Vertigo is a 1958 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring James Stewart, Kim Novak, and Barbara Bel Geddes. Of the Hitchcock films included on this list (Psycho and Rear Window being the others), this is the one that would probably be debated the most for its inclusion. It was not a huge box office draw nor has it garnered the critical praise that some of Hitchcock’s other works have. Still, the film has found its way onto a number of best of lists and has had a great deal of staying power. So does Vertigo deserve to stand among the all time greats?
Should this film be considered a classic? I’m going to say yes with one caveat. I think Hitch’s North By Northwest is a far more compelling film. North By Northwest might be a bit more formulaic in the story department but the pacing, casting, and wit make Vertigo seem a bit slow and heavy handed by comparison. I personally think NBN would have been a better choice for the list than Vertigo. Both films are definitely classics but if I had to choose one to see before I died I would choose NBN. That said, Vertigo is a great film. Hitch uses the acrophobia of Scottie Ferguson to great effect as the story moves along. He also turns what could have been a pretty typical murder mystery story into a compelling and ultimately tragic romantic drama. It’s classic Hitchcock and while it certainly should be considered a classic, I’m not convinced it should be on this list ahead of North By Northwest.
Would I own this film? Yes. I am anxiously awaiting a Blu-Ray release. While Vertigo is not my favorite Hitchcock film it still has much that I like. The story maintains a sense of foreboding even in the lighter moments that always has me hoping the ultimate outcome will be different than the last time I watched. The story also forces us to watch some very flawed people on screen. Each main character has some deep character flaws (Scottie’s obsessions and cold shoulder to Midge, Judy’s lies, and Midge’s inability to express her feelings) with none being particularly likable. This makes the film all the more fascinating as these flawed characters interact on screen and attempt to unravel the mystery.