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Vertigo More at IMDbPro »

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Sensation of Vertigo is hard to overcome, really a masterpiece!

Author: ali ilyas ( from Lahore, Pakistan
19 April 2006

This movie is a trademark specialty of Hitchcock. Again his movie hero (Jimmy Stewart) is not a normal person but is haunted by height phobia and is about to enter into the most bizarre experience of his life. As the name suggest the movie throttles your mind at its best. Due to nature of the script the movie is slow tempered from the first half but its sure that it will mesmerizes you. The most significant aspect of the movie is that it keeps you continuously in the whirlpool of tension and ambiguity .You never know how the movie will end and this is the best part! Jimmy Stewart is once more very much convincing and Kim Novak also delivers her best performance, and no words to adjudicate Alfred Hitchcock's immaculate direction .The movie is 10/10

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Fantastic, not perfect

Author: alycara from Seattle
28 February 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've seen this movie many times now. First, I thought that basic concept of the story is unique, before or since. Confused identity of course goes back to antiquity, but this treatment is a whole different take on the idea. Second the execution of colors, music, shooting style are breathtaking and still look, for the most part, fresh today. What is must have looked like at the time! By the way the special features on the DVD are also very good.

Now for the problems as I see them. First is Jimmy Stewart. He is credible as a police officer and as someone who had lost his nerve, but as someone who falls obsessively in love; I didn't think it was credible. Plus he is too old for Kim Novak.

Spoiler below: Are we really to believe that the murder plot was conceived to include pretending to be suicidal, jumping in the ocean, enticing Stewart, and getting him to climb up a set of stairs to "witness" the wrong thing? Told "mystery style" where you find one thing out at a time hides the ridiculousness of this part of the plot, yet it is a crucial part of the story. Could even the great Hitchcock not figure out some more credible way to deal with the story requirements?

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:


Author: jerniganrx7 from UNITED STATES
5 July 2004

I just recently rented this movie from a video store and did not think of it to be all that- I figured just another IL' movie but boy was I wrong! I can honestly say this is a spectacular movie on a totally different level compared to movies of today. The story is not a very complex, Its your typical drama/murder-mystery, but the way Big Al had the actors do their scenes was just perfect and this in turn makes the movie very strong and captivating to watch. The cast could not be any greater; Jimmy Stewart' who doesn't know this guy-But the real shocker is the blonde in the gray suit-actress Kim Novak, who I did not know was awesome in this movie.

I am a 29 year old guy that has seen his fair share of movies but none that stain my mind the way this one did. The use of strange behavior and deceit left me with a cold feeling inside. But the master of horror has no problem pulling this off. I heard that this movie was one of Alfred Hitchcock's favorites and I have to say one of mine as well.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A Masterpiece from a Mastermind.

Author: Manuel Tedín ( from Santa Rosa (LP) ARGENTINA
21 April 2003

Every time I think in Vertigo (I watched it eight times) I think also in Psycho, both masterpieces from Alfred Hitchcock. And, as Psycho is an excellent movie (as "The Shining" from Kubrick), Vertigo is unique, is more personal and almost unforgettable: has no comparison in Movies' world. It is more than a psychological thriller, a drama or a "colorful film noir". Superb dialogues, a beautiful shot of San Francisco, which seems to be intentionally strange -and not the well-known american city- and, of course, Vertigo give us the best James Stewart and Kim Novak performances. There is no much to say about the score: the opening credits are not as easy to listen as "Psycho" or "North by Northwest", and the fascinating "scene d'Amore" (where Stewart finally changes Novak into another Novak) is just a variation of "Tristan und Isolde" prelude (R. Wagner). 10/10.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Unforgettable and fascinating film about a retired police falling in love with a strange woman

Author: ma-cortes
2 February 2012

Classic and haunting suspense by the master himself , Hitchcock , dealing with tragic events when an ex-cop keeps an eye on a gorgeous woman . Genuinely great movie focuses a San Francisco ex-detective (James Stewart) suffering from acrophobia , fear the heights , as he is contracted to shadow an old chum(Tom Helmore)'s wife . He investigates the rare activities of an old friend's spouse, all the while becoming dangerously obsessed with her . He finds himself eventually falling in love with her (Kim Novak) , then , tragic drama and fateful events stark .

