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Vertigo (1958)

A former police detective juggles wrestling with his personal demons and becoming obsessed with a hauntingly beautiful woman.
(PG, 128 min.)

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Friday, October 9, 2020

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Dismissed when first released, later heralded as one of director Alfred Hitchcock's finest films (and, according to Hitchcock, his most personal one), this adaptation of the French novel D'entre les morts weaves an intricate web of obsession and deceit. It opens as Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart) realizes he has vertigo, a condition resulting in a fear of heights, when a police officer is killed trying to rescue him from falling off a building. Scottie then retires from his position as a private investigator, only to be lured into another case by his old college friend, Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore). Elster's wife, Madeleine (Kim Novak), has been possessed by a spirit, and Elster wants Scottie to follow her. He hesitantly agrees, and thus begins the film's wordless montage as Scottie follows the beautiful yet enigmatic Madeleine through 1950s San Francisco (accompanied by Bernard Herrmann's hypnotic score). After saving her from suicide, Scottie begins to fall in love with her, and she appears to feel the same way. Here tragedy strikes, and each twist in the movie's second half changes our preconceptions about the characters and events. In 1996 a new print of Vertigo was released, restoring the original grandeur of the colors and the San Francisco backdrop, as well as digitally enhancing the soundtrack. [Rovi]

Starring: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Genre(s): Mystery, Romance, Thriller

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"Do yourself an aesthetic favor: Take the plunge"

— Desson Thomson, Washington Post

"From a craft standpoint, Vertigo represents the director in peak form."

— James Berardinelli, ReelViews

"One of the landmarks -- not merely of the movies, but of 20th-century art."

— Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

"Alfred Hitchcock's 'Vertigo' is an artistic triumph for the master of mystery."

— Wanda Hale, New York Daily News

"Combines in an almost unique balance Hitchcock's brash flair for psychological shocks with his elegant genius for dapper stylishness."

— Peter Bradshaw, Guardian

"The lure of death, the power of the past, the guilty complicity of a clean-cut hero, the near-fetishistic use of symbol and color: these Hitchcock hallmarks are all mesmerizingly on view."

— Janet Maslin, New York Times