USA, 1958, PG, 127 min. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Stars: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes.

Vertigo has long been one of my favourite films. It remains the best Hitch film I've seen, and from the director of North By Northwest, The 39 Steps and Psycho, that's saying something. Even if you go only to see the incomparable Jimmy Stewart and the beautiful Kim Novak, you must go. It's a masterpiece.

Stewart plays an acrophobic ex-detective who gets involved with the mysterious Novak... It would spoil things to reveal any more about the plot, except that (to quote Lord Melchett in Blackadder II) it "twists and turns like a... twisty, turny thing". Old Alfred wasn't called the "Master of Suspense" for nothing: by the end you'll be totally amazed and thoroughly entertained.

There's more to Vertigo than its story, however. Hitchcock made a film that's still beautiful to watch, despite its age. Nineteen-fifties San Francisco and its surrounds are captured to perfection in crisp, clear colour. Those of you who've seen Basic Instinct will realise that Paul Verhoeven ripped him off rotten (a shame really, when Verhoeven's perfectly capable of constructing his own convincing worlds, as in Robocop). But then what director would not have been influenced by Hitchcock, often quite profoundly? And for that matter, what film-goer hasn't been? If you haven't yet, then make Vertigo your first encounter with the Master—you won't be disappointed.

1991, 1994

First published in a reviews booklet of the ANU Film Group.
This page: 31 January 2000; last modified 16 February 2001.

©1991, 1994, 2000 Rory Ewins