Dreamlike and nightmarishly surreal, Vertigo
is Hitchcock's most personal film because it confronts many of the convoluted psychological issues that haunted and fascinated the director. The psychological complexity and the stark truthfulness of their rampant emotions keeps these strangely obsessive characters alive on screen, and Hitchcock understood better than most their barely repressed sexual compulsions, their fascination with death and their almost overwhelming desire for transcendent love. James Stewart finds profound and disturbing new depths in his psyche as Scotty, the tortured acrophobic detective on the trail of a suicidal woman apparently possessed by the ghost of someone long dead. Kim Novak is the classical Hitchcockian blonde whose icy exterior conceals a churning, volcanic emotional core. The agonised romance of Bernard Herrmann's score accompanies the two actors as a third and vitally important character, moving the film along to its culmination in an ecstasy of Wagnerian tragedy. Of course Hitch lavished especial care on every aspect of the production, from designer Edith Head's costumes (he, like Scotty, was most insistent on the grey dress), to the specific colour scheme of each location, to the famous reverse zoom "Vertigo" effect (much imitated, never bettered). The result is Hitch's greatest work and an undisputed landmark of cinema history.
On the DVD: This disc presents the superb restored print of this film in a wonderful widescreen (1.85:1) anamorphic transfer, with remastered Dolby digital soundtrack. There's a half-hour documentary made in 1996 about the painstaking two-year restoration process, plus an informative commentary from the restorers Robert Harris and James Katz, who are joined by original producer Herbert Coleman. There are also text features on the production, cast and crew, plus a trailer for the theatrical release of the restoration. This is an undeniably essential requirement for every DVD collection. --Mark Walker
is Alfred Hitchcock's haunting tale of deception, madness, and death, a masterful exploration of fantasy and anxiety. The film ranks with Rear Window
as one of the director's most closely studied films for its psychological complexity, while the obsession of its protagonist--John "Scottie" Ferguson (James Stewart)--can also be seen to parallel that of Hitchcock's own fascination with the icy-blonde leading lady he recreated at the center of so many of his films. Scottie Ferguson is a retired detective, his career ended by the onset of a paralyzing fear of heights. An old friend, the wealthy Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), hires Ferguson to follow his wife (Kim Novak), whom, he explains, has grown obsessed with an ancestor of hers. The assignment draws Ferguson out of his comfortable role as observer and into a complex web of intrigue, mingled with the detective's own fantasies and fears. Stewart gives an exceptional performance as the disintegrating detective, while Novak, who was left largely undirected by Hitchcock, conveys a subtle and powerful psychological journey. Another star of the film is its San Francisco setting. Vertigo
is considered one of Hitchcock's finest and most complex films.