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Vertigo-A feeling of dizziness...a swimming in the head...figuratively a state in which all things seem to be engulfed in a whirlpool of terror.
A classic 1958 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
Jimmy Stewart plays John "Scottie" Ferguson, a San Francisco detective who, because of a rooftop chase which leads to the death of one of his fellow officers, develops a fear of heights.
Scottie goes on leave for a while, but is persuaded to go back on the job by Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), a college buddy of his, who wants him to trail his wife Madeleine who has been behaving oddly. As he observes the beautiful, mysterious Madeleine (Kim Novak), he begins developing feelings for her - feelings that are reciprocated by her. However, Madeleine appears to be possessed by the spirit of her dead ancestor Carlotta Valdes who is trying to get her to commit suicide. Scottie tries to help her out of this apparent madness, but in vain as he finds himself watching helplessly as Madeleine plunges to her death from the roof of a bell tower, unable to reach her in time due to his vertigo.
Scottie suffers a mental breakdown for some time after his love's death, constantly seeing her in women he meets. It turns out that there is one woman who really does look a lot like Madeleine - a sharp-tongued brunette named Judy Barton (Novak again). Still haunted by the memory of his dead love, Scottie pursues a relationship with Judy. But the ghosts of the past never die, and their consequences prove to be what no one expected...
The film was released to mixed reviews and modest box office results. Critics complained of the film being overly long, slow and too "bogged in detail". However by the late 1960s, scholar Robin Wood re-evaluated the film to be "one of the four or five most profound and beautiful films the cinema has yet given us". Removed from circulation in 1973, it remained somewhat obscure. It was re-released to cinemas in 1983 and on home video in 1984. This time it was a commercial hit and reviews were overwhelmingly positive. By the end of the 1980s, Vertigo was considered among the best films of Hitchcock and highly significant for film history.
If it's the comics company you're looking for, search no further than Vertigo Comics.
- Batman Gambit: Gavin's plan to use Scottie's fear of heights to prevent him from getting to the top of the tower definitely qualifies. And if Scottie had ever seen a picture of the real Madeleine, Gavin would've been sunk.
- Bernard Herrmann: Composed the film's haunting music score.
- Catapult Nightmare
- Creator Cameo: Hitchcock appears walking past the entrance of Gavin Elster's shipyard.
- Disney Villain Death: Sort of.
- Doppelganger Replacement Love Interest: Deconstructed
- Driving a Desk: Particularly noticeable, to the point where Scottie seems to be driving on the wrong side of the road sometimes.
- Empathic Environment: As Pop Liebel tells the story of Carlotta at the Argosy Book Shop, it gets noticeably darker both inside and outside the store.
- Epiphany Therapy: Massively subverted, perhaps even deconstructed.
- Follow the Leader: Brian De Palma's Body Double, but with claustrophobia instead of acrophobia.
- Gainax Ending
- Glasses Girl: Midge.
- Have a Gay Old Time: Try to listen to Midge's comments about "the gay old bohemian days of gay old San Francisco" without chuckling now.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: Scottie, after Elster tells him about Madeleine's relationship to (and seeming possession by) Carlotta Valdes.
- Internal Reveal: A particularly shocking one in which the audience finds out that Judy and Madeleine are one and the same.
- Just Friends: Scottie and Midge, though they were once engaged and she still retains obvious feelings for him.
- Literal Cliff Hanger
- The Lost Lenore: Increasingly subverted.
- Love Martyr: Judy
- Loving a Shadow: It's clear that Scottie never would have given Judy a second glance if she hadn't so strongly resembled Madeleine.
- Mind Screw
- Nuns Are Spooky
- Plot Hole: How on Earth did Judy get out of that hotel without Scottie seeing her?
- Replacement Goldfish: Sums up Scottie's entire relationship with Judy.
- Roof Hopping: Turns out to be a bad idea.
- San Francisco
- Scenery Porn: Lots of shots of beautiful California countryside.
- Stairwell Chase: The first scene in the belltower.
- Take My Hand: Used, and tragically subverted, in the opening scene.
- Through the Eyes of Madness
- Vertigo Effect: Trope Maker, of course.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Midge disappears half-way through the movie.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Heights for Scottie.
- Zip Me Up: Judy needs help with a necklace. This leads directly to the climax.