The story takes place in feudal Japan, when any commerce with the rest of the world was strictly prohibited. An idealist suddenly appears in an isolated inn (the one that the title refers ... See full summary »
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
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 soundstages 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 Judy over as Madeleine. As the couple kiss, the background slowly swirls, and we lose equilibrium as we see Judy's apartment become the livery stables of San Juan Bautista, setting for 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 Scotty'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 »
When Scottie and Madeleine are talking on the beach, there is a tree between them. Madeleine puts her left arm around the tree, but then, without her having moved, she has her back to the tree. See more »
An entirely new audio track was created for the 1996 re-release using modern recordings and mixed in DTS surround sound. New elements not present in the original film were added and several important details (such as creaky roof tiles) were omitted. This was the version used on all subsequent theatrical re-issues, home video releases and television broadcasts until 2012, when Universal made a DTS soundtrack retaining the original sound effects. See more »
Starting in 1958, Alfred Hitchcock directed a remarkable sequence of films in a row, each of them a classic; Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960) and The Birds (1963). Never has a director made four such genuinely great movies in such a short space of time, either before or since.
The pick of this high standard bunch is undoubtedly Vertigo. From the opening titles, with their circling spiral imagery, to the dramatic final scene this is a movie that takes you to a different time and place. Specifically, to a San Francisco of the past; full of deserted parks, discrete rooming houses, oddly menacing art galleries and florists where the customers enter and exit through the back door. Through this landscape wanders Jimmy Stewart, towering in the lead roll as a former detective recently retired after a bungled arrest leaves him with chronic vertigo. Plot machinations lead him to the alluring Kim Novak (one of Hitchcock's famous "blondes"), the young wife of a friend who has started behaving rather oddly.
"To reveal more," as Leonard Maltin wrote, "would be unthinkable."
While the performances of Novak and Stewart are memorable, the movie is really set apart by the intelligent script and the stylistic touches provided by the director. Hitchcock is in his very best form creating hypnotic scenes and a general sense of unease and dread in even the most banal of situations. He is aided in this by the wonderful score of Bernard Herrman. A particular favourite of mine is the extended (largely silent) segment where Stewart follows Novak for the first time. Nothing much happens, but the atmosphere of these scenes is enough to keep you on the edge of your seat!
One of the all-time greats. They definitely don't make them like this anymore.
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