Monday, March 3, 2014

Movie of the Week – Vertigo

This week’s movie: Vertigo (1958).

San Francisco detective Scottie Ferguson leaves the force after almost falling off a rooftop to his death. He is suffering from extreme acrophobia; however, he is hired by a wealthy man to look into the strange behavior and activities of the man’s wife. Things start to get dark for Scottie as he becomes obsessed with the woman.

Auteur Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense, made many great films during his illustrious career (many considered masterpieces), including: Rebecca, Rear Window, North by Northwest, Psycho, and The Birds. Vertigo, however, is maybe his best (or at least, so think film critics in their latest list of the Top 250 Films). Yet, the film was a failure when it first came out, audiences finding it too dark. Hitchcock worked with many of his frequent collaborators on the film, like: composer Bernard Herrmann (whose score is among the greatest in film history), cinematographer Robert Burks, and art directors Hal Pereira.

James Stewart stars in the film (one of his four for Hitchcock) and Kim Novak co-stars. Barbara Bel Geddes and Tom Helmore feature in support.

While Hitchcock’s films usually find themselves immersed in a world of terror and suspense, they also usually have lighter comedic moments as well – even Frenzy has some very funny moments. Vertigo too has some good lighter moments, especially in the scenes between Scottie and Midge, but overall it is a very dark film, as Scottie’s obsession with Madeleine Elster makes him unlikable (something one might have thought impossible from a Jimmy Stewart character). This is the main reason audiences did not like the film when it came out in 1958. Scottie’s fetishes overtake him, leading him down a very murky path. Additionally, Hitchcock has the audacity to end the film at the perfect, bleakest moment – something almost unheard of in Hollywood cinema. Vertigo is a film that must be seen by every fan of cinema. It is one of the very few perfect films.

Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray (as part of a collection) and Video On-Demand

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