40. Vertigo (1958)

Psychological thrills are always best with Hitchcock

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Written by: Alec Coppel and Samuel A. Taylor
Starring: James Stewart, Kim Novak and Barbara Bel Geddes

If you’re starved of good mysteries and thrillers that have intriguing plotlines, visually brilliant direction and dramatic twists, I’d recommend leaving the more recent releases and going back to the must-sees, of which Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo is definitely included.

WARNING: There is no need to take hallucinatory drugs before watching this film.

When detective, John “Scottie” Ferguson, is asked by an old friend to investigate the mysterious activities of his wife, he originally takes on the case with hesitancy. Firstly, he’s retired, having gone through a rather traumatic experience that has left him with a phobia of heights. Secondly, his practical and logical sensibilities force him to reject the supernatural as his friend believes his wife is possessed by the ghost of her dead great grandmother.  But as Detective Ferguson follows the beautiful Mrs. Madeline Elster, his voyeurisitic investigation develops an obsessive interest in the image of this sad and troubled woman, compelling him to save her from a spooky history. Little does Scottie know how mind-bending and dangerous this investigation actually is.

Like other Hitchcock films, Vertigo is not only cleverly constructed but beautifully executed. While some of the scenes strike us with the same intensity of psychological panic and trauma that is explored through ideas of obsession, mysticism, death and fear, such bold colours and trippy dream sequences are complemented by images of a more subtle but equally vivid and impressionable construction, that its effects seem to seep into our brains like unsuspecting dreams and hallucinations of a rare beautiful quality.

With a plotline that has you guessing until the very end, and performances that work perfectly with the intent of Hitchcock’s direction, Vertigo is an aesthetically exciting and attention-grabbing film that surpasses some of today’s more recent attempts at shock-value.


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