The first part of this extraordinary production results to be slow-moving ; however , the rest takes off at fast speed . Hitch plays on the senses and keeps the suspense and action in feverish pitch . All the elements for a suspenseful evening are in place and things move at an intelligent pace . The story is typical Hitch fare , an issue of fake identity and treason that embroils a man in suicide and murder . Hitch had one of most charming actors of all Hollywood as James Stewart stars a detective who has acrophobia , he also played ¨Man who knew too much¨ and ¨Rear window¨. Furthermore , a marvelous Kim Novak at her best . Good secondary role from Barbara Bed Geddes as eternal girlfriend and Henry Jones as judge . As usual , Hitch's cameo as man walking . Samuel Taylor screen-written from the interesting novel ¨From among the dead¨ by Pierre Boileau . Colorful cinematography in dreamlike style by Robert Burks , Hitch's ordinary . Very good sets and production design by Henry Bumstead and Hal Pereira . Riveting and thrilling musical score by Bernard Herrmann who composed various masterpieces for Hitch as ¨North by Northwest¨, ¨Psycho¨ , ¨Wrong guilty¨ and ¨The trouble with Harry¨

Vertigo is one of Hitch's most stylish and discussed films and will keep you riveted and excited until the edge-of-your-seat . Indispensable seeing this quintessential Hitch movie , demanding numerous viewings .

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

The Hitchcock Masterpiece

Author: gftbiloxi ( from Biloxi, Mississippi
21 May 2005

As much "art" film as Hollywood product, VERTIGO was generally savaged by critics upon its release; today it is widely regarded as Hitchcock's single finest film. The story is extremely well known: a retired police detective with an incapacitating fear of heights, Scottie, is engaged to shadow a beautiful woman, Madeline, whose husband suspects her of being suicidal. Scottie soon becomes obsessive about Madeline--but circumstances quickly spin out of control, and his love turns to tragedy and madness.

Unlike most Hitchcock films, VERTIGO unfolds slowly, drawing the viewer into the relationship between Scottie and Madeline at the same pace as the characters experience it. At the same time, Hitchcock presents the viewer with a number of visual motifs (such as the famous spirals found in the film) to reinforce the increasingly disturbed nature of the story. As the film progresses, VERTIGO develops a powerfully hypnotic quality rather like the dreamed nightmare of a slow-motion fall.

To a certain extent, the stars of VERTIGO are cast against type. This is particularly true of James Stewart, who is best known as the All-American Everyman, and his performance as the increasingly neurotic Scottie is all the more disturbing for our knowledge of his more typical performances. Although usually noted more for beauty than for acting ability, Kim Novack gives a remarkable and extremely believable turn in what is easily the finest performance of her career. The supporting cast--which includes particularly fine performances by Barbara Bel Geddes and Konstantin Shayne--is also excellent, and Bernard Hermann's excellent score adds tremendous dimension to the film.

Some viewers, particularly those enamoured of such rapid-fire Hitchcock romps as TO CATCH A THIEF and NORTH BY NORTHWEST, may find themselves impatient with the film's leisurely pace; some viewers will themselves unable to see beyond the twists in the script to grasp Hitchcock's statement on obsessive love. But for most viewers--myself included--this is "the" Hitchcock film, the great masterpiece by a director renowned for masterpieces. A personal favorite, and very highly recommended.

Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Hitchcock's haunting study of human obsession

Author: killservant from British Indian Ocean Territory
12 June 2008

Vertigo is a masterpiece. There is no denying that. The entire film is as dizzying to watch as the fear that it tackles, from the whirling opening credits by Saul Bass to the deeply haunting romantic score by Bernard Herrmann. When I first watched 'Vertigo', I will admit that I didn't like it. I was expecting a typical thriller like so many others, such as Psycho and North By Northwest. This film is much deeper, and is very complex psychologically. Stewart gives a terrifying performance of a man stumbling deeper and deeper into a dream world of obsession, and Hitchcock's use of color is extraordinary, and this is shown in a surreal dream sequence that is more terrifying than any other. What is most startling about 'Vertigo' is its genuine emotion throughout. It is not to be classified as a traditional 'happy entertainment' film. So do watch this, and be bowled over by its genius, but you might need a stiff drink afterward.

