Considered by many to be director Alfred Hitchcock's greatest achievement, Leonard Maltin gives Vertigo four stars, hailing it as "A genuinely great motion picture." Set among San Francisco's renown landmarks, James Ste... more »wart is brilliant as Scottie Ferguson, an acrophobic detective hired to shadow a friend's suicidal wife, Madeleine (Kim Novak). After he saves her from drowning in the bay, Scottie's interest shifts from business to fascination with the icy, alluring blonde. When he finds another woman remarkably like his lost love, the now obsessed detective must unravel the secrets of the past to find the key to his future.« less
Michael K. Beusch | San Mateo, California United States | 04/07/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Vertigo is one of those films that is so good, no one at the time of release is able to appreciate it. It was dismissed by critics, ignored by audiences and, to my knowledge, didn't win a single Academy Award (this last part isn't shocking -- Citizen Kane didn't win Best Picture). It's interesting that the reputation of this film seems to have grown substantially since the public found out more about Alfred Hitchcock's private life. For example, Scottie Ferguson's obsession with Kim Novak mirrors Hitch's own obsession with beautiful blondes, most notably Grace Kelly. Actors often bare their souls to the world, but very rarely are we aware when a director bares his/her soul. Those who dismiss Hitchcock as just a taskmaster director of suspense films should study Vertigo. He is essentially dealing with his own weaknesses and inner demons on film.Vertigo also contains two great performances -- those of James Stewart and Kim Novak. Stewart reveals a dark side that might shock those who just know him from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It's a Wonderful Life. He is completely believeable as a man (Hitchcock's alter ego) who is consumed by obsession. Likewise Kim Novak is wonderful and totally convincing as Madeline/Judy. Vera Miles (Lila Crane in Psycho) was originally cast, but it's hard to see anyone else but Kim Novak in the role. She is utterly convincing as the distant, aristocratic Madeline AND as the earthy working class girl Judy. I can't think of many actresses who could be so effective in both roles. Grace Kelly, for example, might have been able to pull off Madeline, but probably would have been laughable as Judy. It's too bad more directors couldn't see past Novak's sex kitten image and cast her in more substantial roles.In case you couldn't guess, I highly recommend this DVD. The documentary about the restoration of the film is very interesting and makes you realize what a job it is to restore a film. The DVD edition also includes an ending that was only on the foreign release prints. This edition does Hitchcock's masterpiece all the justice it deserves and then some.(An additional note: I live in the San Francisco Area and have visited many of the locations featured in the film, including Madeline's apartment, Muir Woods, Mission Delores, The Palace of the Legion of Honor and Fort Point. Just to clarify for those of you who might be wondering: (1) there is no portrait of Carlotta at the Palace of the Legion of Honor and (2) there are no stairs leading down to the water at Fort Point -- the stairs were an in-studio shot that enabled James Stewart to more easily fish Kim Novak out of San Francisco Bay.)"
Hitchcock's film is great; the restoration has big problems
Tim Idsole | Los Angeles, CA USA | 12/05/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Vertigo is a tremendous film; if rating the film alone, I would give it the maximum rating. Vertigo deserves to have been carefully restored and preserved for posterity. The reason for my low rating for this DVD is that the restorers have seriously overstepped the bounds of conservation, actually changing the film for the worse. They have eliminated many original sound effects and created many new ones, to jarring effect. Evidently, their discovery of a stereo recording of the musical score so excited the restoration team that they felt they had to incorporate it into the restored print. As the original mono mix included effects with the score, this means that the restorers went into a Foley studio and cooked up replacement sounds--newpaper's rattling, footsteps, doors closing, cars driving past, etc. The result is VERY noticable: the modern, digitally recorded sounds have a sharply different quality from the analog originals, and the two are mixed together uneasily. The film was mixed, presumably under Hitchcock's careful supervision, with a mono soundtrack, which has survived in good condition. (Although the individual elements were scandalously destroyed in the 1970s as the result of a tussle over distribution rights to the film.) The soundtrack may have benefitted from some "cleaning up," but there was no good reason to create a new soundtrack. Please, Universal: include the original soundtrack as an option, at least, on future editions of this DVD. (The stereo recording of Herriman's musical score would make a nice DVD bonus track, too.) And please be more circumspect in future restoration projects. (There are problems with the color restoration, too, but at least there the restorers were addressing a real problem--the existing prints and film elements had seriously deteriorated. With the soundtrack, the restorers actively created problems where none existed.)"
A Masterpiece, but not Hitchcock's alone
Samuel Chell | Kenosha,, WI United States | 05/03/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There's a film critic, David Thompson, who claims that Hitchcock's movies are "shallow." Although unfair, irrelevant, and short-sighted, it's an argument one could make about the Master's oeuvre-with the exception of "Vertigo," a film that exceeds the control of its director, a movie that bears the stamp of the auteur yet must be judged a deeply resonant, collaborative triumph by three of the screen's indisputable geniuses: Hitch, Bernard Herrmann, and James Stewart.
