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Purchase Vertigo (1958) Movie Online and Download - Alfred Hitchcock 🎥
Crime, Thriller, Mystery, Romance, Film-Noir
IMDB rating:
Alfred Hitchcock
James Stewart as John 'Scottie' Ferguson
Kim Novak as Madeleine Elster
Barbara Bel Geddes as Midge Wood
Tom Helmore as Gavin Elster
Henry Jones as Coroner
Raymond Bailey as Scottie's Doctor
Ellen Corby as Manager of McKittrick Hotel
Konstantin Shayne as Pop Leibel
Storyline: John "Scottie" Ferguson is a retired San Francisco police detective who suffers from acrophobia and Madeleine is the lady who leads him to high places. A wealthy shipbuilder who is an acquaintance from college days approaches Scottie and asks him to follow his beautiful wife, Madeleine. He fears she is going insane, maybe even contemplating suicide, he believes she is possessed by a dead ancestor. Scottie is skeptical, but agrees after he sees the beautiful Madeleine.
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Once again, bow down, scrape your heels, knuckle your forehead... for no good reason at all!
****Spoilers Inside****

I watched this so-called masterpiece for a class assignment (and I was actually looking forward to it, so I can't be held to expectations of poor quality), and I can only think of one word to explain my feelings on this movie:


Why is this considered one of the best movies of all time? Why do people continually bow down to something just because it's "the definitive classic?" Why did they leave the unnecessary 30-45 minutes in there? Why was this film so horrendously acted, directed, filmed, and edited?

Where to go on... Ah yes. The plot:

The plot was a wonderful concept. A nice couple of twists, the story set up well and ready to hand off for a touchdown, but somewhere along the way, the runningback decided he should run a few laps around the field, in randomly alternating directions, before finally meandering in and taking a knee at the one-yard line and settle for a field goal.

The acting: Stiff, over-done, "no-sir-audience-i'm-not-reading-my-lines-from-cue-cards" crap. James Stewart was quite possibly the worst choice. He only has one speed: "Merry Christmas Bell Tower!" Every movie I've seen him in he's been the same idiotic dimwit. His intended affable, lovable goofy exterior only irritates, frustrates and makes you want to set fire to the videotape or DVD it sullies. Kim Novak was hardly any better. Her cookie cutter character, "I-dare-you-not-to-love-me-NOWAIT-I'm-untouchable-NOWAIT-help-me-NOWAIT-i'm -insane" would have been served up more convincingly by James Stewart himself in a dress. At least he has a whopping two modes to his emoting.

Editing and Directing: Why did Midge exist? She provided no conflict save for that weird thing she did with the painting. She provided no resolution. She didn't even serve as a voice of any particular sway (i.e. the viewer, the voice of reason, the voice of emotion etc). An amazingly sexist viewpoint (I know, surprise, it was the 50's) pervades. The women are stupid, naive, weak-willed and two-dimensional. There were so many unnecessary camera shots, such as nearly all the various scenes during the "I'm-following-Madeline-with-my-intense-stare-of-concern-and-intrigue" car sequences.

Quite frankly, I'm so disgusted with this movie, I can't really go on with any intelligent critiquing. I wish I could say that we've grown as an industry and learned our lesson about contrived, pointless plots with big names displaying less than tolerable acting capabilities, but only a fool would ignore Pearl Harbor.

Maybe we can salvage the concept. Do a remake. Anything today would vastly improve upon this sorry waste of my time.

My score: .08/10 for the potentially breakthrough but saddeningly mundane plot.
Hitchcock was on a roll during that period. Vertigo is one of his most celebrated films, even though it's modeled after Rebecca in that it's 3 films rolled into one: a love story, a metaphysical thriller, and a suspense drama. Nevertheless, the difference between the Hitchcock of 1940 and the Hitchcock of 1958 is vast. The Hitchcock of Vertigo is a much more elaborate director, that dwells on the human psyche to fill the canvas. The human psyche is the protagonist, the suspense is just the background, or even a detail. Vertigo is a major work and an essay on neurosis and repressed desire.

