Release Year: 1958
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writers: Alec Coppel (screenplay), Samuel A. Taylor (screenplay), Pierre Boileau & Thomas Narcejac (based on their 1954 novel D’entre les morts), Maxwell Anderson (contributing writer – uncredited)
Starring: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes, Tom Helmore, Henry Jones, Raymond Bailey, Ellen Corby
Rating: Nominated for 2 Oscars: Best Art Direction, Best Sound.
Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart) a recently retired San Fransisco police detective suffering for vertigo, in hired to investigate the strange activities of an old friend’s wife an becomes obsessed with her.
In 2012, Vertigo was voted the best film ever made by critics in the film magazine Sight & Sound, replacing Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane for the first time. Today it is hailed as one of Hitchcock’s masterpieces but it was originally given a mixed reception. Initially, Vertigo does come off as a bit too long, a bit too slow, a little bit weird. However, the impact is great and it is keep stirring the back of your mind and as was the case with the critics, your appreciation for this intense thriller is bound to grow over time. It has groundbreaking visual sequences that will catch you off guard, such as the evocative and effective dream sequence, a stirring score and a great performance by James Stewart (The Flight of the Phoenix, 1965) as the former detective traumatised by the death of a colleague. He is persuaded to take a case for a friend, a seemingly harmless case of following and observing the friend’s wife whose has begun acting strangely. He becomes increasingly obsessed with the focus of his assignment, the pretty Madeleine played by Kim Novak (Pal Joey, 1957). The other woman in his life is a former lover and long-time friend Midge, played by Barbara Bel Geddes (I Remember Mama, 1948), who is smitten with him but is hardly noticed in return. The film is a slow that escalates quickly towards the end to a dramatic end, a shocking reveal and a dark and invasive undertone that will stay with you for a long time. One of Hitchcock’s must-see films, but perhaps not the best place to start for Hitchcock neewbies.
The first film ever to use computer graphics (the intro sequence by Saul Bass, who also did the intro sequence for Psycho, 1960).
The film unavailable for decades because the rights were bought back by Alfred Hitchcock and left a part of his legacy to his daughter. They were known as the infamous “Five Lost Hitchcocks” and were not released in theatres until 1984. The other four are The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Rear Window (1954), Rope (1948), and The Trouble with Harry (1955).
The sweeping score by Bernard Hermann was largely inspired by Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.
Picture Copyright: UIP