VERTIGO, Alfred Hitchcock (1958)
My apologies for being so lazy regarding classic movies. It takes me ages to be in the mood for them, and then I enjoy most of them.
Eventually yesterday I found the right time to watch one of the most acclaimed Hitchcock’s classics, Vertigo, and must admit I fell in love with the story, the acting and everything. I’ve seen some of his movies and he’s really to be admired for the stories, the atmospheres and the development of them. Should review those I’ve already seen, probably will enjoy them even more nowadays.
Vertigo has two concrete and well delimited parts, and the sudden change from one to the other is to be remarked.
Scotty Ferguson (James Stewart) is a San Francisco police detective who’s just retired after having been diagnosed of acrophobia, which causes dizziness and vertigo effects. He’s no plans but to be wandering until he makes up his mind, however, a rich old acquaintance from his college days, Gavin Elster, approaches him asking for help. Scotty is required to be following Elster’s wife Madeleine (Kim Novak), during her trance episodes. Before appointing a doctor, Elster wants to know whether his wife is really possessed by a dead spirit and needs someone he can trust. Not really convinced Scotty accepts the mission and starts following the beautiful Madeleine’s wanderings, surprising the detective as to believe on the story of the possession.
Scotty will fall in love with the woman and so will she, once they get to know each other. They will become inseparable, and together will try to break the spell, however, Madeleine will suicide and Scotty will fall into a state of melancholia close to madness, feeling deeply guilty and responsible for being unable to protect her.
Apparently recovered, the detective will keep on wandering by the same places related to her beloved Madeleine, until he discovers Judy, whose amazing resemblance to her makes him obsessed for having her back alive with terrible consequences.
First part is interesting although at some points and nowadays it’s hard to believe in Madeleine’s possessed by the spirit of a dead woman, how can I make myself clear? Terror films are quite often dealing with possession, spirits presence and dead come to life, but with the aim of terrifying audience. The way Hitchcock deals with this possession is just an excuse for Scotty to get to know Madeleine, and as we discover later on, during the second part, it was done on purpose, and you can notice that possession episodes the woman has are too exaggerated, thus first part might seem a bit boring or slow.
The greatness of Vertigo is the sudden change after Madeleine’s death and Scotty’s insanity as a consequence, when he’s apparently recovered, but after just a couple of scenes Madeleine is alive in Judy’s body. Reincarnation is impossible, so is possession, and the explanation for such resemblance is so shocking, Hitchcock is capable of leaving audience babbling wondering what’s going on…and it’s perfect, everything is so well tied up that makes sense.
On the other hand, I haven’t been much fan on James Stewart, in fact, he’s the kind of soft guy you always associate to “good characters”, in addition, his Spanish overdubbed voice of the typical nice grandpa used to get on my nerves and always thought he was the kind of actor beloved by grannies, however, in Vertigo, first his acting resulted very natural and appealing, and Scotty’s obsession and insanity well greatly depicted by his performance. Regarding Kim Novak, good ol’ Hitchcock was fond of gorgeous ladies and she looks gorgeous, has has this weird beauty in accordance to her mysterious role, thus no matter her acting is not outstanding, she’s able to play strange Madeleine and then to become average Judy successfully.
Really Vertigo is classic everybody in love with cinema should watch at least once in their lifetime.