A former cop with a crippling fear of heights becomes
obsessed with a beautiful woman he is hired to follow.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Alec Coppel and Samuel A. Taylor
Starring James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes,
Based on the novel D'Entre Les Morts by Pierre Boileau
and Thomas Narcejac
Oscar Nominations - Best Art Direction, Best Sound Mixing
Vertigo is considered by many film aficionados to be Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece, and an argument can certainly be made for that. It's a wholly original suspense thriller that excels thanks to Hitchcock's brilliant direction and the chemistry between James Stewart and Kim Novak. Vertigo will keep you on your toes from beginning to end, and once you realize the full scope of the twist, the entire movie gets thrown out of whack as you look back at what's transpired. Turns out you were watching a completely different movie.
Stewart plays John Ferguson, a retired cop who had a mental breakdown after he realized he had severe acrophobia, a fear of heights. When he's hired by an old friend to tail the guys's wife Madeleine (Novak), John falls in love with her and tries to help her through her bizarre condition wherein she believes herself to be possessed by a hundred-year-old spirit. I know, it sounds tough to follow, but that's just the appetizer. Once Madeleine falls to her death, John becomes obsessed with finding her again, even going so far as to find a near perfect lookalike and dress her up like his lost love. What started as a blossoming love story becomes a full-blown obsessive thriller, and the ending is so explosive you won't even know what hit you.
While I do still enjoy Rear Window and Psycho considerably more, I understand why people throw Vertigo into the ring when discussing Hitchcock's greatest thrillers. Vertigo tricks you into rooting for the wrong people and drags you into John's wild obsession, even dropping hints that make you think it's all in his head. It was ahead of its time and still holds up today.