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

one of the greatest works of art, alltime

Author: preposterous
23 May 2003

There are many good films, and it may seem pretentious to think in terms of superlatives. There are many good paintings, good plays, good books, but then there are some that tower just so high that they dwarf everything around them and defy analysis of any kind, either technical or aesthetic.

I have just about every film which appears in the 'top 250' here at imdb, and Vertigo is my favorite, by a steep margin. It's sublime, it hits on so many cylinders. The color, the lighting, the symbolism, the drama, the personal dilemmas, the acting, the direction.

There are some moments in art that are so rare, that they cannot even be measured by media, let alone eras. In the genre of staged drama, 19th century and forward, I see maybe four titans: Wagner, Verdi, Puccini, and Hitchcock. I can't think of any other movie director who soars as high, and it's not just Hitchcock who soars high in this movie. It's also Bernard Hermann's music and Jimmy Stewart's acting. It's the people who shot the film. It's just a magical moment.

What makes it happen? Hitchcock, who is not only at the height of his powers, but is delving so deep into his subconscious that it defies analysis. He creates an image in a movie with the same frenzied detail that Scotty seeks as he re-creates Madelaine. The richness of Hitchcock's vision here is without rival in this history of film, as far as I am aware.

As for other great Hitchcock films, there are Rear Window, Notorious, North by Northwest, Shadow of a Doubt, Strangers on a Train, and one of my personal favorites, Psycho. But this one, Vertigo, this one goes all the way into Hitch's deepest thoughts. It may very well be the greatest artistic creation of the 20th century. It is certainly one of them.

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7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

THIS is a masterpiece?

Author: Dennis Littrell from United States
17 August 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Vertigo is considered one of the greatest films ever made and celebrated as Hitchcock's masterpiece. Perhaps it is. But I found myself bored as I watched it even though I had to admire the artistic intent. There are so many holes in the film it could qualify as cheesy. However, try telling that to those who love it. I think they love it as much for its flaws as for its perfections.

Perfections: the feel of the San Francisco Bay area, the sense of historical California, the great beauty of the ocean framed by Monterey cypresses, the redwoods, the Golden Gate Bridge as seen from below and off to the side, the Bautista Mission, the fifties interior decor, Madeleine's costumes, the angle of Scottie's fedora, the acting by the three stars, James Stewart, Kim Novak, and Barbara Bel Geddes. The musical score by Bernard Herrmann is also celebrated, but I found it a bit overbearing at times, and of course Hitchcock loved using music to direct our sensitivities, and one can tire of that.

Flaws: Scottie hanging from the drainpipe railing, watching the cop trying to save him fly over to land several stories down, dead. What is not explained is how the cop was expected to pull him up with nothing to hold onto or how Scottie managed to survive. Apparently he fell but only broke his back because in the next scene he is in surgical corset unable to scratch certain itches.

The ersatz psychology. It was the fifties and psychoanalytic psychology was all the rage. One of the bestsellers of the day was The Fifty-Minute Hour: A Collection of True Psychoanalytic Tales by Robert Lindner in which a shrink relates tales told by his patients. Hitchcock loved this sort of thing (cf., Spellbound (1945) with Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman). Audiences also loved it. But the psychology is strictly bananas.

Driving on the wrong side of the road (about which Hitchcock is reported to have said when it was pointed out to him, "You drive your way. I'll drive mine.") The plot. Oh, the plot. Never but never has there been a more elaborate and unlikely murder-your-rich-wife scheme. Judy Barton is hired, persuaded or, gee, maybe hypnotized into playing Gavin Elster's wife who is to commit suicide by jumping off the bell tower at the mission. First Gavin (Tom Helmore) has to establish that she's crazy and suicidal. This is done by having her drive dreamily around the Frisco Bay area looking for the haunts of her great grandmother who committed suicide. The key is to get Scottie to believe it so he can testify that she was suicidal. For this to work, (1) Madeleine has to fool a police detective--one might say mesmerize him, which she does, (2) Get him to the bell tower at the right time where he is afraid to go to the top--that works, but you have to buy the psychology, (3) Time it so that Madeleine appears to jump off, but in reality you throw the dead body of your wife off after having broken her neck (body kept warm perhaps in your car with the heater on?), (4) Hide with Madeleine at the top of the tower until the coast is clear (whenever that might be).

