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Movie Review - Cast & Crew - Dvd Features - Dvd Technical Details - Buy Dvd - James Stewart's Vertigo - 1 Disc Dvd
- Dvd Release Date: 20-10-2008
- Region: 2 (UK & Europe)
- Number of Discs: 2
- Catalogue Number: 8258450
- Studio: Universal
Leonard Maltin gives Vertigo four stars and hails it as 'A genuinely great motion picture that demands multiple viewings.'
In one of the truly great movies of the 20th Century, Hitchcock directs James Stewart as a retired cop with a terror of heights who's hired by Tom Helmore to follow his suicidal wife, Kim Novak. Stewart falls in love with the enigmatic blonde but can't prevent her falling to her death.
Some months later he spots a woman (also played by Novak) who bears an uncanny resemblance to the dead woman, and is drawn into a complex web of deceit.
Novak gives her greatest performance, while the darker side of Stewart shatters his all-American Mr Nice Guy persona. Stewart's performance is all the more remarkable when you consider that he is on camera almost constantly. Supporting players are all excellent and don't get in the way of the telling of the piece, with Barbara Bel Geddes, in limited role of Stewart's down-to-earth girl friend, standout for providing early dashes of humour.
San Francisco location scenes - whether of Nob Hill, interior of Ernie's restaurant, Land's End, downtown, Muir Woods, Mission Dolores or San Juan Baustista - are absolutely authentic and breathtaking.
A hallucinatory movie, of dreamlike revelations in its glistening locations, it remains one of the most painful depictions of romantic fatalism in all of cinema.
The work of a genius.
Considered by many to be director Alfred Hitchcock's greatest achievement comes this fully restored and remastered version (Dvd technical details below) of the haunting film classic. This special release also contains a restoration trailer and revealing documentary footage. Set in San Francisco, James Stewart portrays an acrophobic detective hired to trail a friend's suicidal
wife (Novak). After he successfully rescues her from a leap into the bay, he finds himself becoming obsessed with the beautifully troubled woman. One of cinema's most chillingly romantic endeavours: it's a fascinating myriad of haunting camera angles shot among some of San Francisco's renowned landmarks. This film is a must for collector's.
This is a wonderful book! I wouldn't be without it. If you have ever wanted to retrace the master's steps around the Bay Area and want to learn more about the locations used in this film then this is the perfect companion. The authors' love of the director's work and the city itself is here on every page. Added bonus is that it has a foreword by Hitchcock's daughter.
James Stewart's Vertigo:
Source: the book:
In several ways, Vertigo summed up all the previous collaborations between Stewart and Hitchcock, then went on to add some more steps into darkness.
Off-camera, the director's manic involvements with his
lead actresses took some decidedly nasty turns, first with his badgering
of a pregnant Vera Miles to play his heroine and then with his often
crude handling of the eventually cast Kim Novak. As well, there was
another conflict over writing credits. In front of the camera, Stewart
went beyond Nietzschean theorists of acceptable murder, spying
photographers, and manipulative physicians to play not so much a man
obsessed as an obsession personified. The outcome was easily
Hitchcock's most suggestive picture and Stewart's riskiest and most
Vertigo was based on the French novel D'Entre les Morts by Pierre
Boileau and Thomas Narcejac.
Despite the success of Rear Window and The Man Who Knew Too
Much, Stewart took his time agreeing to Vertigo because of reservations
about the screenplay. Only after Samuel Taylor had been called in to
replace efforts by Maxwell Anderson and Alec Coppel did he say yes. For
his part, Hitchcock approached the production in frustration that he
hadn't gotten Vera Miles for it. During his immediately previous film, The
Wrong Man, he had met strong resistance from the actress in his attempts to reshape her as another Grace Kelly; she had put him off further by using a break from the picture to marry Gordon Scott, then known for
playing Tarzan. The disbelieving Hitchcock still didn't give up his pursuit
of Miles until she told him she couldn't do Vertigo because she
pregnant. The director's widely quoted disdainful reply was that Miles
"should have taken a jungle pill".
