Vertigo - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Vertigo Reviews

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Super Reviewer
December 12, 2007
A cop who's recently retired from the force because he suffers from vertigo takes a job trailing an old college friend's wife and grows obsessed with the mysterious woman. A masterpiece of dizzying psychological depths.
Super Reviewer
½ October 1, 2010
Although I did find that the story told through this film was incredible, it did feel a tad slow at times, almost bridging on the fact that it is a Hitchcock film so nobody should worry. However, that is exactly the case here. Hitchcock is such a master class that you need not worry about this film dragging on too long, because there is a reason it does that and the conclusion is more than satisfying. I loved my experience watching "Vertigo", it just felt like it took a bit too long to get to the point. From the screenplay to the acting, the overall atmosphere of this film screams brilliance. It's not the type of film to watch over and over again. But it is surely a film that can be recommended over and over again to those who have not yet seen it. It is not at the top of Hitchcock's masterpieces, but it tries very hard to get there. "Vertigo" is surreal at times, and I loved it for that!
Super Reviewer
½ August 3, 2010
One of the better known Hitchcock films; it has a long and strenuous history as well as a legacy unlike many of his other films. In part this is probably because Hitchcock made this film very personal, and made it his mission to indelibly link it to himself. The film is based on a book by two of his favorite writers, it takes on a psychological problem among scores of real people, and it has a great twist that makes it iconic. Unlike some of Hitchcock's previous films, this one takes a decidedly mature look at murder. Not that films such as "Rear Window" and "The Man Who Knew Too Much" didn't seem devilish, but there's something so methodically torturous about the psyche of the main character that it makes it stand out from his previous films. "Psycho" would be the only true rival to this film, though this one feels more like a passion project than the former. When this film was initially released it didn't do well with box office figures and certainly not with the critics. Most of the criticism attributed to this film has to do with the choice in cast. James Stewart was a powerful and interesting collaborator with Hitchcock throughout both of their careers, but at the time he was pushing fifty and having a 24 year old love interest (Novak) as the femme fatale seemed a little too overboard for most audiences. This doesn't really bother you as the viewer though, because the character of Judy seems too needy and unloved, so that Scottie's (Stewart) admiration for her only shows her true colors. Scottie loving Madeleine only shows her inherent beauty and youth. Scottie's vertigo isn't used in every juncture of the film, but it is used as a pivotal piece of the plot, and remains one of the better Hitchcockian twists in any film. Everything about this film feels a bit off, mostly because it is dealing with the subject of vertigo, and the strange fascination of two identical people fooling another all for the means of a fiend. Hitchcock is marvelous, and it really pains me to know that this film, sometimes said to be the best film of all time, was reviled when it came out.
Super Reviewer
August 8, 2011
Greatest movie ever made? Maybe but that hardly matters since this is another undeniable masterpiece from the master auteur of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock. Great acting (especially from the infinitely charming James Stewart), great suspense, top-notch cinematography and the score by Bernard Herrman is beautifully haunting. Offers plenty of twists and turns that will truly keep you guessing till the end.
Super Reviewer
½ January 17, 2013
Vertigo has been hailed as Alfred Hitchcock's undisputed masterpiece. Although a great movie, this is not my favorite film by the master of suspense. With that said, I thought that it was a well acted film that had an interesting plot, but I felt that Hitchcock definitely delivered his strongest efforts with Psycho and The Birds. This film is a near flawless picture in terms of great acting, directing and story, and it definitely belongs among Hitchcock's strongest works. All the usual ingredients that make up for a strong Hitchcock film are present and there's enough suspense and thrills here to keep you on the edge of your seat till the very end. I enjoyed Psycho a bit more, and I believe that it is Hitchcock's true masterwork of cinema, but Vertigo belongs at the top as one of his finest works. Actor Jimmy Stewart delivers a strong performance as a retired detective who suffers from acrophobia and investigates a friend's young wife. The tension unfolds at a steady pace, and Hitchcock successfully keeps you on the edge of your seat due to a well written script and his choice of actors who are simply terrific in their parts. This is on e of the best films in the suspense genre, and is sure to leave you guessing right up till the end. Alfred Hitchcock definitely knows how to craft a solid picture, and he pulls out all his tricks on-screen with Vertigo. Glimpses of his later work are apparent and he would continue with such standout works such as his follow-up North by Northwest and the now highly regarded horror classic Psycho. This is perfect filmmaking that only Alfred Hitchcock could have done. The cast that he works with are wonderful, and Stewart is one of the film's standout aspect that make Vertigo a must see for Suspense fans.
Super Reviewer
January 17, 2008
Good older movie, but hardly the best movie ever made as some claim!
Super Reviewer
May 14, 2007
Venture into the depths of Hitchcock's film-making genius, in this hypnotically brilliant mystery thriller, which very recently attained the honor of being crowned the greatest movie of all-time by BFI's Sight & Sound magazine.