The plot: John Ferguson is a retired detective suffering from acrophobia. A rich old friend (Gavin Elster) hires him to investigate the activities of his wife (Madeleine), who he believes is being possessed by the spirit of a dead ancestor (Carlotta Valdes). After seeing Madeleine, Ferguson agrees. Later on, we see that Madeleine half-lives in Carlotta Valdes' house, spends a lot of time in front of a Carlotta painting in a museum, and generally models her behaviour after Carlotta. Also, Madeleine suffers from blackouts, during which she isn't in control of herself. Ferguson forms a relationship with her. He then pressures her to get rid of the past by dwelling on it, visiting places where Carlotta lived etc. During such a visit, and in the same day Carlotta died, Madeleine commits suicide by falling from the bell-tower of a chapel. Ferguson is unable to rescue her due to his acrophobia.

Following this, Ferguson is placed in a mental hospital, suffering from catatonic depression. After some time, we find Ferguson released from the mental institution and in better shape. He then meets a woman who looks a lot like Madeleine. Nevertheless, the woman, Judy Barton, seems less perfect and more vulgar than Madeleine. Ferguson forms a relationship with her, and is trying to model her after Madeleine, buying her the same clothes etc. But during one of their encounters, the truth is revealed due to Barton's carelessness. She used the same jewelry as Madeleine. Barton and Madeleine is the same woman. In truth, Madeleine/ Barton was a "doppelganger" to Elster's wife. Elster hired her in order to kill his rich wife, and manipulated Ferguson's illness so that he was a witness to the "suicide". It was the wife, and not Madeleine that fell from the tower.

Unaware that Ferguson knows the truth, Barton continues the relationship and the "transformation" to Madeleine. She now is in love with Ferguson, but Ferguson is intent on freeing himself from his acrophobia. As Barton is completely transformed to Madeleine, Ferguson takes her to the same chapel and to the bell tower. Forcing her up, she confesses the truth. She claims she is in love with him. She then sees a shadow emerging, panics and falls into the void. It turns out that the shadow was just a nun. Ferguson stands and watches from above. He is cured.


This is not an easy film to analyze. It is very dense and has lots of hidden meaning beneath the surface. The most obvious theme is the one of fixation and impotence. Ferguson suffers from vertigo; Madeleine seems to be possessed by a dead spirit; Ferguson's friend Midge is in love with him but unable to express her love and conquer him; then when Madeleine dies Ferguson becomes obsessed with her.

Madeleine represents the ideal love, perfection.

In the meantime, there are some other interesting ideas floating in the background. One is that in the second half of the film we witness a reverse situation than that of the first half. In the first half, Elster and Madeleine manipulate Ferguson's impotence. In the second half, it is Ferguson that manipulates the less-than-perfect version of Madeleine (aka Barton), even though she regrets her accomplice and is genuinely in love with him.

The ending, as well as the first half, is shrouded in the metaphysical and supernatural. The shadow that Madeleine/ Barton sees could be anything: a ghost, her guilt, Elster, the dark side of her relationship with Ferguson etc. Ferguson models Barton after Madeleine with almost necrophiliac obsession. Just before the second time that Madeleine "dies", she and Ferguson kiss, representing the ephemeral happiness in vain. After she dies, Ferguson is freed from his impotence, but we don't know his feelings, we just see him watching from above. Basically Ferguson is haunted by his search for perfection (an ideal love, a god to believe in?). There is a clear parallel between that and his impotence (the vertigo). When he tries to transform the down-to-earth Barton to the perfect Madeleine, the illusion isn't working. In order to cure himself from the impotence, he kills her (he was the one that dragged her to the chapel).

Moreover, what the film seems to project is the vortex of the human psyche. Both in the first and the second half, the conclusion is the same: the woman dies. It's the behaviour of the male protagonist alters dramatically. In the supernatural first half, the protagonist is crippled, while in the down-to-earth second half, he is more free but also less happy.

The real moment Ferguson is freed is when he realizes the truth about Madeleine. Madeleine/ Barton is sitting in front of a mirror (representing the dual personality). Then Ferguson sees the jewel and immediately thinks of the portrait of Carlotta Valdes (a symbolism of the original sin? He and Madeleine had an adulterous affair after all). Vertigo projects the male-female relationship into the conflict between the human and the ideal (the supernatural, the belief in the perfect). But there is no way out. Both stories (the first and second half) are two sides of the same coin.
Stewert and Novak, - Heavenly Pair
This movie is - simply put a masterpiece. Not too many movies can envelop the watcher in a dizzying array of emotions the way Vertigo can. Loss and obsession, peppered with stretches of unrestrained bliss come to mind. But aside from the carefully woven plot line, its the little nuances of this film that really grab hold of you.