The director's psychodrama with Miles was hardly alien to the
making of Vertigo, especially when the unwanted replacement Novak
arrived for work announcing that she didn't want the clothes and make-up already prepared for Hitchcock's first choice. The closest Hitchcock
came to complimenting the actress from that point on was in his
assertion to a reporter that "the perfect woman of mystery is one who is
blonde, subtle, and Nordic"—which gave Novak one out of the three.
Even after the film had been released, and Novak had received
significant praise from critics, the director refused to be gracious.
He told one interviewer,
"The thing that fascinated me was the idea of Jimmy
Stewart trying to turn the girl into someone she once had to play as part
of a murder plot and is later trying not to be—and I'm not sure Kim
Novak had the ability to put that across."
On that, Hitchcock was very
much in the minority, and for reasons most clearly and concisely
explained by writer Taylor:
"If we'd had a brilliant actress who really
created two distinctively different people, it would not have been as
good. She [Novak] seemed so naive in the part, and that was good. She
was always believable. There was no 'art' about it, and that's why it
worked so very well."
In addition to Novak's direct and almost iconic performance, Vertigo owed its
success principally to a storytelling gamble by Hitchcock,
Stewart's delineation of the haunted detective, and the musical score by
Bernard Herrmann. The gamble was in the flashback, which effectively
destroyed the plot mystery—sustained for almost two-thirds of the
film—about what exactly was going on. But in exchange for that abrupt
and somewhat perfunctory disclosure, Hitchcock succeeded in concentrating attention exclusively on the obsessive relationship between the
Stewart and Novak characters, magnifying the depths of the detective's
torment and, in the bargain, creating the same kind of sympathy for
Judy's suddenly "helpless" villain that he had shown for Raymond Burr's
wife-killer in Rear Window and Brenda de Banzie's child-kidnapper in
The Man Who Knew Too Much. The choice
also underlined how
nonessential to the proceedings the director regarded all his secondary
characters, including the murderer Elster, who presumably gets away
with his homicide, and the girlfriend Midge, whose guarded but sincere
quest for a more solid relationship with Scottie is depicted as ultimately
That Stewart was more than up to the challenge appeared to astonish
him more than anybody. Even years later, he would assert that "trying to
make sense out of that confused plot was hard" On another occasion, he
admitted that his avenue to the character of Scottie was plain,
unadulterated fear. He said of his
detective s complexes:
"I myself had known a fear like that, and I'd known people paralyzed by fear. It's a very
powerful thing to be engulfed almost by that kind of fear."
For the most part, Stewart exudes the fear almost politely. His long conversational scene with Novak in his apartment after he has ostensibly thwarted her suicide ebbs and flows with a simplicity that his character doesn't really possess, building fateful tensions. For the next hour of
screen action, his Scottie accommodates what is bigger than he is—love,
sorrow, mental breakdown, fixation—as though he is being perfectly
correct (and, by the by, demonstrating to the photographer from Rear Window how disabling voyeurism can truly become). His only moment of
real anger comes when Midge tries to be funny about painting herself as the mysterious Carlotta, and
he finds that so unacceptable that he walks out of her loft unable even to start explaining how her humor is
misplaced. The inevitable explosion comes in
the final sequence, with
Stewart the actor landing on one of the most powerfully delivered
monologues of his career and Scottie the character disintegrating
beneath its fury. Not even his director knew what to do with him afterward, so he just leaves both the actor and the character standing on the church ledge.
In a film that practically sanctifies disorientation, Hitchcock achieved
his ends visually by regularly tracking back his camera at the same time
that he was zooming in. Biographer Spoto called the trick "the visual
equivalent for the admixture of desire and distance" that permeates the
Stewart character. But even that photographic effect might have done
little but draw attention to itself without the support of Hermann's
music. From start to finish, the lush, sinuous score is music lost in itself,
with rising panic trying to find some reasonable outlet, some culminating
expression. It never quite makes it, its interwound themes leaving only
the smallest suggestion of progress as the story proceeds but finally
ending up as stranded as Scottie on the bell tower.