Set in beautiful San Fransciso, it starrs the always-fantastic James Stewart, as retired detective John "Scottie" Ferguson, whose seemingly incurable acrophobia has resorted him to quit the force. This self-invoked idleness, however, does not last for long, as an old friend of his (shipping magnate Galvin Ester, played by a superlative Tom Helmore) suddenly comes pleading with a most unorthodox request.

Caught off guard, yet soon to accept the task, John is entrusted with a mission to shadow Galvin's wife Madeleine, whom he firmly believes to be possessed or simply ready for the looney bin with her recently strange and erratic behavior. Getting more and more consumed by his undertaking, the plot thickens as strange revelations amass, with John all the while finding himself helplessly infatuated by this woman that he is asked to investigate. A spiral into obsession ensues, for which he is soon to pay a pricey toll.

As the mysterious Madeleine, we find the graceful Kim Novak, in an enchanting performance, that radiates in full with that old wonderful Hollywood glow that we so often find in movies from the era. Her interactions with Stewart is at the pinnacle of refined acting; demonstrating a chemistry that is as complex as it is involving.

Employing a great many visual devices, like his famous dolly zoom and surrealistic, mood-setting imagery, it's an incredibly innovative film for its time, that blazed a trail not only for the genre, but also cinema in its grand entirety. A true game-changer of a classic; the contributions of which certainly entitles it as one of the founding fathers of what we now refer to as neo noir.

Much like his other marvel, Psycho, it hosts a taut and creeping atmosphere; efficiently building up suspense until its mind-blowing climax, where all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place with a shocker of a twist. The only problem here is that it arrives a little too soon, as some of the events that follow - focusing on John's and Madeleine's love affair - aren't as exciting as the chapters that transpired before the reveal. Said abatement in suspense, added to a couple of slow and stand-still segments, is also the chief reason why I haven't rated this film any higher than I have. At the very end, however, it finds itself back again, culminating in a heart-pounding final act, where passion turns to aggression and emotions violently ablaze.

As a newcomer to Hitchcock's work, there's an unequalled pleasure - no, make that privilege - in discovering these classics with fresh and unbeknown eyes. Luckily spared from spoilers, I never quite know where they're gonna take me next, which in many ways makes me feel like a kid on Christmas again. Not to mention the additional joy in spotting Hitchcock's cameos, a l "Where's Waldo".

I can't conclude this review though, without also giving credit to its technical and musical wonders. In particular Bernard Herrmann, whose spellbinding orchestral score is as beautiful as it is darkly absorbing. The cinematography by Robert Burks makes an equally dazzling impression. Even the writing and characterization is virtually flawless.

Put all that into the pot with Hitchcock's magnificent camera work and ravishing mise-en-scne, and you have a tour-de-force piece of film-making, that certainly belongs in the great treasure valve of art for the ages. I'm not sure if I'd call it a masterpiece, like some would do, but it's certainly a great nail-biter of a story that made its mark in cinema history. Or to put it less fancily, just a heck of a good film!
Super Reviewer
August 25, 2012
Slow yet intriguing, Vertigo is a haunting and memorable experience. It delves farther into madness and intensity than expected which is, in the end, very rewarding for the viewer.
Super Reviewer
½ April 21, 2012
'Vertigo'. A tragic love story, an intriguing mystery, two top notch leading performances, and a score that heightens every second of the film beautifully!

The stars of yesteryear have a most special quality about them. I was head over heels for the drop dead gorgeous Kim Novak within minutes, and charmed by Jimmy Stewart equally promptly.

I had no idea how the story was going to progress after the first hour, and the second half of the film moves nicely into the dark, obsessive mind of Scottie, with a very satisfying finale.

Bernard Hermann's score is truly great, and I could have watched those scenes of Scottie following Madeline through the streets of San Francisco forever.
Super Reviewer
April 11, 2012
I'm very surprised to say that I really did not like this film. It was slow and boring to the point of tears. There is a great story with some really good chances to create a lot of mystery and suspense here however it got mixed up in Hitchcock's regime. Looking at the ratings from the critics, it seems to me that whatever Hitchcock sent out they'd adore it. The drama is barely there, the romance is dead and any suspense is liquified by the incredibly slow pace. Many times I had thought it was about to end.
Super Reviewer
½ September 18, 2007
Another fantastic masterpiece from Hitchcock! I loved this movie, once again it was a suspenseful murder mystery that keeps you gripped up until the end!
Just when you think the story has found the answer your hit with twist upon twist just to keep you guessing!
Although wasnt a rated movie upon released and even Hitchcock blamed Stewart i still think theres nothing wrong with this movie and should be given its due!
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
December 27, 2011
The 1950s found Alfred Hitchcock in his prime. Freed from both the shackles of the British studios and the meddling of David O. Selznick, he was finally free to make the films he wanted to make, exactly the way he wanted to make them. This period yielded many works which have become cemented classics - Strangers on a Train, Rear Window and North by Northwest. But Vertigo is arguably his finest work, being unbearably suspenseful and the greatest depiction of obsession in all of cinema.