There is much debate between this film and Rear window as to which film is visually superior. What makes rear window stunning is the camera work and the set of course. But rear window is confined to a single set, and makes the possibilities limited. Which leads to my point. Vertigo's cinematography is beautiful enough to entice even the most icy of viewers. This film invokes more emotion than any other film I've seen before - and this cannot be attributed entirely to the plot line, but the visual style with which it was filmed. From the sweeping camera over San Francisco, to Kim Novak's face against the red plush background of Ernie's interior, to the overhead shot of the stairs and hallway in the hotel, to the ethereal shot of the Golden Gate bridge, the placements and angles of the camera are flawless. Obviously Hitchcocks visions came alive in this one.
Classic Hitchcock and Stewart
An interesting psychological piece that richly displays Hitchcock's talents. It is unfair to compare this film to the suspense thrillers of today which are subjected to more realism in sex and violence. Hitchcock had to be more subtle in 1958, where I'm sure a work like this, that seems tame by today's standards, appeared bizarre and risqué. Also the acting here seems histrionic; not that people actually spoke like that in the 50s but the audiences liked such dictionally refined dialogue back then as opposed to the lines of modern-day scripts that more accurately portray the way individuals speak.

James Stewart and Kim Novak are appealing on numerous levels, the former mainly because he doesn't wander far from the amiable joe we have come to expect (even though he does weird-out near the conclusion) and the latter because she maintains a veneer of vulnerability that we can relate to.

This is not a film I especially like (I couldn't watch it again and again) but I respect for its strong filmmaking.
Misses Me..
I do not understand why James Stewart spent basically the entirety of his early career allowing himself to be typecast as nice, respectable, clean-cut (albeit a bit goofy) young guys, only to later be cast by Hitchcock to play touchy, ornery, grouchy older guys who, despite their actual younger age, act like 80 year old men whose neighbors are playing the music too loudly. That's a huge, number one issue with Vertigo, and maybe the only issue (for me) with Rear Window.

In Vertigo, Stewart plays a detective newly suffering from Acrophobia (fear of heights) and of course, Vertigo. He's asked by a friend to investigate his (the friend's) wife, odd behavior, and see what she gets up to during the day. Meanwhile, in a basically unnecessary subplot, Stewart's old flame (played by Barbara Bel Geddes) is yet another obviously far younger blonde who just can't seem to get enough of the guy, vying for his attention, although she never can quite seem to get it right, either infuriating him with a painting, or simply by not being as interesting as Kim Novak.

There are several problems I had with this movie, one being the gigantic lack of chemistry between the characters. In order to make the insane obsession thing that ends up overpowering Stewart work, he needs to actually seem into Kim Novak when she's Madeleine, but what he does doesn't really come off that way, he seems angry a lot of the time, even when he's just tailing her, seeing what she's up to. The only time I saw his "love" for her was when she came by his apartment to drop off the thank-you note. He seemed genuinely enamored of her, although not nearly enough so to justify the ludicrous obsession that drives him to transform Judy into Madeleine later on. Barbara Bel Geddes' has an obsession of her own with Stewart. This makes sense in the way that most of the pairings do in these movies: they're Hitchcock's fantasies. Although the scene where Stewart sees Bel Geddes' painting and totally overreacts really didn't make any sense to me, at least it was good for a laugh.

Another issue is the timeline. Not so much that things aren't in the right order, but more that the first "half" of the story, takes more than half the movie. "Madeleine" doesn't fall off the roof until past half, yet there's still the whole "Judy" storyline to get through. Both story lines are upsetting and creepy, but I'd say the scene in the department store with Judy takes the cake.

One thing this movie really has going for it, however, is the setting. There's a remarkable amount of on-location shooting (in San Francisco). Considering the lengths Hitchcock went to avoid having to leave the comforts and control of the studio, it's pretty impressive to view this movie. The Palace of the Legion of Honor Museum is showcased a few times, a nice treat for those who have been there (you can even see statues out front that remain there today) the interior seems to have changed since, but it's still interesting to see. There's real footage of streets, storefronts, graveyards, buildings, forests, ocean/seaside areas, missions, etc. and it's all extremely beautiful. The scene in the forest is effectively creepy and eerie, and the scene by the sea was effectively dramatic. Ludicrously fake as they were, I liked both Stewart's and Bel Gedde's apartments.