Despite good critical notices, Vertigo was nowhere near the
commercial success that Rear Window and The Man Who Knew Too Much
had been. That didn't prevent Stewart from looking forward to yet
another picture with Hitchcock, and specifically North by Northwest. What he didn't know was that the director had only discussed the project with him when it had looked unlikely that his first casting choice, Cary Grant, would be available to do it. For months thereafter, as he admitted later, Hitchcock dangled Stewart with a variety of excuses about the
script not being ready, financing being a question mark, and other
casting being up in the air.
"Then one day, he called and said he couldn't put Columbia off any longer, that he had to report with Novak for Bell, Book and Candle," the filmmaker recalled to one interviewer. "I was, of
course, very relieved, and I simply said, 'Well, Jimmy, that's our loss. We'll
have to look for somebody else.'"
At that point, Hitchcock went back to the newly available Grant and
made a film centered around a protagonist that he would have liked to
What the Papers Said:
In her review of the 1984 re-release of the film for the New York Times, Janet Maslin describes how:
'An astonishing burst of applause greeted the penultimate moments of Vertigo ... at the performance I saw last week - astonishing because, only seconds later, the film's real ending left the audience gasping in disbelief. Those who had cheered the happy-looking near-finale must not have seen Vertigo before. They must have been caught off-guard by this film's stubborn, single-minded intensity, and by it characteristic (for Hitchcock) reluctance to please.'
It's an important point. If, like I have, you've forgotten just how powerful this film is then watch it with a friend who has never seen it before and just watch his/her features change from the near-finale to the actual finale.
The genius of Hitchcock will be etched on every changing facial expression of your friend.
Once again, Hitchcock reveals that his image of an ideal woman (and, of course, Scottie's) is that of an elegant blonde woman dressed in a snugly fitting grey suit, her hair carefully arranged in a precise swirl (similar outfits are worn by Doris Day in The Man Who Knew Too Much and Tippi Hedren in The Birds).
The film was unavailable for decades because its rights (together with those of four other pictures of the same period) were bought back by Hitchcock and left as part of his legacy to his daughter Pat. They were known for a long time as the infamous 'five lost Hitchcocks' among film buffs, and were re-released in theatres around 1984 after a 30-year absence. The others are The Man Who Knew Too Much, Rear Window, Rope, and The Trouble with Harry.
San Juan Batista, the Spanish mission that features in key scenes in the movie, doesn't have a bell tower - it was added with trick photography. The mission originally had a steeple but it was demolished following a fire.
The screenplay is credited to Alec Coppel and Samuel A. Taylor, but Coppel didn't write a word of the final draft, credited purely for contractual reasons. Taylor read neither Coppel's script not the original novel, but worked solely from Hitchcock's outline of the story.
Hitchcock reportedly spent a week filming a brief scene where Madeleine stares at a portrait in the Palace of the Legion of Honour just to get the lighting right.
An addition to the ending was made for some European countries due to certain laws prohibiting a film from letting a 'bad guy' get away at the end of a film. In the new ending, after Scottie looks down from the bell tower (the original ending) there is a shot of Midge sitting next to a radio listening to reports of police tracking down Gavin Elster. As Midge turns off the radio the news flash also reports that three Berkeley students got caught bringing a cow up the stairs of a campus building. Scottie enters the room, looks at Midge plainly, and then looks out of a window. Midge makes two drinks and gives one to Scottie. It ends with both of them looking out of the window. This ending can be found on the restoration laserdisc.
1958: Nominations: Best Art Direction, Sound
Barbara Bel Geddes,
Alex Coppel, Samuel Taylor, from the novel by D'entre les Morts by Pierre Boileau, Thomas Narcejac
Dvd Special Features
• "Obsessed with Vertigo" featurette (29 mins)
• Feature on some of Hitchcock's notable collaborators
• Excerpts from Hitch's 1962 interviews with Francois Truffaut
• Feature Commentary
• Theatrical Trailer
• Production Notes
• Cast and Filmmakers' Notes
Region: Region 2 (UK & Europe)
Number of discs: 2
Studio: Universal Pictures UK
DVD Release Date: 20 Oct 2008
Run Time: 124 minutes
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Price: £14.99 (UK Sterling)
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