Although Kim Novak's performance is interesting it is unlikely that she could fool ex-detective Scottie into believing she was somebody else. When she reappears as Judy Barton in the brown hair and the different makeup, it really makes the audience do a double take before realizing that she and Madeleine are the same. But Scottie's take seems to be that she (and some other women at first glance) look like Madeleine--after all, he just got out of the nut house. It is only when he sees the necklace that he comes to his senses.

Another thing aficionados love about this movie is the way Hitchcock was able to subtly strip his stars of their glamour and make them look more or less human. James Stewart never played a part anything like this before. All the funny faces he has to make, perplexed while driving, terrified on the way up the bell tower, insane and terrified in the dream sequence, etc. It is said that Hitchcock blamed the lack of popular success of this movie (when it was belatedly released, not now) on Stewart looking too old, and therefore Hitchcock never worked with him again. But I think Stewart, after seeing the way he looked in this movie--so unheroic, so lost as a real human being--decided he was never going to let Hitchcock do THAT to him again, and that's probably why they never worked together again.

Kim Novak's curvy body and flopping you-know-whats are revealed in outfits that Grace Kelly would never wear. And poor Barbara Bel Geddes with those most unattractive glasses! How she pines for Scottie. One of the best scenes occurs when she shows Scottie her self portrait as the mysterious Carlotta with the glasses on (!) followed by her "Stupid, stupid, stupid!" self-flagellation after Scottie, who was offended at the grotesque sight, walks out.

But why is Scottie always hanging out at her place? And how they talk the plot in the beginning so that we might know that they were once a couple! But Hitchcock never worried about anything but the effect his movie might have on the audience. Improbabilities, clumsy plot devices, etc., were secondary. And you know what, he was right, as P.T. Barnum was right. Hitchcock never overestimated the sophistication of his audience.

Somebody said that the real entertainment in watching this movie is in watching it again after you know the story. I think they're right. It's definitely a film buff's movie.

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)

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7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Left Hanging: Vertigo as Neo-Noir

Author: msifer30 from Orange, CA
9 May 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***


The film noir Vertigo, (1958) directed by Alfred Hitchcock and adapted from the novel d'Entre les Morts (The Living and the Dead) by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac uses a structure that leaves the audience hanging by creating loose ends in the plot and through ellipses in the story. The story follows Det. John 'Scottie' Ferguson (James Stewart) as he is hired by an old friend Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore) to look into his wife's infatuation with a mysterious woman named Carlotta Valdez. Ferguson's acrophobia, or intense fear of heights, has caused him to retire as a detective and he now works as a freelance private detective. Without giving away the plot, it is hard to describe the structure of this film. Throughout there are plot twists which change the entire direction of the film which leave the past behind. The audience is left wondering what really happened.

Even from the very beginning of the film, the audience is left hanging. It opens with Ferguson and a policeman chasing a fugitive across the rooftops of buildings in San Francisco. Ferguson falls, but hangs onto a flimsy water drain looking down six stories to the ground. The policeman with Ferguson attempts to save him, but falls to his death. It is not explained how Ferguson actually escapes his predicament, which seems unlikely. He could have pulled himself up, but the flimsy water drain would have snapped. Also, no one else was around to help him any time soon, so it becomes questionable if he could have been helped. In the next scene, Ferguson talks about wearing a corset with his friend Marjorie 'Midge' Wood (Barbra Bel Geddes). He is also using a cane. If Ferguson had fallen from the drain, he would be either dead, or have sustained a traumatic injury, so his injuries do not offer any clues as to what happened. From this point, the audience is first exposed to the element of the film which keeps them hanging, just like Ferguson on the drain.

