I am so thrilled today to be hosting the wonderful and delightful Cara of Silver Screen Serenade as a part of the massive Alfred Hitchcock blogathon which I am hosting with Rob. If you aren’t already following Cara, hop of over there right now, change that, then come back and read what she has to say about Vertigo. When you’re done, you can always go back and have a look see at the Shenanigans she gets up to.
“Oh, Scottie. I’m not mad. I’m not mad. I don’t want to die. There’s someone within me and she says I must die. Oh, Scottie, don’t let me go.” – Madeleine Elster
Number of Times Seen – 1 (23 July 2014)
Brief Synopsis – “A retired San Francisco detective suffering from acrophobia investigates the strange activities of an old friend’s wife, all the while becoming dangerously obsessed with her.” (from IMDb)
My Take On It – Hitchcock Blogathon! Let’s DO this! I was so, so excited to hear that Rob and Zoë were doing this because I’ve only seen a couple of Hitchcock films (Psycho and North by Northwest), which is kind of unforgivable for a movie buff. Or at least I guess. I don’t know the rules. Haha. Whatever the case, it was high time I got around to one or two of his other films, and this was just the push I needed to do it. So thanks, Rob and Zoë, for a brilliant idea!
I have a confession to make: I’m kind of in love with Jimmy Stewart. I think I have been ever since I first saw The Philadelphia Story. Shortly after that, I watched It’s a Wonderful Life for the first time as well, and my love grew. Though his role in Vertigo is much darker than the aforementioned films, Stewart is equally fantastic in it. He has this undeniable likeability in just about anything he does—no exception here. As retired detective John a.k.a. Scottie (I’m still not sure why the latter is his nickname), Stewart is just so natural and believable. Once his obsession kicks in he’s a little lot creepy, but given the story behind that obsession, it’s kind of understandable.
As for the leading ladies, they certainly hold up, too. Right from the start, I adored the chemistry Stewart has with Barbara Bel Geddes, who plays Scottie’s good friend and one-time fiancée, Midge. I enjoyed their rapport so much that I was kind of hoping they’d end up together; in fact, I’m a little baffled as to why Midge called off their engagement all those years ago because they seem great together. But it’s pretty clear that Scottie only has eyes for Madeleine (Kim Novak), which is tricky territory since she is an old friend’s wife. Novak is fantastic as Madeleine—alluring and mysterious and vulnerable to perfection. The actress even has the challenge of playing dual roles…but that’s getting into spoiler territory, and I wouldn’t want to do that. 😉
Here’s what I love about what I’ve seen of Hitchcock’s work: each film tells a gripping story. I don’t think his work will ever stop inspiring filmmakers. Vertigo is undoubtedly one of those inspiring films. The premise sounded intriguing to me, and it certainly delivered. Due credit to the writers for that. It’s as much a baffling mystery with a hint of the paranormal as it is a dramatic love story. It crescendos into powerful moments and then proceeds to outdo those moments with the next big twist. And can we talk about some of those twists?? Wait—nope. No, we can’t because that would be spoiling things! I’ll just say this: it reminds me of Psycho in that something huge happens somewhere in the middle of the film, which brings on what at first seems like an entirely new story. But it all comes full circle in the end with a shocking final punch. Seriously, I was left gaping at the screen saying, “Hitchcock! WOAH, dude!”
In addition to being a master storyteller, Hitchcock also has an excellent eye. The use of color and swirls in the opening credits is trippy but mesmerizing. I could say the same of a dream sequence Scottie has later in the film. And some of the shots! The ones in which Scottie suffers his bouts of vertigo are the best. Hitchcock stretches out the distant and makes you just as dizzy and nervous as the main character. The one at the beginning of the film is the best—Scottie hangs from a rooftop, watching in terror as a police officer who tried to help him plummets to his death. Simply put, it’s iconic. There are lots of moments like this throughout the film.
If I have to pick on some things about Vertigo, I will say that it’s fairly slow-paced, but the payoff in the end is well worth it. Other than that, my only qualms involve Scottie’s relationships with the ladies. His relationship with Midge isn’t really addressed as much as I’d hoped it would be in the end; in fact, it pretty much fizzles out as soon as he meets Madeleine, and his relationship with her is a whirlwind. He later develops another relationship that’s strained to say the least—and that’s mostly his fault since he gets a little crazy. It takes away a smidge of his Stewart charm, though not enough to make you completely dislike him.
Bottom Line – Vertigo is considered one of Hitchcock’s best for good reason. It’s brilliantly woven and masterfully presented story that gets a reaction out of you. It’ll leave you guessing, and it’ll take you by surprise. Plus, Jimmy Stewart. ‘Nough said.
Rating – Oscar Worthy