A boat has been destroyed, criminals are dead, and the key to this mystery lies with the only survivor and his twisted, convoluted story beginning with five career crooks in a seemingly random police lineup.
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
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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