In addition to leaving the audience wondering, Vertigo utilizes its ellipsoidal structure to give an exposition to the story. The first scene of the film starts out with a past event that gives way to the present. Ferguson's incident on the rooftop gives way to a present day conversation with Wood, which allows the audience to understand why Wood is so concerned when Ferguson attempts to climb a chair. She knows that if he does his vertigo would set in for him. Through this ellipse in time, we learn of Ferguson's weakness. We see a past traumatic experience of Ferguson and then move onto the present time.

The next part of the film consists of Ferguson conducting the investigation for his old friend Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore). Elster wants to find out why his wife, Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak) is seemingly possessed by a mysterious dead woman named Carlotta Valdez. In her dreamlike state, she continuously attempts suicide, trying to rid the spirit of Valdez from her body. At one point, she falls in the San Francisco bay and Ferguson pulls her out. They begin to fall in love, but Elster's condition seems to get worse and worse. She actually thinks she is Valdez. Then, on a trip to the Mission San Juan Bautista, Elster falls from the tower. Ferguson is blamed for her death, as he was stricken with vertigo attempting to climb the stairs to save her.

This is when the film becomes a uniquely structured film. In typical film noir and murder mysteries, there is a final conclusion which gives all the solutions to the mystery. But in Vertigo the twist occurs in the middle of the film, exposing Ferguson's friend Gavin Elster's plan to murder his wife. Ferguson soon finds out that the Madeleine Elster he met earlier is a decoy, actually a department store clerk named Judy Barton. As the audience discovers later, the real Madeleine Elster took a dive off the mission tower. The timing of this revelation disorients the audience. Accustomed to an explanatory conclusion, they may become uncomfortable, as it is what creates tension in the film. The anticipation of the all explanatory conclusion makes for entertainment. Now the focus of the film shifts from the murder to Ferguson, who seemingly has lost his mind in despair for his deceased lover. As he falls deeper into a spiral of despair, Ferguson becomes the confusing character.

While the film follows Ferguson, his motivations and intentions are confusing. At one point, he wants Barton to dress up exactly like Elster. His infatuation with detail makes it unclear if he is in love with Barton, or if he cannot get over the death of the woman he thought he knew. But, the audience does not know if Ferguson knows that Barton is the imposter, so it seems as though his actions are the desperate attempts to resuscitate his lost love. Maybe Ferguson is interested only in the physical appearance of Barton dressed up like Elster, not her real personality. This raises questions, because when he succeeds in making Barton up like the decoy she played earlier, this fantasy realized does not satisfy him. Maybe this is because Ferguson already knows that she is manipulating him yet again. Although Barton shows sympathy for him, she seems to feed off his money and care. All the while, she is hiding the true story behind the murder, which is malicious as it is. By not telling him, she is building up the damage that would be done if Ferguson were to find out the truth. There is no reason why someone in love would subject their lover to the torment of lost love. Even if Barton knew that this revelation would break Ferguson, she should have alerted him to this information.

Barton's motivations become acceptable after Ferguson reads her letter, which creates a flashback showing the circumstances under which she was placed at the time of the murder. It seems as though she did not know that the real Elster would be murdered. At this point in the film, Ferguson is in the position to decide his fate. As a fervent detective, he would destroy his integrity by forgetting Barton was involved, or break the law by not exposing the murder. In the climax of the film as Ferguson and Barton argue and struggle at the top of the tower at the Mission San Juan Bautista, Barton falls to her death. Compared to other endings in film noir, this one is similar in the way that it leaves room for ambiguity. The entire supernatural theme present in the earlier part of the film is left hanging. The true character of Ferguson is also left in question, because his choice is left to chance. A difference between this ending and other noir endings is that it offers a balanced fate for both characters. While Ferguson loses both of his love interests, Barton dies for helping murder another woman. They both get what was coming to them.

But the audience is left hanging as the ending does not tie in the loose ends of the film, such as the supernatural element, the fate of Gavin Elster (who should have been punished himself), and why Ferguson decided to bring Barton to the mission tower in first place. This ambiguity is what characterizes this film structurally as noir. The spiral motif embodied by Ferguson's vertigo (made with rack focus), and the stairs leading to the top of the mission tower. The end of the film seems to spiral off into chance, as it does not answer many of the audience's questions.

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