigo is a much more elaborate director, that dwells on the human psyche to fill the canvas. The human psyche is the protagonist, the suspense is just the background, or even a detail. Vertigo is a major work and an essay on neurosis and repressed desire.

The plot: John Ferguson is a retired detective suffering from acrophobia. A rich old friend (Gavin Elster) hires him to investigate the activities of his wife (Madeleine), who he believes is being possessed by the spirit of a dead ancestor (Carlotta Valdes). After seeing Madeleine, Ferguson agrees. Later on, we see that Madeleine half-lives in Carlotta Valdes' house, spends a lot of time in front of a Carlotta painting in a museum, and generally models her behaviour after Carlotta. Also, Madeleine suffers from blackouts, during which she isn't in control of herself. Ferguson forms a relationship with her. He then pressures her to get rid of the past by dwelling on it, visiting places where Carlotta lived etc. During such a visit, and in the same day Carlotta died, Madeleine commits suicide by falling from the bell-tower of a chapel. Ferguson is unable to rescue her due to his acrophobia.

Following this, Ferguson is placed in a mental hospital, suffering from catatonic depression. After some time, we find Ferguson released from the mental institution and in better shape. He then meets a woman who looks a lot like Madeleine. Nevertheless, the woman, Judy Barton, seems less perfect and more vulgar than Madeleine. Ferguson forms a relationship with her, and is trying to model her after Madeleine, buying her the same clothes etc. But during one of their encounters, the truth is revealed due to Barton's carelessness. She used the same jewelry as Madeleine. Barton and Madeleine is the same woman. In truth, Madeleine/ Barton was a "doppelganger" to Elster's wife. Elster hired her in order to kill his rich wife, and manipulated Ferguson's illness so that he was a witness to the "suicide". It was the wife, and not Madeleine that fell from the tower.

Unaware that Ferguson knows the truth, Barton continues the relationship and the "transformation" to Madeleine. She now is in love with Ferguson, but Ferguson is intent on freeing himself from his acrophobia. As Barton is completely transformed to Madeleine, Ferguson takes her to the same chapel and to the bell tower. Forcing her up, she confesses the truth. She claims she is in love with him. She then sees a shadow emerging, panics and falls into the void. It turns out that the shadow was just a nun. Ferguson stands and watches from above. He is cured.

...

This is not an easy film to analyze. It is very dense and has lots of hidden meaning beneath the surface. The most obvious theme is the one of fixation and impotence. Ferguson suffers from vertigo; Madeleine seems to be possessed by a dead spirit; Ferguson's friend Midge is in love with him but unable to express her love and conquer him; then when Madeleine dies Ferguson becomes obsessed with her.

Madeleine represents the ideal love, perfection.

In the meantime, there are some other interesting ideas floating in the background. One is that in the second half of the film we witness a reverse situation than that of the first half. In the first half, Elster and Madeleine manipulate Ferguson's impotence. In the second half, it is Ferguson that manipulates the less-than-perfect version of Madeleine (aka Barton), even though she regrets her accomplice and is genuinely in love with him.

The ending, as well as the first half, is shrouded in the metaphysical and supernatural. The shadow that Madeleine/ Barton sees could be anything: a ghost, her guilt, Elster, the dark side of her relationship with Ferguson etc. Ferguson models Barton after Madeleine with almost necrophiliac obsession. Just before the second time that Madeleine "dies", she and Ferguson kiss, representing the ephemeral happiness in vain. After she dies, Ferguson is freed from his impotence, but we don't know his feelings, we just see him watching from above. Basically Ferguson is haunted by his search for perfection (an ideal love, a god to believe in?). There is a clear parallel between that and his impotence (the vertigo). When he tries to transform the down-to-earth Barton to the perfect Madeleine, the illusion isn't working. In order to cure himself from the impotence, he kills her (he was the one that dragged her to the chapel).

Moreover, what the film seems to project is the vortex of the human psyche. Both in the first and the second half, the conclusion is the same: the woman dies. It's the behaviour of the male protagonist alters dramatically. In the supernatural first half, the protagonist is crippled, while in the down-to-earth second half, he is more free but also less happy.

