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Although it wasn't a box-office success when originally released in 1958, Vertigo has since taken its deserved place as Alfred Hitchcock's greatest, most spellbinding, most deeply personal achievement. In fact, it consistently ranks among the top 10 movies ever made in the once-a-decade Sight & Sound international critics poll, placing at number 4 in the most recent survey. (Universal Pictures' spectacularly gorgeous 1996 restoration and rerelease of this 1958 Paramount production was a tremendous success with the public, too.) James Stewart plays a retired police detective who is hired by an old friend to follow his wife (a superb Kim Novak, in what becomes a double role), whom he suspects of being possessed by the spirit of a dead madwoman. The detective and the disturbed woman fall ("fall" is indeed the operative word) in love and...well, to give away any more of the story would be criminal. Shot around San Francisco (the Golden Gate Bridge and the Palace of the Legion of Honor are significant locations) and elsewhere in Northern California (the redwoods, Mission San Juan Batista) in rapturous Technicolor, Vertigo is as lovely as it is haunting. --Jim Emerson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The story is good, incorporating drama, suspense, and romance. Vertigo has one of the finest, most gripping, finales I have come across in any motion picture. Even after repeated viewings, the ending still manages to send shivers up my spine.
The acting is good all the way around. Jimmy Stewart delivers an absolutely wonderful performance as the slightly disturbed John 'Scottie' Ferguson, a man with a strong fear of heights and an obsession with the mysterious Mrs. Madeleine Elster. Madeleine is played to a cool, smooth perfection by the talented Kim Novak.
Robert Burks brings a lot of atmosphere to Vertigo through his cinematography. The colors are vibrant and glowing, giving the film a haunting aura.
Bernard Herrmann is at his best, delivering an absolutely riveting and disorienting musical score. The effects for the opening title sequence combined with Herrmann's score really set the tone of the film.
Hitchcock's direction is fantastic as always. For this film, he created the infamous "dizzy effect" shot by simultaneously zooming forward and reverse tracking with the camera. This shot has been imitated by many but rarely has it been as effective as it is here.
True, the new extra features and the marginally better quality image as compared to the previous anamorphic version in the Hitchcock Masterpiece box set are probably enough for a die hard fan of this masterpiece to shell out for still another version of the DVD. Even the Friedkin commentary is quite enjoyable and offers some useful insights, contrary to his somewhat spotty reputation as to his commentary talents.
However, the two audio tracks are replicas of the attempt at modernizing it in the 90s by making a stereo version. The absence of the original sound effects track led to some tinkering and yielded certain strange results, most notably the double gunshots during the initial rooftop chase and a generally less-detailed aural picture. Strange that the edition in the boxset did include the original mono mix, but Universal dropped it in 2008. For those who insist on purchasing only the most perfect edition, this is not quite it then. It was not enough to stop me, but I do notice that the sound experience is slightly less interesting with this edition.
As for the improvement in image quality, it may not be visible on all systems. I did the comparison on two other systems and in one case the improvement was also noticeable, the image being sharper and the colors more vivid, while on the other one my friend and I saw no difference.
In conclusion, perhaps a Blu-Ray edition will one day bring it all together, correcting the audio deficiencies and adding HD quality, should it appear one day.
If you ask movie fans to name their favorite Hitchcock titles, you'll get a lot of different answers. Some would mention Psycho or Rear Window, while others might mention Dial M for Murder, The Birds, Notorious or The 39 Steps. There are probably at least 20 strong candidates. My own favorite is Vertigo because the mystery element appeals to me and James Stewart is involved.
Mulholland Dr. is my favorite film and David Lynch has mentioned how much he likes Vertigo and Rear Window because of the mood each creates. I can see why. Vertigo's mood never reaches the darker depths that Lynch's work inhabits, but there are similarities.
Vertigo begins with a rooftop chase in which Scottie Ferguson is left clinging to the guttering. When a cop tries to save him, Ferguson sees him slip and fall to his death. The traumatic experience leaves Ferguson mentally scarred and he quits his job as a detective. He's hired as a private detective by Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), who claims that his wife, Madeleine (Novak), wanders off at random and doesn't remember where she's been. He thinks she might be possessed.
While that sounds unlikely, Hitchcock gives us reason to think that Madeleine really might be possessed as her husband suggests. Ferguson follows her all day. She takes flowers to a gravestone and stares at it as if she is somewhere else. The name on the grave is Carlotta Valdes. Madeleine also spends time in an art gallery staring at a picture, Portrait of Carlotta. The woman in the painting wears the same necklace and has the same hairstyle as Madeleine.
The following day, Ferguson follows Madeleine again. This time she drives to the Golden Gate Bridge and jumps into the bay.Read more ›
There are many aspects of this film that make it uniquely special. Obviously, the direction and vision of Hitchcock is pure genius. The way the camera works in this film is magical, the lighting setting a surreal mood of wonder and awe, highlighted by its creation of the haunting beauty of Kim Novak. No woman has ever looked more beautiful than Kim Novak in this film.
The film score by Bernard Herrmann is the greatest of his career, and probably one of the greatest in film history. Along with the great animation in the opening credits, it augers well to warn the viewer that they are about to witness something very special in cinema.
The work of James Stewart and Kim Novak are exceptional, but this film really is all about the genius of Alfred Hitchcock, and his collaboration with Bernard Herrmann.
What more can be said? It is unquestionably one of the greatest films ever made.
Most recent customer reviews
This Movie is considered to be one of Alfred Hitchcock s finest work. The Photography of areas around the San Francisco area is quite impressive. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Roller
A troubled James Stewart and a breath-takingly belle Kim Novak make for a great classic. Great plot & acting, well-designed by Hitchcock. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Canuck Teach
Keeps you interested. Acting is good. No boring gunfire, explosions, car racing, or gross violence. Worth the price for an evening's entertainment.Published on Nov. 9 2013 by Laney
Le produit m'a été livré dans le délai prévu. La qualité mentionnée était exacte. Read morePublished on Feb. 6 2013 by MFJ
Vertigo is the first Amazon DVD that did not function properly. Only good to part of the chase up the church stairs. Regret I won't know what happened after that.Published on May 25 2011 by pekoepan
My son is starting a Hitchcock collection-got this for Christmas present. He loves the old movies (he's 15) and especially enjoys the cameos by Hitchcock and the camera angles.Published on Dec 26 2009 by Bonnie Botham
Scotty (James Stewart) is a retired policeman with a big handicap, vertigo. He simply cannot stand heights, something that he didn't know until the moment when he was unable to... Read morePublished on Jan. 10 2007 by B. Alcat
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