For me, a movie can be somewhat redeemed if the setting feels good, and in Vertigo's case, the setting was the only reason to watch.
Dull and confusing
This movie never left a big impact on me, but I have several things to pick about it. I like it's use of camera angles and the fact that it's original. However, the movie is hard to understand and it drags on for too long. Not only was this one incredibly boring, it has been mistaken on the Top 250 list. I understand that it is't the only Hitchcock movie on the list, but those movies are incredible compared to this one. I'm a huge fan of Mr. Hitchcocks work, but this one marks Hitchcocks hall of great movies (which there are many) as being the worst. The music is bland, the plot is weird as anything and the romantic scenes left me in disgust that one of the best directors of all time could come up with an idea so creative and turn it into something so BORING.

If your a lover of Hitchcocks movies, stay away from this one. 2/10
Terrible, terrible, terrible
"Terrible" is the word that comes to mind to describe this movie.

The overall plot and interaction between characters is so implausible that at one point I began laughing at how bizarre it became.

The main character (Scottie) is a retired police detective/former lawyer. He comes off as a gigantic dimwit. Clueless throughout the entire film, clumsy, unsure of himself and completely gullible. He doesn't act, talk or carry himself like you would expect someone playing the role of "clever detective" to. It would have made much more sense to cast him as something more mundane like a professor or accountant. At least then it would give credence to the irrational decisions you wouldn't expect a detective/lawyer to be making. Of course, the reason for this character's profession was to give reason for his friend's request he act as a private investigator (which could have been just as plausible with any profession, in my opinion).

For example, if you're going to covertly tail someone you probably shouldn't stand 3 feet behind them staring at their hair.

The script was rushed and I agree with criticisms that Hitchcock did so to fit it within 2 hours. For example, Scottie falls in love with Madeleine even though he's met her only several times. We're supposed to believe he's truly in love with her but from my perspective he comes off as a guy with a hard-on for a hot blond. Even the most desperate romantics would be wary of a woman exhibiting psychotic behavior that you don't even know that well, right? I also think if the viewer is expected to care about Scottie's despair/struggles, they probably shouldn't have made him what most today would be considered a home wrecker. There wasn't even an "oh gee, I feel kind of bad for starting an affair with a married woman, let alone married to one of my friends".

The acting is over the top. I thought "Midge" delivered the best performance but unfortunately her role served almost no purpose to the overall plot.

The facial expressions became an annoyance. It was almost insulting that the viewer can't be expected to notice something without doing close up shots followed by Scottie's overly exaggerated eye-squinting and head cocking.

This was all set to the most annoying part of the film: suspenseful violin music. It was like a 5 minute track set on loop for the whole film.

Overall, I was just purely disappointed. The plot didn't make sense. The script was over the top. The acting was terrible. I couldn't find much about this film I found entertaining.
Beautiful but vastly overrated
Vertigo has all the makings of a masterpiece except one: a compelling story. The twist is blatantly obvious twenty minutes into the film, and the romance of the film falls completely flat, so to speak. Ultimately, for all of Hitchcock's vibrant colors, striking camera angles, and the thrilling dream sequence, we simply do not care whether the characters live or die. Overall, a very disappointing film, but worth watching nevertheless for fans of Hitchcock's work. Vertigo is a remarkable instance of the whole being less than the sum of its parts.
The Dizzy Heights of Excellence
Retired detective, who is scared of heights, is hired to follow another mans wife and there follows intrigue, mystery and suspense. A super melodrama! The acting,directing, sets, costumes, script, music, etc are all excellent. And near the start of the film there is one brilliant 10 minute period when there is no dialogue but the action is controlled only by the music. A sensational analysis of the movie is by Roger Ebert: see external reviews. This picture is worthy of maximum marks.
"I know, I know. I have acrophobia, which gives me vertigo, and I get dizzy." (Scottie to Midge)
Although it was only modestly successful in theaters, time has been kind to VERTIGO and now many believe this is Hitchcock's masterpiece. Time was NOT kind to the original prints of the film, and in the mid-1990s Universal Studios put up one million dollars for a two-year restoration of the film. This is covered completely in a fairly fascinating 29-minute extra on the DVD, originally broadcast as an A&E special. The entire original film-making process is covered, the movie was first called "From Among The Dead", and includes current interviews with many principals, including Novak and Bel Geddes, plus the techniques used for the restoration. This special edition DVD should be a must-own for any fan of the film VERTIGO. The sound and picture are just fabulous for a film made in 1957.

