Score : 95/100
Watchable Minutes: 108/128
Trailer Comparison : The trailer I saw for Vertigo on IMDb has all the best selling points to the movie wrapped up in it’s two minute run time. There’s nothing bad to say about the trailer other than it’s very much a product of it’s time.
Movie or Film : Vertigo is a film and one of the best ones ever made. The underlying messages in the film are debatable as to their true intent, but that discussion existing at all makes Vertigo a film.
Recently retired police detective John “Scottie” Ferguson is asked by an old college friend to keep an eye on his wife, Madeleine, who has begun to act strangely. While Scottie follows Madeleine around San Francisco, he bears witness to her strange behavior. After a failed suicide attempt, Madeleine begins to reveal the mysterious past that is influencing her every move. Wrestling with their own unique traumas, Scottie and Madeleine begin to fall in love and are pushed to the edge of destruction.
Spoilers ahead, so beware.
There are a number of things I enjoy about this movie and the easiest one to award points for is the casting, namely James Stewart. He definitely looked way too old to be romantically involved with the Midge character, but I can forgive him because I don’t think there’s anybody else that could have brought the character to life the way he did. He made me identify with Scottie and as the film progressed, I became uncomfortable for so easily taking his side. Kim Novak plays both of her characters well, giving emotional performances on both ends of the spectrum. I mentioned Midge above and while her character was mostly in the supporting role, there wasn’t anything special about this performance.
The overall story of Vertigo is pretty straight forward and easy to follow, as long as you’re paying attention. This is not a background noise movie as there is plenty to keep you entertained and clues along the way to help you figure it out at the same pace that Scottie does. It’s an interesting story that will keep you engaged and doesn’t really drag in too many places. My one big gripe is that there had to be some car scenes where ex-detective Scottie was following Madeleine, those scenes were way too long. It could have been cut by about 20 minutes, making the film that much snappier.
The message of Vertigo is what puts it in the films category (click here for my explanation on the difference between movies and films). This message, which is ahead of its time, centers around the destructive nature of male control. Scottie’s domination and determination to change Judy back into the fictional version of Madeleine costs Judy her life. Had Scottie stopped and understood that Judy was her own person, perhaps he could have found the same happiness he thought he had with Madeleine. Instead, Scottie relentlessly compares Judy to her fictitious persona, Madeline, stopping at nothing to change her into his idealistic image and driving down her self-esteem. Insecure and yearning for acceptance, Judy complies to Scotties every request to change simply for the sake of being authentically loved. Judy is the real victim of the movie, forced by one man to be an accessory to murder and forced by another to become the woman she helped kill.
It was Alfred Hitchcock, a pioneer of thrills, suspense and horror, who helped push the filmmaking industry to the next level with the techniques and tricks developed during his career. Vertigo is one such example of his success in doing so. There are no issues with the directing or editing of this movie, aside from the decision to add too many driving scenes. With those scenes trimmed just a little bit like I said above, I think the movie would have been a little bit snappier.
The score, sound design and visuals for Vertigo are sub par by 21st century standards, but it was held back by the limitations of 1958 technology. I won’t take off any points here because of that fact. It’s not a bad looking movie on my 4K display and the sound was acceptable when played out of the display speakers. I did have to crank the volume up into the 40’s and turn on captions just to make sure I didn’t miss anything though. The dialogue was a little rustly, which is something I feel all movies from this generation suffer from. It’s nothing you can’t get used to and it keeps your expectations level throughout because you are reminded constantly that it is an old movie.
Overall, Vertigo is an excellent film and one of my new favorites. Part of the reason I created this website was to finally go through the list of all time great movies. The type of things everybody needs to watch before they die type movies. I think that Vertigo earns its place on any such list as being one of the greats.
If you like this, check out :
- Rear Window