My Review of ‘Vertigo’ (1958)


Before seeing this film, I made the mistake of reading an analysis of the story, which of course revealed way too much information. So the effect of the reveals was greatly diminished for me. I’ll try to avoid that here.

Spoilers! :)

Spoilers! 🙂

Vertigo may be Hitchcock’s most experimental film (after Rope, I suppose—the film seemingly done in one take—but not really). The movie starts with police detective Scottie Ferguson (played by James Stewart) chasing a criminal across rooftops—and hanging from one after a nearly fatal leap. Thus, the title of the film. Having developed vertigo and a fear of heights, Ferguson retires to a (presumably) quiet life in San Francisco.


But that’s not to be. An old college friend wants Ferguson (or Scottie) to follow his wife, Madeleine, a haunted blonde beauty (played by stunning Hitchcock blonde Kim Novak) who seems fixated on a deceased woman named Carlotta whose portrait hangs in an art museum.


At some point, Scottie is called upon to rescue her from what seems to me the most feeble attempt to commit suicide by drowning. Nonetheless, he follows her into the drink (where she flails about with great gusto), fishes her out, and takes her home. Needless to say, Scottie falls hard for Madeleine. And vice versa.


Based on Madeleine’s description of a dream, Scottie takes her to the Mission San Juan Bautista. And while they exchange words of love, Madeline suddenly runs inside and up into the bell tower. Scottie tries to follow, but is slowed by … what else? … vertigo. By the time he reaches the top …

I’m stopping there. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what happens. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

Let’s just say the story is about love, obsession, and emotional manipulation. It’s also about greed, deception, and the blurry line between perception and reality. All set against the magnificent background of San Francisco and the Golden Gate (bridge and all).


It also includes some of the most unique and visionary uses of color, cinematography, and montage (which in combination border on the psychedelic at times).

Without spoilers, I’ll just say the dénouement is bittersweet, yet satisfying.


A movie of psychological thrills way ahead of its time, Vertigo gets two thumbs up!

Hand showing thumbs up. All on white background.

This entry was posted in Hitchcock, Surreal, Thriller and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to My Review of ‘Vertigo’ (1958)

  1. geelw says:

    Well, lesson learned: Never read up completely (or at all) on some films before viewing. I was lucky enough to see a few of Hitchcock’s films on the big screen during the revival/restoration period and Vertigo was astounding beyond what I walked in expecting.

    Have you seen Brian DePalma’s 1976 film Obsession? If not, put it on your list, as it riffs on Vertigo with a meaner 70’s twist. Bernard Herrnann also did the score for thi film and it’s a great one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debbi says:

      I’ll have to add “Obsession” to my list. Thanks for the recommendation! 🙂

      Yeah, ever since that review, I’ve avoided most retro movie reviews or approached them with great caution!

      And if I’m going to reveal spoilers, I like to make that absolutely clear up front.


  2. Agreed – Vertigo was definitely ahead of its time and has lots of interesting themes, like you said, of love, obsession, etc. I really like Kim Novak’s performance here.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: My Review of ‘Easter Parade’ (1948) | I Found it at the Movies

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