The second film by Alfred Hitchcock in the Alphabet Challenge is for V and ‘Vertigo’ from 1958.
One of the four films that James Stewart would make with Hitchock, and only two that were not overtly a more theatre setting, Vertigo is a dark pyschological thriller.
Stewart plays John “Scottie” Ferguson a police detective in San Francisco, who has retired following an accident involving a fellow officer who fell from a tall building whilst trying to save him. The event led to the Ferguson being diagnosed with a fear of heights that can bring on the condition of vertigo.
Following this set up for the film we find Ferguson sat in an appartment talking about his recovery with former fiancee ‘Midge’ played by Barbara Bel Geddes. This opening scene is highly reminiscent of Rear Window as Stewart sits in the room complaining to Midge about wanting to be able to scratch his back, frustrated by the girdle he is being required to wear.
The film however then steps away from Rear Window as outside of the apartment when Ferguson is approached by a former friend to follow his wife who he fears may be in danger.
Ferguson accepts the jib and begins to follow the man’s wife Madeline, played by Kim Novak, and begins to try and solve the mystery of the danger that she is in and quickly finds himself in a story of love, obsession and death.
Much like the Beatles had with Yellow Submarine, there are sequences in this that feel like Hitchcock’s psychedelic phase. Animation and strong colour filters are used to emphasise the moments that Stewart is struggling with the effects of his condition. The problem is that these effects, plus a number of other elements of the film haven’t aged too well.
The relationships between the characters are of a different era and the end especially now seems a little odd in it’s immediacy however it retains a mystery to it and its position in the history of American cinema justifies a watch still. I do struggle a little with the AFI in 2007, ranking it the 9th greatest american film of all time though…
That’s what I thought – what about you? Have you seen it? Comment below and share your thoughts…