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, as he believes she has been possessed by a dead ancestor who committed suicide. Scottie is skeptical, but agrees to the assignment after he sees the beautiful Madeleine.Written by
San Juan Batista, the Spanish mission which features in key scenes in the movie doesn't actually have a bell tower, it was added with trick photography. The mission originally had a steeple, but it was demolished following a fire. See more »
When Scottie and Madeleine are on the coast, she's wearing a white coat with a gauzy black scarf. The scarf is arranged differently in different shots and sometimes is missing entirely. See more »
The opening Paramount logo is in black and white while the rest of the film, including the closing Paramount logo, is in Technicolor. See more »
An addition to the ending was made for some European coutries due to certain laws prohibiting a film from letting a "bad guy" get away at the end of a film. In the new ending, after Scottie looks down from the belltower (the original ending) there is a shot of Midge sitting next to a radio listening to reports of police tracking down Gavin Elster. As Midge turns off the radio the news flash also reports that 3 Berkeley students got caught bringing a cow up the stairs of a campus building. Scottie enters the room, looks at Midge plainly, and then looks out a window. Midge makes two drinks and gives one to Scottie. It ends with both of them looking out the window. This ending can be found on the restoration laserdisc. See more »
One of the many things that made Hitchcock such a great director is that he did not just stick to the same formula time after time; all of his best movies have their own unique feel and characteristics. "Vertigo" is particularly distinctive, both as a complex story filled with suspense, and as a fascinating study in psychological tension. While it lacks the humor of some of Hitchcock's other masterpieces, and sometimes moves rather slowly, it is unforgettable, and a great achievement by the director and his cast.
If you have never seen it, you will enjoy it more if you do not know too much about the plot, although the actual story is somewhat secondary to the ways that the characters are tested and their weaknesses exposed by the various events. Hitchcock uses a complicated story, interesting characters, lavish visual detail, and deliberate pacing, plus a fine musical score by the incomparable Bernard Hermann, to produce a mysterious, almost unearthly, atmosphere. The tension rarely lets up, and the viewer is caught up completely in it, at times almost to the point of discomfort. It's the kind of film that repays careful attention, as almost every moment is filled with significant detail.
There are also some great acting performances. Jimmy Stewart is outstanding in a role far different from his usual screen persona. He enables the viewer to sympathize completely with him, even as we cringe at many of his character's actions and decisions. Kim Novak is completely convincing in a difficult dual role, and the movie would not have been as compelling without her fine performance. The rest of the cast all have much smaller roles, but are all quite good too, especially Barbara Bel Geddes as Scottie's (Stewart's) old friend, who provides important insight into Scottie's character.
"Vertigo" is a classic by any standard. It's a must-see that remains just as impressive with each viewing.
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