My review, following, contains certain SPOILERS which are necessary for my summary. Please read no further if you have not seen the film. Watch the film first, you will not be disappointed.

The film starts with cops chasing a crook on SF rooftops, Scottie (James Stewart, 49) misses one roof, is hanging high from a gutter, cop returns to offer assistance, but instead falls to his death. This traumatic experience triggers the vertigo in Scottie, makes him unsuited for police work, he quits, and Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes) tells him only another emotional shock will bring him out of it. Midge, an artist, not so secretly wants Scottie, but while they are good friends, he just doesn't love her.

Old college friend, wealthy shipbuilding magnate, hires Scottie to follow his wife who had been acting strangely. He meets Madaleine (Kim Novak, 24) and follows her to find that she visits the grave of Carlotta, who died at 25 in 1857, also visits the portrait of Carlotta at the art museum, has "visions" of being in a Spanish mission, all indications are that the dead Carlotta is taking over Madaleine's mind. While following her, saving her from a jump into SF Bay, and keeping her from jumping into the Pacific, Scottie is falling in love with her, the first time he has had such feelings.

Scottie feels he needs to take Madeleine to the old mission 100 miles south of SF to free her of this possession, but instead she climbs up the mission bell tower, Scottie is unable to follow quickly enough, his vertigo holding him back, he hears a scream, sees what looks like Madeleine's body falling to the red tile roof below, dead. A quick inquest ruled it a suicide, the friend gets out of shipbuilding, travels, while Scottie tries to get over his great loss, his first ever love, includes a stay in a mental hospital.

Not too long after, Scottie sees a woman remarkably similar to Madeleine walking to her residence, a hotel, he follows her, knocks on the door, she is dressed differently, has different color hair, a different personality, speaks differently, and says she is Judy, from Kansas, has lived there 3 years, even shows Scottie her ID to prove it. But Scottie has not gotten over Madeleine, is obsessed with recreating her, asks Judy to dress like her, get her hair colored, all the while Judy just wishes Scottie would like her for who she is, not because she looks like someone else. But she gets completely back to the Madeleine look, same clothes, same hair color.

By now we have seen through Judy's flashback what is really going on. The wealthy husband had hired Judy to impersonate his wife, Madeleine, and had set up the incident at the mission so that he could shove the already dead wife off, Scottie would be the manipulated witness that she had climbed the stairs and jumped off, and after being paid off, Judy could resume her life. To her detriment, he also gave her the heirloom, Carlotta's necklace, and her wearing that is what got Scottie suspicious of the whole scheme. He catches on, brings Judy back to the mission, they climb to the bell, a nun approaches to see what is going on, Judy panics and falls to her death on the roof. Scottie no longer was in love with her, feeling lied to and manipulated, he has no emotion, but goes to the edge of the ledge and looks down, his vertigo gone. The emotional shock that Midge spoke of has cured him.

The story is a tragedy of two lives that only through misfortune become intertwined, Scottie's and Judy's. He is not young, now retired, and had never found true love. In Madeliene he thinks he found it, only to be shocked then disillusioned when the full truth came out. When Judy died, he was back where the film started. Maybe Midge was the one after all. Judy was very flawed, enough to participate in a murder plot and feel no apparent guilt over it. All she wanted was to be loved by Scottie, but a relationship built on fraud has no chance, especially since Scottie was an honest man.

James Stewart is known for his ability to play an "everyman" character, and is superb as Scottie. Kim Novak is a bigger mystery. She was not the first choice for the role, received it virtually by default, but after watching the movie it is hard to imagine anyone else playing the dual roles of Madeleine and Judy, she pulls it off so well. A big bonus is her commentary on the making-of extra, seeing her after all these years. She was only 24 when Vertigo was filmed, but she looked 40, a glamorous and beautiful 40. Actresses today who are 24 often still play teenagers. How things have changed in the movies!
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