Plot: After suffering from a fear of heights that leads to severe vertigo, Scottie (James Stewart) resigns from his career as a detective. He is then approached by an old school friend who asks him to follow his wife Madeline (Kim Novak) who has been acting strangely and seems to be obsessed with a dead woman.
What went through my head: Hitchcock time again! To be honest, I’m always optimistic when it comes to watching a Hitchcock film for the first time as even if they might have aged somewhat, they invariably turn out to have an excellent plot. Sadly it seems, Vertigo is the quasi-exception to this rule.
This film has left me so conflicted I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. On the one hand I was bored enough to have to make myself two litres of coffee to keep my eyes open, and then on the other hand, I appreciated the last two minutes of the film and sort of began to think that perhaps the end justifies the tedious means.
The thing is, so little happens for so long in this film that just about all the charm it had worked up in the prologue and opening few minutes was quickly whittled away by the insufferable simplicity of the next hour or so. One of the great things about Hitchcock films is that the script is never dull. While perhaps not quite on the level with Sorkin, Allen, or Tarantino, it seldom fails to bring a smile to my face. So why on earth does this film have such large stretches of film with barely a sentence spoken? It seems Hitchcock shot himself in the goolies there.
And don’t get me started on the last half hour of the film, in which the protagonist dials up the rapey-ness several hundred notches. Eurgh, what a complete bastard he is! I know older films tend to be a little light on the women’s lib front but how anyone could truly sit through that without wondering why the blinking fuck the woman didn’t just knee him in the nads and tell him to do one is beyond me.
Not to mention that the “big reveal” moment where she slips on the necklace that gives the whole game away (dun dun dunnnnnnn!) is utter bullshit because there is one thing for certain that I as a sarcastic homosexual film critic knows for sure: a red and gold necklace does NOT go with a black dress, bleached blond hair, and sterling silver diamond earrings! There is no way she would a) be as monumentally stupid as to wear that necklace around him in the first place and b) actually wear that necklace with an unholy alliance of clashing colours. Plot hole ahoy!
Verdict: But then we come to how the film stands as a whole and I have to admit, the final two minutes, or maybe just the last thirty seconds, really did win me over a tad. Not enough to actually warrant me actually liking the film – you can’t make a two hour film with only 10% of it being any good and expect me to rate it highly – but at least I appreciated the story a little more. Overall, I have to bill this as the weakest Hitchcock film I’ve seen so far. Odd that it seems to win so many awards when Rear Window is clearly better.
A Fresh Look At: Vertigo (1958)