Cinema Classics: Vertigo

image Written by: Ben


By the time I am writing this it is already Wednesday, August 14th, so I am admittedly already late for Alfred Hitchcock’s birthday, but that’s just because I suck at dates. Even still its probably not even going up today, but I still totally felt like I should write something about one of my favorites of his films to recommend it to you guys. The challenge though is deciding which to write about as he has so many great films. After much deliberation I decided not to do the one that is probably my favorite in general (North By Northwest) but rather my favorite classic that I feel most who haven’t seen much of his work are a bit intimidated by. That movie, as the title and above image says, is Vertigo, the windy suspense (some mislable it as ‘horror’) mystery thriller starring Jimmy Stewart. Its understandable why some are apprehensive of it as it is a bit crazy, but I’m here to explain why you shouldn’t be afraid of sitting down and watching this one.

As per usual I want to start off going over the plot to help you guys understand what I’m talking about as I recommend it. John “Scotty” Ferguson (Stewart) is a ex-Police officer who retired after his latent acrophobia (or severe vertigo) leads to the death of another officer. We see him in the home of his former fiancé Midge Wood (Barbara Geddes) where she is urging him to go on vacation, which he declines instead turning the discussion to a recent contact from his old college friend Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore). When he meets Elster, now a successful business man, we learn he wants Scottie to tale his wife Madelne (KIm Novak) as he is concerned about her mental state. What follows is windy messy investigation that will challenge Scottie’s resolve and his ability to deal with vertigo.


That is the plot and can honestly until the last quarter of the movie that is all you need to take into consideration, but it can be confusing if you’re not used to these windy thrillers, or Hitchcock. You likely know a fair bit of the big problem that occurs as it is the most well-known part of this movie for most, but I don’t want to spoil that. If you can’t follow it clearly up to that point, the last quarter will likely not make any more sense to you, and this is why I understand the apprehension. Truly I have to say that this isn’t the movie to start off on for getting into Hitchcock, but if you have gotten through the big ones like North By Northwest and Psycho already and you feel like you have a grasp of his psychological style then you’ll be golden. But now that I’ve addressed that concern let me address what is great about this movie.

First off on what makes it so good is clearly the talented cast that bring the film to life. As can be expected, the most notable star is our leading man Jimmy Stewart, a man who basically made a career on being a something of a stand-in for the everyman that everyone latched on to.  From Rear Window to It’s a Wonderful Life he exudes an energy and a relatability that lives here as well and you fully understand him throughout. Next up is the lovely Kim Novak who is mysterious and lovely and hard to take your eyes off of throughout the film. Barbara Geddes as the bookish yet cute and playful Midge is great as she plays off of Stewart whom she has a playful, almost sisterly in their relationship. Lastly there is Helmore who is both a little bit eccentric and a bit guarded but truly sells his role as a concerned husband asking an old friend for help, even if it comes off a bit thick at times.

Finally I want to touch on the directing and design of this movie as a whole. It really is a gorgeously shot film with some great scenery in and around the area of San Francisco. However, it isn’t just in the great locations and shots of them, but also how its shot with appropriate dutch angles as things get strange and confusing. There are also the times that it is a psychological break shown by twisted shots and interesting colorization of the shots to turn the movie on its head. It’s a proper mix of a noire and thriller and in the end that leads to a very interesting movie that is bound to hold your attention if you can keep up with it. As I said, this isn’t quite for those uninitiated into Hitchcock or mysteries, and its even understandable why it did fairly poorly when first released to theaters, but overall it stands as one of his very best thanks to the interesting path it takes you down.

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