Released in 1958, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo was released to mixed reviews but has, in the years passed, garnered universal praise by both fans and critics alike, calling it one of Hitchcock’s defining works. For the first hour, I admired and enjoyed the beautiful cinematography and great acting, but was a little less than thrilled by the very little action happening. Then, something happened, then things start to happen, and then, it happened. By the time the Paramount logo returned to end the film, Vertigo had done it’s job and affected me in a way I could not have seen coming; at that time, I understood why so many critics and people consider Vertigo to be one of the greatest films of all time.
James Stewart stars as John “Scottie” Ferguson, a police detective who quits the force due to his acrophobia (fear of heights) and self-blame for having let his partner die while on a chase. He gets a call from an old acquaintance that wants him to shadow his wife (Kim Novak), because he fears something may be wrong with her. Scottie decides to follow her and eventually falls in love with her. However, this evolves into an obsession that neither he nor the audience would have anticipated. Talking anymore about the film’s plot will not only spoil what is easily one of the greatest mysteries in all of cinema, but it would take too long to explain. The plot of Vertigo is so much more complex than what it appears to be on the surface, so much so, that you might find yourself still thinking about it long after film’s end.
The score written by Bernard Herrmann and conducted by Muir Mathieson adds to the film’s haunting atmosphere and themes, to the point that just listening to the score on its own will bring chills to the skin. James Stewart is phenomenal in the role of Scottie; he is all too convincing as a man who is slowly losing his sense of reality. The rest of the cast is excellent too, especially Novak, who is all too hypnotic in this film. Vertigo was shot in VistaVision, which truly captures the aforementioned beautiful looks that are a part of the San Francisco Bay area (including the Golden Gate Bridge from below).
Vertigo is a film that starts off slow, but rewards your patience at its end. It’s a film that takes a different route than what is usually seen in a Hitchcock thriller. It’s a film that feels like an art house movie that was made for a mainstream audience. It’s a film that tricks you into thinking one thing, then knocks you stone cold. It’s a film that has so much too offer that one could not possibly see it only once. It’s a film that will haunt you once the screen has gone black and has left you with it’s shocking conclusion. It’s a film that refuses to let go once you’ve decided to hold on. It’s a film that has more than deserved the praise it has garnered in the past 50 years since its release. It’s a film that I will never forget.