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
When Sir Alfred Hitchcock's wife, Alma Reville, saw this movie, she said that she liked it, except for one shot where Kim Novak walks towards the San Francisco Bay, which she felt made Novak look too large on the screen. For years afterward, when discussing this movie, Hitchcock would insist that Alma hated it. See more »
Gavin Elster mentions that Carlotta Valdes was 26 when she killed herself. However, her gravestone says that she lived from December 3 1831 to March 5 1857. That would make her 25, not 26. 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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