Vertigo is generally considered to be Alfred Hitchcock’s most personal work. It also underlined Hitchcock’s technical mastery in the use of color and camera effects (the famous zoom-in-dolly-out shot used to simulate vertigo) and the importance of Herrmann’s jittery score.
James Stewart plays another character (as in Rear Window) who, because he is psychically or physically separated from his real life, creates an imaginary, anxiety-provoking substitution. Stewart leaves the San Francisco police force after his vertigo leads to a partner’s death.
He takes a job tailing the wife (Kim Novak) of a school friend who has been behaving strangely. When he saves her from a suicidal plunge, his fascination turns to longing, a longing that comes to a bitter end when she seemingly succeeds in dying, again due to Stewart’s vertigo, in a leap from a bell tower.
After gathering his shattered mind in an institution, Stewart spots a woman with an uncanny likeness to his lost love. His obsession drives him to re-create her in the exact image of his suicidal lover, forcing a confrontation with the truth of her identity. Critics have long discussed the relevance of the Stewart character’s manipulating of the Novak character and the director’s own obsession with creating the ideal cool-blonde heroine. Among the most fascinating and suspenseful of classic movies.
Based on the novel D’Entre Les Morts by Boileau and Narcejac, the authors of the story for French director Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Diabolique.
Hitch had wanted Vera Miles, who just starred in The Wrong Man, to play Madeleine in Vertigo, but as he said, “[she] became pregnant just before the part that was going to turn her into a star. After that I lost interest.”
Academy Award Nominations: Best Art Direction; Best Sound.
Cast: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Ellen Corby, Henry Jones, Lee Patrick,
Producer and Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Original Story: Pierre Boileau, Thomas Narcejac
Director of Photography: Robert Burks
Editor: George Tomasini
Composer: Bernard Herrmann
Screenwriters: Alec Coppel, Samuel A. Taylor
Production Designer: Henry Bumstead
Art Director: Hal Pereira
USA / Paramount / 126 minutes / 1958