A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil and spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future.
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, because she believes she is possessed by a dead ancestor. Scottie is skeptical, but agrees after he sees the beautiful Madeleine. Written by
After additional location shoots at the Big Basin Redwoods State Park and the Spanish mission San Juan Bautista, the cast and crew settled in at Paramount Studios soundstages for two months of filming. In the studio, Alfred Hitchcock was in his element and could exert absolute control though he had his share of creative challenges. One very striking sequence is the kissing scene that occurs when Scottie has finally made Judy over as Madeleine. As the couple kiss, the background slowly swirls, and we lose equilibrium as we see Judy's apartment become the livery stables of San Juan Bautista, setting for an earlier emotional scene between Scottie and Madeleine. The shot was achieved with rear projection of the background plates; the camera tracking slowly back, then forward; and with James Stewart and Kim Novak revolving on a circular platform. These simultaneous movements were very difficult to coordinate, and to pull off without the actors getting dizzy - in one take Stewart fell and was slightly injured. Principal photography was completed three days after this shot, just before Christmas, 1957. See more »
When Scottie watches Judy on the street talking to her friends outside the flower shop, the same sailor walks past in the same direction, from right to left, twice within 10 seconds. See more »
(Forever Female), from Skylark (1941) (Poochie)
Composed by Victor Young
Orchestrated by Gus Levene
Played as 'cue 12D' by the orchestra while Scottie and Judy are dancing See more »
Starting in 1958, Alfred Hitchcock directed a remarkable sequence of films in a row, each of them a classic; Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960) and The Birds (1963). Never has a director made four such genuinely great movies in such a short space of time, either before or since.
The pick of this high standard bunch is undoubtedly Vertigo. From the opening titles, with their circling spiral imagery, to the dramatic final scene this is a movie that takes you to a different time and place. Specifically, to a San Francisco of the past; full of deserted parks, discrete rooming houses, oddly menacing art galleries and florists where the customers enter and exit through the back door. Through this landscape wanders Jimmy Stewart, towering in the lead roll as a former detective recently retired after a bungled arrest leaves him with chronic vertigo. Plot machinations lead him to the alluring Kim Novak (one of Hitchcock's famous "blondes"), the young wife of a friend who has started behaving rather oddly.
"To reveal more," as Leonard Maltin wrote, "would be unthinkable."
While the performances of Novak and Stewart are memorable, the movie is really set apart by the intelligent script and the stylistic touches provided by the director. Hitchcock is in his very best form creating hypnotic scenes and a general sense of unease and dread in even the most banal of situations. He is aided in this by the wonderful score of Bernard Herrman. A particular favourite of mine is the extended (largely silent) segment where Stewart follows Novak for the first time. Nothing much happens, but the atmosphere of these scenes is enough to keep you on the edge of your seat!
One of the all-time greats. They definitely don't make them like this anymore.
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