Although it was received mixed reviews when first released, Vertigo is now recognised as a highly influential work on filmmakers. Individual directors have paid tribute in their own way: Martin Scorsese has waxed lyrical about it in interviews with the AFI, while Mel Brooks used it as one of the main bases for his affectionate parody, High Anxiety. Its impact on the horror and thriller genres is plain to see, influencing films as varied as Single White Female and Mulholland Drive.

The ironic thing in all of this is that Vertigo is not a characteristic Hitchcock film. It does not conform, at least not entirely, to the various tropes and conventions which we now associate with Hitchcock. Most of his thrillers are driven by narrative: the story is everything, and the characters involved in it are there only to advance the story in which they find themselves. Vertigo is more of a character study, with the narrative and much of its complexity deriving directly from Jimmy Stewart.

Hitchcock described Vertigo as his most personal film, and it isn't hard to see why. Apart from the artistic freedom that he enjoyed making it, much of the film is self-reflexive: it is about his approach to filmmaking and especially his attitude to women. Hitchcock famously remarked that actors should be treated like cattle - being pushed and prodded around, told what to do, with someone else doing all the creativity. This approach is writ large in Vertigo in such a way that the characters mirror it directly.

Scottie, played by Stewart, is Hitchcock, obsessively analysing people's motivations and behaviour, following them at length and attempting to mould them to look and act the way he wants. His dark obsession with Judy reflects Hitchcock's fascination with blondes: he wants her to be 'Madeleine', her character, because that it is the only version of her he cares about. But for all his hard work, no understanding is gained; the relationship is one of fascination, but never comprehension or satisfaction.

A comparison can be drawn between Vertigo and Peeping Tom, Michael Powell's incendiary masterpiece from two years later. Both films have male protagonists who are obsessed with perfection, which they convey or project in their attitude to women. Both films are self-reflexive, shedding light on the relationship between a filmmaker and the actors who end up in font in his camera - a relationship which, in both cases, turns out to be fatal. And both are triumphs of their genre, which fulfil expectations in terms of terror and suspense while still feeling fresh and ground-breaking.

A further similarity between the films is their extraordinary cinematography. Robert Burks collaborated with Hitchcock extensively between Strangers on a Train and Marnie, and his mastery of Technicolor is on a par with Powell's old master, Jack Cardiff. The recurring deep, passionate reds are as dazzling as anything in The Red Shoes, and are complimented brilliantly by the piercing, threatening blues of the New Mexico skyline and Stewart's purposeful eyes. The film invades your senses with its manipulation of colour, with every shot brimming with menace and intent.

Equally impressive are the dream sequences. These are better integrated than the dream sequence in Spellbound, famously directed not by Hitchcock but by Salvador Dali. Hitchcock may not have the literacy of Dali when it comes to Freudian imagery, but the effects are impressive for the day. Better still is the image of Kim Novak as Judy emerging as 'Madeleine' - she appears to shimmer as fantasy and reality attempt to merge into a macabre fairy tale, to the internalised delight of Scottie.

A further highlight of the film is Bernard Herrmann's soundtrack, perhaps his best and arguably his most famous other than Psycho. As Scorsese observed in an interview with Sight and Sound, the score is built in spirals and circles, mirroring the obsession of the character as he keeps coming back to the same point. The score is ever-present but not intrusive, perfectly judging every scene and never doing the work for the actors, as can often happen in melodrama.

But what makes Vertigo ultimately so suspenseful, and so successful, is its confidence and attention to detail which is present in every aspect. Everything about its plot, its character construction and execution of suspense has been meticulously figured out, and yet it still has the ability to keep us guessing and genuinely surprise us at each turn. There are few thrillers which are so confident about the strength of their twist that they feel the need to withhold it for so long and so willingly. The twist when it comes is an absolute belter, rewarding our attention and pulling us further in.

