Unit 4 Film review: Vertigo (1958) Dir.

, Alfred Hitchcock

Poster Image

James Stewart
John "Scottie" Ferguson

Madeleine Elster/Judy

Kim Novak

Barbara Bel Geddes
Marjorie "Midge" Wood

Unit 4 Film review: Vertigo (1958) Dir., Alfred Hitchcock

Tom Helmore
Gavin Elster

Henry Jones
Coroner

Raymond Bailey
Doctor

Vertigo differs from the other Hitchcock films in this series. Firstly because of the tenuous link between the title of the film and the inclusion of said phobia. It is much more subtle and easily forgotten than say, ‘The Birds’, this allows Hitchcock to misdirect his audience and weave an intricate plot within a plot. The second difference is the canvas. Here we see San Francisco in all her glory from the Golden Gate Bridge to the National Sequoia preserves. This is obviously a very necessary choice when the content of the film is considered. James Stewart spends much of his time following Kim Novak at a professional distance at the behest of her husband, an old personal friend (Tom Helmore). ‘The old master, now a slave to television, has turned out another Hitchcock-andbull story in which the mystery is not so much who done it as who cares’. Critic T., (2009) The much busier backdrop of the San Francisco Bay helps to conceal some of this films shortcomings. The critique of TIME Magazine’s Top Critic is a little harsh as this film contains some excellent elements.

Unit 4 Film review: Vertigo (1958) Dir., Alfred Hitchcock

The opening scenes establish James Stewart’s difficulty with heights in such a way that the 1958 audience must have been left reeling. From there Hitchcock encourages the viewer to forget this phobia almost as soon as it’s established only to come into play much later in the film. The performances of Kim Novak and James Stewart are muted, and while they cannot be considered to be their finest there is a real sense that they both belong in their respective roles. The ‘death’ of Kim Novak’s character is a genuine shock, the story has been leading us there under a thin veil of inherited memory and a sense of the supernatural, but the loss of the leading lady still throws up more questions. ‘It is about how Hitchcock used, feared and tried to control women’. Ebert R., (2000) There are certainly elements of controlling and obsessive behaviour present. In a very disturbing series of scenes James Stewart finds a vision of the deceased Madeleine Elster in the young Judy. Having been present at Madeleine’s ‘suicide’ Scottie (James Stewart) appears to be having a complete mental breakdown, then, seeing Judy in the street he introduces himself and then systematically changes her clothes, hair and mannerisms to replicate Madeleine. You genuinely feel for her and cringe at certain scenes. The most memorable of which is the grey suit scene. Scottie drills the department store staff to find the outfit Madeleine wears, a pleading and tearful Judy tries to reason with him, to no avail. This is the point when the level of Scottie’s obsession becomes apparent. ‘A rich, resonant meditation of male romantic obsession ... Not only does Hitchcock demonstrate a total mastery of cinematic point-of-view, but he turns what might have been mere melodrama into film poetry. Perhaps his greatest film’. Delapa T., (2006) Delapa writes very fondly of Vertigo, and the film is certainly not without it’s merits. The film opens and finishes strongly, meanders somewhat in the middle but has a plot twist this reviewer didn’t see coming. Perhaps not Hitchcock’s finest film, but certainly worthy of the admission fee.

Unit 4 Film review: Vertigo (1958) Dir., Alfred Hitchcock

Critic Bibliography Critic T., (April 20, 2009). ‘TIME Magazine’, rottentomatoes.com Delapa T., (February 3, 2006). ‘Boulder Weekly’, rottentomatoes.com Ebert R., (January 1, 2000). ‘Chicago Sun-Times’, rottentomatoes.com

Image List Poster Image: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/vertigo/

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