Reviewer's Rating 5 out of 5   User Rating 5 out of 5
Vertigo (1958)

'Scotty' Ferguson (James Stewart) is invalided out of the San Francisco Police Department when his acrophobia (fear of heights) inadvertently leads to the death of a colleague during a rooftop chase. With time on his hands, Scotty agrees to help an old friend whose wife Madeleine (Kim Novak) has been behaving strangely. He starts following her and gradually becomes aware of two things: one, Madeleine is experiencing amnestic fugues; and two, that he is falling in love with her. From then on, things just get worse for Scotty and never improve.

"Vertigo" is an enjoyably duplicitous film, full of artificiality in both the film-making (lots of back projection) and the story (things not being what we thought), in other words: pure Hitchcock. Added to this is composer Bernard Herrmann's particularly haunting score, with its falling and rising melody representing Scotty's giddy state of mind as his obsession with Madeleine escalates, and also the heights of the San Francisco locations he roams.

Watch out for a great piece of Hitchcock innovation to visually represent Scotty's vertigo: the simultaneous zoom-in and pull-back of the camera that creates a disorientating depth of field. This has been much copied by others, notably Steven Spielberg in "Jaws".

Like "Lawrence of Arabia", "Spartacus" and so many other classic films, proper care of "Vertigo" was neglected. Thankfully it was discovered before it was too late and fully restored, then re-released in 1997 in a 70mm print that approximated its original VistaVision format.

Hitchcock's "Vertigo" is a psycho-drama where he replaces the suspenseful set-piece with bitter emotion and twisted motive; and the absence of virtually any humour makes the relentlessness of Scotty's fated obsession all the more dark and harrowing.

End Credits

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Writer: Alec Coppel, Samuel Taylor

Stars: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes, Tom Helmore, Henry Jones

Genre: Drama, Thriller, Classic

Length: 124 minutes

Cinema: 1958

DVD: 20 April 2000

VHS: 2 August 1999

Country: USA

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