Thursday, October 15, 2015

AFI Top 100, #61: "Vertigo" (1958)

Movie Stats:
Released  1958 (UK)
American, in English
Director - Alfred Hitchcock
Stars - James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes

Plot Summary:
Recently retired San Francisco PD detective John “Scottie” Ferguson (Stewart), suffering from a paralyzing fear of heights, is hired by an old college buddy to follow the buddy’s wife, Madeleine (Novak), who appears to be suffering from a mental break. Bel Geddes co-stars as Scottie’s friend, Midge.


Bad Stuff:
Scottie is literally the least subtle detective on the planet (seriously, in the car he follows like less than one car length behind, stops every time she stops, noticeably follows her on-foot in deserted places and stares at her), so I figured that Madeleine was either laughably oblivious or that the whole thing was a set up. Therefore, the movie didn’t feel very suspenseful to me.

It felt slow. The numerous scenes of Scottie driving around were pretty boring.

The ending is a huge bowl of WTF.

Good Stuff:
The scenery is beautiful. I don’t remember SF looking that nice the one time I went there.

Stewart is fantastic, as always.

While the suspense was missing for me, I liked the ultimate explanation of what happened.
 It was sort of deliciously evil.

The Verdict:
Shallow side note: holy wow, Barbara Bel Geddes was so pretty! And her character was about a billion times better than Madeleine. I had such a huge girl crush on her in this. I could have watched a whole movie of Midge and “Johnny” (her nickname for Scottie) bantering.

But alas, that’s not what this movie was about. Having now seen 4 Hitchcock movies in the last year or so (review for Notorious; reviews for North by Northwest and Psycho coming later as part of this project), I’m beginning to think I’m not much of a fan. Most of his movies start out really interesting to me, but the longer they go on, the less engaged I feel. My personal opinion is that they simply don’t hold together very well. That being said, I don’t think this is a bad entry to the list. It has quite a lot going for it, with magnificent scenery, great acting, and an interesting plot. It’s one of those films where, in a different mindset on a different day, I might think better of it, so I’m not going to judge it too harshly.

I give it 3.5 stars.


Patricia said...

The first time I watched this (perhaps in the early 2000's?) I was not as savvy as you were and was completely blown away by the twist. Did. not. see. that. coming.

The most recent time I watched this (in DC, with friends at a restaurant that also showed movies) we laughed at how very slow and steady the obvious pointing out of things happened. I can remember her sitting in the art gallery looking at the painting and the camera being very "Hey! Look how her hair is the same as the hair in the painting! Do you see it? Do you? What about now? Do you see it now?"

balyien said...

It's true! A masterpiece of subtlety this film certainly was not.