The real moment Ferguson is freed is when he realizes the truth about Madeleine. Madeleine/ Barton is sitting in front of a mirror (representing the dual personality). Then Ferguson sees the jewel and immediately thinks of the portrait of Carlotta Valdes (a symbolism of the original sin? He and Madeleine had an adulterous affair after all). Vertigo projects the male-female relationship into the conflict between the human and the ideal (the supernatural, the belief in the perfect). But there is no way out. Both stories (the first and second half) are two sides of the same coin.
2007-01-19
dream vs. reality
Warning contains Spoilers - Hitchcock beautifully explores the need for illusion in Vertigo. Scottie, played by James Stewart, is a man who drifts without direction, who can't make up his mind about anything. He is deeply dissatisfied with the real world. He seemingly has a choice between two women. Midge is open, practical, and unexciting – a representative of life as it is. Madeleine is exotic, mysterious, complex, a perfect fantasy figure. He falls in love with Madeleine and lets her lead him into her world of drama and illusion. She becomes, for the audience as well as for him, the wish fulfillment of the dream woman. Two-thirds of the way through the movie, having strongly tied us to this character, Hitchcock betrayals us – she dies suddenly and inexplicably, we are disappointed and confused. We are, surprisingly as disoriented as Scottie is. Soon after, Hitchcock explains what has happened, and we realize that we have been deceived, with Scottie, by a cheap trick. Neither audience nor hero wants to believe it. We both want her back. We prefer the illusion, false as it is, to the reality. Through Scottie we are made to see and feel the consequences of rejecting real people for a dream. Judy, a graceless, uninteresting girl, has been impersonating Madeleine all along. Still obsessed with Madeleine, Scottie forces Judy to recreate her role for him. At first she resists, wanting to be loved for herself, but then, like so many of us, she agrees to conform to his image of her. Otherwise she will lose him.
2005-10-28
My favorite movie of alltime!
I have seen ALOT of movies in my life, but none have moved me the way Vertigo has...It's simply brilliant...the more times one views it, the more one picks up from it...a true masterpiece from the master himself...When I think Vertigo, I think the colors red and green...when I think Vertigo I think obsession with love, and the film itself...This movie is so deep that you could write a thesis on it and keep adding to it from time to time...Hitchcock really gave his all in this picture...it's about the ultimate love...wanting to achieve the ultimate love, and, as happens in life, never having love turn out to be the way we want it to be...all star performances by Stewart, Novak and Bel Geddes make this visually stunning masterpiece a true film classic...Newly restored, the DVD version simply blows you out of the water....I have seen the movie about 20 times now, and everytime I love it more...Vertigo is the ultimate cult film for me, as I keep going back to it more and more...considering it's dark storyline, it must be a glut for punishment, but Hitch only keeps me wanting more....10 stars...only because I can't give it 100 stars!
1999-08-25
Quite disappointing
If you put aside the romance between Stewart and Novak, little credible because of how fast it develops, the plot is rather interesting despite the usual conveniences. The script holds up well until Judy's twist that annihilates the good work done so far with the flashback and the letter unsubtly brought up. Then, the last 30 minutes are a burden, the story struggling to get a second wind, until a ruined final outcome, far too abrupt.

It's a shame because the potential was there but the end result lacks consistency, homogeneity, and the movie doesn't seem fully accomplished, at least not enough to rank it as one of the director's best nor as an all-time great.

As always with Hitchcock, the direction and mise-en-scène are good. Special mention to the beautiful score by Bernard Herrmann that emphasizes perfectly the intriguing atmosphere of Vertigo.
2013-03-04
Hitchcocks most boring among his "classics"
I love North by Northwest, Birds and Psycho.

But Vertigo is too long and too boring.

The story in it self is interesting enough but it should have been at least half an hour shorter. Especially because the ending (Judy and the Madeleine is the same person) is obvious from the moment he knocks on her door. Also why would they pull off a staged suicide that well and she would be dumb enough to stay in the city in the exact same room? Why didn't they just made it seem like the wife was murdered and frame John for the murder? How can John just leave a place where he's been committed?

And most importantly: why did Hitchcock insist on using crappy studio shots for almost every outdoor location, whenever the actors were talking?? This actually annoyed me so much that I had a hard time concentrating on enjoying the movie!! Even in 1958 those awful background matte paintings must have looked so fake. Or the scene in the forest or by the ocean or the bay where it's all studio shots!! Or the night painting of the city in Midges apartment!! Or every shot of an actor driving with a fake background in the rear window.

It seems profoundly stupid, when they had already shot a lot outside!! I just don't get why???
2016-02-19
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