Following his early retirement as a detective from the San Francisco Police Department, John Ferguson - Scottie to his friends - becomes obsessed with two women in succession, those obsessions which trouble his long time friend and former fiancée, Midge Wood, a designer of women's undergarments. The first is wealthy and elegant platinum blonde Madeleine Elster, the wife of his college acquaintance Gavin Elster, who hires John to follow her in Gavin's belief that she may be a danger to herself in thinking that she has recently been possessed by the spirit of Carlotta Valdes, Madeleine's great-grandmother who she knows nothing about, but who Gavin knows committed suicide in being mentally unbalanced when she was twenty-six, Madeleine's current age. The second is Judy Barton, who John spots on the street one day. Judy is a working class girl, but what makes John obsessed with her is that, despite her working class style and her brunette hair, she is the spitting image of Madeleine, into ...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 Pictures Studio sound stages for two months of filming. In the studio, Sir 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-over Judy as Madeleine. As the couple kiss, the background slowly swirls, and the viewer loses equilibrium as Judy's apartment become the livery stables of San Juan Bautista, the setting of 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. A key visual here that often is missed is that, as the camera circles, the scene switches to the stable at the Mission (where they first fell in love), then back to the hotel room. These simultaneous movements were difficult to coordinate, and to pull off without Stewart and Novak getting dizzy. In one take, Stewart fell and was slightly injured. Also, the green lighting in the hotel room earlier, before Judy emerges from the bathroom, is an indicator of Scottie's obsession and, when she emerges, she appears enveloped in it, like a ghost, drifting toward him. The ghost of his dream has returned. Principal photography was completed three days after this shot, just before Christmas 1957. See more »
After Madeleine has talked to Scottie outside his flat and gotten into her car, a pedestrian is just about to cross the street in the background. The camera immediately cuts back to Scottie following her, but the pedestrian has disappeared. See more »
Symphony No. 34 in C K. 338, 2nd Movement, Andante di Molto (piu tosto allegretto)
Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Played as 'cue 10B' on a record in the psychiatric ward See more »
Let there be color!
Since there are already so many real good comments on this film I want to focus on only one aspect.
Vertigo is a great example for what color films really can look like! Not only do I want to praise the quality of the Technicolor dye transfer prints but also more the way Hitchcock used color to create moods. Many directors used light to create moods in black and white movies but only very few ever got so far as to use the much greater palette of colors for the same purpose. One wonders why. Some directors decide for an overall color look, which is often done in the lab, but not on the set.
Vertigo is full of scenes where the colors have been saturated or changed to create a special feeling. Hitchcock even went so far as to openly dye some frames is bright unnatural colors. He played around with colors in all his color films but never as much as in this one. Think for example on James Stewart's nightmare in the middle of the film. There are frames dyed purple and green; the cemetery scenes are red, inserted to the rhythm of the music with normal frames. Kim Novak is often bathed in colored light like in the famous hotel room scene, where she appears like a ghost with all the green light around her.
The shading is also important. In the scene in the bookshop we hear a dark and sad story while at the same time the light dimes down to simulate dusk. In the scene where Judy remembers the real events in the bell tower it starts with an outdoor scene, which we have already seen but it is now much darker than the first time. In the sequence where Stewart follows Novak to the cemetery everything feels unnatural since every scene glows through the use of a filter that creates a blur.
The non-color of Kim Novak's dress as Madeleine is also a very important aspect in the film. She has to color her hair to become Madeleine again at the end of the picture.
The way color is used in this film gives it this dreamlike quality that allows endless interpretations. A true masterpiece!
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