Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most revered and influential directors of all time. Vertigo is often consider one of his masterpieces and is the number one movie on the latest Sight and Sound Greatest Films of All Time Poll, one of the most revered great film lists.
It was also the first DVD I ever owned. I think it was already my favorite Hitchcock film at the time but there’s’s certainly some nostalgia as well.
John “Scottie” Ferguson (James Stewart) is a San Francisco police detective who retires after he suffers from a bout of vertigo when pursing a suspect. Because of his vertigo the suspect gets away and another cop is accidentally killed. He has decided to retire to a quiet life when an old college friend, Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), asks a favor of him. Elster wants Scottie to follow his wife Madeleine (Kim Novak). Madeleine has been haunted by a past ancestor who went mad and Elster is afraid that Madeleine may harm herself. At first Scottie refuses, but finds the case interesting and decides to help.
As Scottie follows Madeleine he starts to believe that the haunting is real as well. He also starts to fall in love with Madeleine. I don’t want to say to much more and spoil the movie but there are tragedies and twists that come.
Why It’s Great
Hitchcock was known as the Master of Suspense and this movie keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time. Even when Scottie is just following Madeleine buying some flowers you think there’s a chance for a big twist or a potential tragedy.
The score by frequent Hitchcock composer Bernard Hermann helps keeps the tension going throughout the movie.
It’s really hard to describe why a movie like this is so good and why this particular Hitchcock movies stands out against others. The acting is great. The acting in every Hitchcock movie is great, but the actors seem a little looser here.
The shots and editing are perfect, but Hitchcock nearly always is. Like the Godfather, every frame could be studied. The compositions are excellent and the details inform the story and the characters.
The theme of being haunted by your past and being mistaken for someone else was one of Hitchcock’s favorite themes. Those themes fit this story like a glove.
The vertigo and insanity scenes would be cheesy in the hands of any other director. They portray how Scottie is seeing the world, it’s not just a cheesy gimmick.
The pacing in this movie is just smidge better than all other Hitchcock movies (and with that, all other movies). There are not any parts that drag. The feeling of suspense last the entire movie run time.
I’m not going to tell you to watch this movie. You either like movies or your don’t.