For this year’s A-To-Z Challenge, my theme is MOVIES. I will be working my way through the alphabet during the month of April with movie titles and short blurbs about each movie. Today’s movie is “Vertigo.”
No one should leave out Alfred Hitchcock when it comes to discussing great films, and “Vertigo” is certainly a great Hitchcock thriller to highlight. This was a 1958 American film noir psychological thriller directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock. The story was based on the 1954 novel D’entre les morts (From Among the Dead) by Boileau-Narcejac. The screenplay was written by Alec Coppel and Samuel A. Taylor. It starred Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes, and Tom Helmore.
The film received a lukewarm reception upon its release, but is now considered to be one of director Alfred Hitchcock’s most complex movies and is commonly ranked among the greatest movies ever made.
Detective John (“Scottie”) Ferguson (Jimmy Stewart) has retired from the San Francisco police force because he developed a paralyzing fear of heights and vertigo after a rooftop chase that resulted in a colleague’s death. He comes out of retirement, however, at the behest of Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), a college friend who wants Scottie to follow his wife, Madeleine (Kim Novak), and ascertain what’s behind her peculiar behavior.
Scottie unexpectedly falls in love with Madeleine, only to witness her suicide. Devastated by her death, Scottie later encounters Judy Barton (also played by Novak) and obsessively remakes her in the image of the dead Madeleine. However, Scottie does not realize that Judy already knows him because she had pretended to be Madeleine as a ruse concocted by Elster to cover up his wife’s murder.
That’s about all I can say about the plot without giving away too much.
In “Vertigo,” Stewart played, arguably, the most complicated role of his career, abandoning his all-American persona to portray a man driven to the edge of insanity by his obsession with a woman he fears he can never have. Novak is plays the classic Hitchcockian icy blonde. Vertigo is considered Hitchcock’s most personal film, with Scottie’s obsessive remaking of Judy into the character of Madeleine being a metaphor for Hitchcock’s direction of the lead actresses in his films.
Vertigo is also noted for its groundbreaking camera technique, the dolly zoom, an in-camera effect that distorts perspective to create disorientation, to convey Scottie’s acrophobia. As a result of its use in this film, the effect is often referred to as “the Vertigo effect.”
In 1989, “Vertigo” was one of the first 25 films selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”