One of the most interesting things about this movie is the fact that it was a flop at the time of its release. Hitchcock instantly blamed James Stewart, saying he was “too old to attract audiences anymore”. The two never worked together again, eventhough Stewart was the original choice for the role of Roger Thornhill in “North By Northwest”. Cary Grant was cast instead, who incendentally was four years older than Stewart! 50 years later, “Vertigo” is now considered as one of the best movies ever made and is often labeled as “Hitchcock’s Masterpiece”. The story, which has been endlessly imitated and reworked, is about a San Franciso cop who quits the force after his fear of heights prevented him from saving the life of a colleague. Working as a private eye, he is hired by an old friend to tail his wife Madeleine (Kim Novak) who is apparently obsessed with a look-alike ancestress who drowned in the 19th century. Stewart becomes dangerously obsessed with her, and spends most of the first half of the film tracking her every move. The second half takes a much more serious tone, but to reveal more about the story would be unthinkable!
“Vertigo” features every single Hitchcockian elements: voyeurism, suspense, obsession, a sexy blonde, and an every day man who gets mixed up in some dirty business. After starring in the director’s remake of his own movie “The Man Who Knew Too Much”, “Rope” and “Rear Window”, this was James Stewart’s fourth collaboration with Hitchcock and eventually his last. Filmed entirely on location in San Francisco, Hitchcock used camera angles and techniques very innovative for its time. Eventually these techniques were copied over and over again by future filmmakers, notably director Brian De Palma who ripped off Hitchcock like no one else.
In all, “Vertigo” is a wonderful, disturbing, and romantic film, with an unforgettable score by Bernard Hermann. It’s easy to see that it was very risky for its time (afterall it wasn’t a succes back then), but it’s a movie that has aged perfectly well, and because of that, it’s considered by many as one of the master’s greatest work.