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Overall Rating
4.61

Awesome77.53%
Worth A Look: 13.48%
Average: 4.49%
Pretty Bad: 1.12%
Total Crap: 3.37%

3 reviews, 71 user ratings


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Vertigo
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Hitchcock's masterpiece."
5 stars

I can't see how people could caricature James Stewart as an amiable aw-shucks grandpa after they've seen 'Vertigo,' Alfred Hitchcock's perverse romantic thriller. Stewart's John 'Scottie' Ferguson starts out as a straight arrow, a retired detective recuperating from a rooftop trauma that has left him with acrophobia. Gradually, though, this arrow develops a few kinks — or maybe they were there all along.

Vertigo will undoubtedly strike some as slow and baffling, but it has a genuine air of insanity — the one time Hitchcock truly implicated himself, laying out his obsessions for all to see. Hitchcock was elsewhere an entertainer, often a great one, but Vertigo finds him working as an artist, as driven as his protagonist, and also, in the end, as humorless. There are no lovely, witty "Hitchcock moments" here, no sense of the Master cackling to himself behind the curtains as he pulls the strings of the characters and the audience. Here he pushes James Stewart into being his surrogate as he takes Kim Novak and makes her into Grace Kelly, not once but twice. One theory, probably facile but appealing nonetheless, is that Hitchcock never forgave Kelly for marrying a prince and abandoning acting, and that Vertigo was his poison-pen love letter to her: "See," he might have been telling Kelly, "I can turn anyone into a cool blonde."

Scottie is hired by an old college acquaintance, Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), to tail Elster's unstable wife Madeleine (Novak), who suffers from dire fantasies of suicide in the manner of her grandmother. Scottie promptly becomes obsessed with Madeleine, her vulnerability and madness, and ignores the sane love of his ex-fiancée Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes). Shot after shot puts us in front of Scottie's windshield as he drives, drives, drives around the maze of San Francisco, following Madeleine everywhere. Once he catches up with her, saving her from drowning in the bay, she seems to accept his increasingly heated attentions as another part of the whirlpool of emotion drawing her down into death.

Vertigo is a painfully beautiful movie, circling slowly around the elegant heart of the great city, its colors sharp and rich. Bernard Herrmann's score, woozy and menacing, completes the tapestry of this romance of doom. Part of the queasy fascination of Vertigo, of course, is that it's essentially about ungovernable desires — specifically, necrophiliac desires. The beloved James Stewart wants to have sex with a dead woman. When Madeleine exits the picture and is replaced by dead ringer Judy (also Novak), a shopgirl as ordinary and brash as Madeleine was classy and mysterious, Scottie is struck dumb with renewed obsession but can't resist making Judy over in Madeleine's image. She fights it, but ultimately loves him too much to protest. Vertigo is about a man who can never allow himself normal love. Acrophobia is the least of his problems.

Early audiences expecting another ingenious Hitch thriller must have been dumbfounded — Vertigo rattles right through the standard exposition, the explanation for everything. Hitchcock seems almost irritated by the necessity to spell things out for the paying customers. It's not what he's interested in this time. The twists are perfunctory; this entire weird movie, impacted with thwarted desire (not just Scottie's), is pretty twisted right from the start. Hitchcock may have felt he got a little too close to the flame. After Vertigo he retreated into formalism, taking on the TV-studio look of Psycho, the intentional cheapness of The Birds, and the handful of deadly dull thrillers that closed out his career. I love Psycho, and The Birds is fun, but one could fairly say that no film after Vertigo really seemed to matter much to Hitchcock except as an exercise. Vertigo is no exercise. It's an eccentric anomaly in his work, heavily morbid and damp with the sweat of obsession.

Someone said that there could be no Brian De Palma without 'Psycho,' and one could also say there could be no David Lynch without 'Vertigo' — Lynch's 'Blue Velvet' bites large mouthfuls from the film, including the trio of guiltily sexually obsessed detective, pure-of-heart girlfriend, and dangerously erotic siren. Reviewing 'Blue Velvet,' Pauline Kael quoted Laura Dern's line to Kyle MacLachlan, 'I don't know if you're a detective or a pervert,' to which Kael added, 'She's a kid; she thinks it's either/or.' It sure as hell isn't either/or in 'Vertigo.'

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=640&reviewer=416
originally posted: 11/06/07 15:26:40
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User Comments

