Top positive review
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Hitchcock at his absolute best
on 29 November 2002
Vertigo is an amazing, incredibly absorbing motion picture. This is vintage Hitchcock--complex, disturbing, and brilliantly shot. San Francisco has never looked more beautiful than it does in this movie, which features backdrops of the Golden Gate Bridge, a forest of giant sequoias, and other local landmarks. Jimmy Stewart, one of my personal favorites, delivers a dead-on performance, and Kim Novak is wonderful in her dual role (even though I kept wishing Grace Kelly were playing the role). Even some of the bit actors are stars in their own right--"Grandma Walton" plays a hotel manager and "Milburn Drysdale" from The Beverly Hillbillies plays a doctor. In a more important (and somewhat confusing) role, Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie from TV's Dallas) plays Scottie Ferguson's (Stewart's) long-time friend. The music is a perfect fit with the cascading emotions of the story, as Hitchcock understood just how important the musical score is to the overall presentation. The sense of vertigo is conveyed rather well by the camera action, and the psychedelic dream-like sequence was original and intriguingly uncanny. I cannot imagine why this film was not a ringing success with critics and fans alike when it was initially released because it is a model of incredible filmmaking.
I hesitate to even mention the plot because it is incredibly complex and should be experienced by the first-time viewer with no preconceptions and no prior knowledge of the twists and turns involved. It is a pleasure to watch a movie in which the viewer simply must participate on an intellectual level to grasp the evolution of the plot. I believe the plot is hard to figure out, which is a wonderful thing. My own initial suspicions were quite wrong, I am pleased to say, although I was a little disappointed that the character who earned my suspicions was sort of forgotten in the final stages of the action.
This movie is a masterpiece. It works on all levels, and while some may feel the first half of the film develops a little slowly, there is plenty of action and revelation to be found in the last half. It is a little over two hours long, so you should be sure to set aside enough time to watch the movie without any interruptions or breaks. And for goodness' sake, do not let anyone tell you what happens before you watch it.