If Peeping Tom is the cinematic Bible on voyeurism (with Blue Velvet a very close second), Vertigo is the accompanying volume on obsession. It shows with great detail and intelligence how unhealthy fascinations can start with something so small, and grow almost beyond the host's control until they have consumed everything else. Scottie takes the snoop job as an innocuous favour to an old friend; the first sight of Madeleine plants into his mind a seed of sympathy, a desire not to see her harmed. From the moment he has saved her life, this desire grows into fascination, to the point where he cannot imagine life without her (hence his silence at the sanatorium).

The story of Vertigo is a further reflection of obsession. We are made to study the characters, asked to decipher their every facial tic until we too are in danger of becoming obsessed with them. The twists and turns that occur make us simultaneously elated and frustrated - elated at what truth they reveal, frustrated that we could not spot them sooner. Both the characters' story and our experience of it end as they began - with one big shock which cements these emotions.

Jimmy Stewart was blamed by Hitchcock for the film's failure when first released. Hitchcock thought the age gap between Stewart and Novak was too obvious, and the two never worked together again. In hindsight, it was a triumph in conveying the theme of a seemingly innocent man being manipulated and corrupted - a process which he both resists and encourages. Stewart, once the wholesome leading man in Mr Smith Goes to Washington and It's A Wonderful Life, is transformed into what is arguably the most skin-crawling character in 1950s cinema. It is a masterclass in subtle madness, and remains his finest performance.

Vertigo is a terrifying triumph in every aspect of its execution. Hitchcock's subsequent efforts saw his abilities gradually diminish, but here the master is at the peak of his powers. The story is complex and rewarding, and the atmosphere which Hitch creates through lighting, music, colour and composition, is unbearably tense. Like Mulholland Drive more than 40 years later, Vertigo will pull you in to its dark, troubled world until you are unable and unwilling to escape. If you come away from this review convinced that I am obsessed, it means that the film has done its job.
Super Reviewer
November 13, 2011
Hitchcock's most haunting film is a strange one. Dreams and real life blur to create a visual masterpiece.
Super Reviewer
May 12, 2011
Surprisingly unconventional, I was reminded of Tarantino's Kill Bill in the abrupt change in visual styles. I look forward to watching it again with knowing eyes. That last scene! Also noteworthy, this movie was the debut of the dizzying "dolly zoom."
Super Reviewer
January 1, 2011
Great film, but I was expecting so much more. I wasn't dissappointed, just surprised by how I didn't like it as much as I thought I would. Not as intense as I expected, but definitely a film for everyone to check out. The pacing is brilliant, as it seems all of Hitchcock's films are, the story is interesting and intriging, but not as mind blowing as I had heard. Maybe it's because I've seen to many new thrillers that like to spoil the ending right away and incorporate unrealistic twists. I have more Hitchcock films left to watch so hopefully my understanding of his strategy will improve.
Super Reviewer
September 29, 2006
THE perfect movie. Arguably but definitely Hitchcock's best, he turns Jimmy Stewart (in a brilliant performance) into an obsessive neurotic against a beautiful San Francisco backdrop. Kim Novak is haunting in a dual role that would be liberally borrowed for many following years (Lost Highway, anyone?) The masterpiece of all involved with a truly beautiful restoration
Super Reviewer
September 5, 2010
Most people say that this is Hitchcock's greatest film ever, personally it's not my favourite, but it is a fantastic movie. If you haven't seen it, please go rent it right away.
Super Reviewer
August 21, 2009
This... this is one of the most perfect movies I've seen in my whole life.
Super Reviewer
½ November 30, 2008
"Go up the stairs. Go up the stairs, Judy, and I'll follow."

How far, how deep into obsession can love for a woman drive a man? That's the very question that Alfred Hitchcock tackles in this twisty thriller.

Having little knowledge of the plot of Vertigo is even more necessary than the average Hitchcock movie, so I'll reveal as little as possible. Jimmy Stewart plays an ex-detective who is convinced by an old friend to secretly follow his wife (Kim Novak), who has been acting strangely. What comes next is a completely unpredictable and dark tale of love, death, deceit, and obsession.

The only thing that keeps Vertigo from being amongst my favorite Hitchcock movies is its uneven quality. The tone of the first half of the movie is quite different from the second half, and while that makes complete sense within the context of the story, I found the latter portion to be much more entertaining, as a result. The ending ranks right there with Notorious and The Birds as the most memorable that Alfred ever did.

This was the first Hitchcock movie I ever saw, and in hindsight, it was a great one to begin with. Vertigo's mixture of mystery and darkness is a perfect introduction to the legendary director, and it fully deserves the sterling regard that it's earned over the years.
Super Reviewer
½ March 5, 2007
As Roger puts it, "Jimmy Stewart with a twist." Never being much of a fan of Hitchcock, this movie really surprised me. Loved every second of it...
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