On my third screening of this film, the story of obsession became my own, producing a reeling sensation that has yet to lift. Compared to "Vertigo," the other films of the so-called Hitchcock great trilogy--"Rear Window" and "Psycho"--indeed do seem shallow. Prior to this viewing I had listened to Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde" with its thrilling "liebestod"-the moment when the consummation of passion must also be its end because it is a love of love rather than of a person. Then I began to reflect back on similar stories-Morte Darthur, Troilus and Cressida, Romeo and Juliet, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, Wuthering Heights, The English Patient. "Vertigo" belongs to the same narrative pattern, perhaps realizing it more compellingly than any other representation.
In the moment when Scottie forces Judy to become Madeleine, Herrmann's score recalls Wagner's liebestod, crescendoing to an unforgettable emotional peak, at once riveting and disturbing. In the same moment that Madeleine has been exhumed from the dead by the obsessive man-child, we see that Judy's desperate attempt to draw Scottie's attention to the "real" Judy is doomed and that Scottie's fixation is beyond cure. The lost child that won't release Madeleine/Carlotta, the compulsive boy who can not be "taught" to love by either Judy or Midge, the frustrated and pathetic "mother" Midge--all remain forever disfigured by the fantasy constructed by Stewart's obsessive, stubbornly regressive, character.
In the film's last scene, Scottie overcomes his vertigo but not the need to avenge himself on the figure who has betrayed him and his boyish fixation. Here Stewart's voice takes on the same feminine register, breaking and cracking, changing timbre, speaking in irregular, breathless meter, that we see in George Bailey's conflicted moment between strangling and loving Mary before giving up his dream in favor of marriage and the savings and loan. "Vertigo" is the George Bailey who left Bedford Falls, determined to pursue his magnificent obsession and the elusive grail. It may not be a wonderful life, but it's a life that haunts the moviegoer's consciousness like no other film I've seen."
A re-release of a classic
calvinnme | 08/17/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is unusual to see a director produce his best work after the age of 50, but that is exactly what Alfred Hitchcock did. Starting in 1948 with "Rope" and ending with "The Birds" in 1963, this was the era of his most inspired films. "Vertigo", in my opinion, is the best film of his entire body of work.
It is funny to note that when this film was first released in 1957 that it was not that popular in theaters and was pretty much universally panned by critics. In 1992, when the British Film Institute performed a survey of the world film critics to compile an all-time ten-best list that comes out every decade, Vertigo came in at fourth place. It didn't even make that list in 1962 or 1972. Part of the reason for the delayed popularity of the film could be that it requires repeated viewings to really gain an appreciation of it. Such repeated viewings were not possible for most viewers until the advent of home video systems and cable around 1980.
As for the film itself, it is a brilliantly twisted movie infused with touches of genius and madness that focuses on the interconnected nature of love and obsession. Interwoven with this main theme is a crime mystery that is revealed to and solved for the audience but not the protagonist, James Stewart's character, for the last 45 minutes of the film.
Alongside these themes is the issue of lost opportunities - how we grieve over them, and whether or not what we perceive as lost opportunities were ever "real" opportunities in the first place. This issue is raised not only for Scotty (James Stewart) - if only he could have gotten to Madeleine (Kim Novak) in time, if only he could have rescued the policeman from falling to his death at the beginning of the film, if only he could have seen through the scheme that manipulated him so perfectly and ultimately drove him temporarily mad - but for just about everybody else in the cast too. This includes Scotty's college girlfriend (Barbara Bel Geddes) who has remained his friend through the years and obviously still harbors thoughts of what might have been if only she had accepted Scotty's marriage proposal years before.
Besides the excellent acting and superb plot, the score is outstanding as is the cinematography, especially the visual darkness of the mission San Juan Bautista versus the angelic beauty of Madeleine which belies what is really going on. I highly recommend this film to anyone who has the time to watch it more than once. Just one viewing won't do it justice.
As an aside, this film is so contagious that I am sure that it has influenced other filmmakers over the years to the point of plagiarism, the most obvious example being Tim Burton's 1989 film, "Batman". The Joker dragging Vicki Vale to the top of Gotham cathedral's stairway and the confrontation and revelations of the past once at the top of the tower sure look like the closing 15 minutes of this movie. The following are the extra features:
Disc 1: Main Feature 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen English DD5.1 Surround and DD2.0 Mono English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles Feature Commentary with Associate Producer Herbert Coleman, Restoration Team Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz and Other Vertigo Participants Feature Commentary with Director William Friedkin Foreign Ending The Vertigo Archives Production Notes Original Theatrical Trailer Restoration Theatrical Trailer
Disc 2: Extra Features Obsessed with Vertigo: New Life for Hitchcock's Masterpiece Partners in Crime: Hitchcock's Collaborators Hitchcock / Truffaut Interview Excerpts Alfred Hitchcock Presents "The Case of Mr. Pelham""
The restoration is beautiful and breath-taking.
James McDonald | Southern California | 12/31/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This review is for the DVD version itself. The restoration and color is beautiful. Breath-taking. The wide-screen is almost a full-screen. It is not as irratating as the DVD version of "Cleopatra". Of all versions I have seen, this DVD version made me give "Vertigo" a second look. Colors are important in this restored version because the color of say a door or the clothes that Kim Novak wears explains the psychological state of the character. One of the bonuses is a fine documentary, originally seen on American Movie Classics cable network, about the films' restoration and includes new interviews with Kim Novak and Barbara Bel Geddes."