7/23/14 Taco Town Amazingly well crafted...and I have a thing for Midge 5 stars
4/11/12 keith miron One of hitchcock's worst 2 stars
10/25/11 Annie G Great classic Hitchcock. Nice tour of San Francisco. 4 stars
9/21/11 anal mclovin 1 stars
12/18/10 Chris H My favorite film of all time 5 stars
11/22/09 SirGent Compulsively watchable, "Vertigo" is the definition of 'classic cinema' & Hitchcock's peak! 5 stars
7/04/09 Flounder In my humble opinion, this is the greatest film ever made 5 stars
6/01/08 PAUL SHORTT HITCHCOCK'S STIRRING PARABLE OF LOVE AND DEATH 5 stars
4/16/08 Steven Warcholek This movie started slow but ended with a shock. 4 stars
4/03/08 Aileen Rak If you love Hitchcock, You'll LOVE Vertigo! 5 stars
2/13/08 chris well played keep you in the seat waiting for the unexpected to happen over and over 4 stars
1/26/08 proper amateur film critic vertigo is a gorgeous, disturbing, icily romantic movie masterpiece 5 stars
1/07/08 Aaron Commareri One of Hitchcock's Best! 5 stars
10/15/07 fools♫gold The sexiest scary movie to ever be made. 5 stars
9/23/07 pete This movie is addicting....beware 5 stars
2/12/07 zenshark porbeagle underrated. 5 stars
2/11/07 action movie fan overrated> hard to understand not your best hitchcock 3 stars
8/29/06 Jake kerry and Michelle Loften are gay! This movie rules! 5 stars
5/02/06 Eden Brilliant dizzying film, keeps you off balance throughout. 5 stars
4/01/06 kerry a pile of pretentious trash from king Overrated Hitchcock 1 stars
12/07/05 T. Maj But isn't Jimmy Stewart a little too old for the part? 4 stars
9/02/05 Zack this movie rocks! 5 stars
7/25/05 Eric Rollins Perfect companion for Rear Window or High Anxiety. 5 stars
7/18/05 Stuart Andrews The greatest film ever made. 5 stars
6/04/05 Mike Jozic One of Hitch's best. Definintely worth checking out. 5 stars
5/24/05 Carolyn Rathburn Classic hitchcock with a great Jimmy Stewart. 5 stars
5/06/05 Michelle Lofton I wasn't too impressed 3 stars
3/02/05 Andrea Hale A Masterpiece 5 stars
11/15/04 Phil The greatest Hitchcock movie 5 stars
10/14/04 Uyi Omoregie A deep movie commenting on love, lust, obsession, deception, life, death, reincarnation 5 stars
5/20/04 Sean Scanlan Jimmy Sewart at his best again 5 stars
3/23/04 Trannon Goble Beautiful masterpiece 5 stars
12/15/03 Agent Sands Story, acting, & innovative directing return well on video investment. 5 stars
12/11/03 john the story is a bit far fetched but what style!!! 4 stars
11/22/03 ross hendrick completly outstanding, from the master of suspense 5 stars
11/04/02 Emily One of the most important films ever made. Will be studied for generations. 5 stars
6/25/02 Charles Tatum Very dull 3 stars
12/05/01 Skip Young Hitchcock's best. Beautiful and hypnotic. Incredible film. 5 stars
12/02/01 travis r. sorensen hitch's best. jimmy stewart is really creepy 5 stars
9/15/01 Monster W. Kung Good yet overrated. It's rare that Hitchcock pulls me into the story. No exception here. 4 stars
8/07/01 E-Funk Spectatcular. Alfred Hitchcock set a standard and stunned the shit out of a generation. 5 stars
7/28/01 Henry Ginsberg What suspence! 5 stars
6/14/01 Law Firm of Dewey, Cheatam & Howe For some reason this is the only Hitch I am not wild about 3 stars
6/13/01 sal thank you hitch 5 stars
5/31/01 Podgous Unreal, as all Hitchcock films, a little study helps immencely. 5 stars
4/24/01 Kimberly Roberts It was a great Hitchcock film!! 5 stars
2/17/01 Tyrone Hitchcock; nuff said 4 stars
1/02/01 R.W. Welch As weird in its way as "Psycho," and almost as good. 5 stars
11/15/00 nikki martin, 19yrs old, dont usually watch old movies i found this to be one of the best movies i have ever seen,thanx to my humanities instruct' 5 stars
11/15/00 salvo toscano Is there a better thriller than this? The italian title was The woman who lived twice. Cool 5 stars
10/13/00 kaz very good film i love the twist used to trick us again. 4 stars
9/20/00 Jeff the greatest film of all time 5 stars
7/11/00 Jami By far Hitchcock's masterpiece."I look up, I look down" 5 stars
6/09/00 cricket to me being young it was good enough that i didn't get bord. 4 stars
5/30/00 todd One of the best 5 stars
11/26/99 Matt Henderson Failure of romantic love, destruction/de-/re-construction of identity. Hitchcock's best! 5 stars
11/22/99 NateKerr gripping 4 stars
10/07/99 Chip One of my favourites 5 stars
2/01/99 Vick Di Brecci Love the music, like the visuals and Stewart's acting. Convoluted plot ruins much. 4 stars
1/24/99 Hannah Great, but somebody please explain to me what was the deal with Bel Geddes' character? 4 stars
11/26/98 Mr.Pink Hitchcock''s masterpiece along with Psycho. 5 stars
11/24/98 Lord Of The Dunce Just incredible filmmaking. Perfection. 5 stars
11/21/98 little jerry If there were any doubts about Hitchcock being a great artist this ends them all.Sublime. 5 stars
10/28/98 Silent Rob Yeah, it's all true! 5 stars
10/19/98 Kwyjibo In my top 5 ever. Just an incredible movie. 5 stars
9/28/98 Brandon B. Bah! 1 stars
9/17/98 Chuck-D Jimmy stewart goes crazy? What's not to love? 5 stars
9/05/98 pooky the bald Too... sweeeeeeeeeeeeet. 5 stars
9/04/98 Badass Haunting. 5 stars
8/28/98 Mister Whoopee A true classic. Textbook stuff from the master of suspense. 5 stars
8/24/98 The Capital City Goofball Classic Hitchcock. Every Hollywood exec should be made to watch this film. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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  04-Oct-1996 (R)

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