JT Film Review

75 – Vertigo (1958)

Vertigo REVIEW

5/5 stars

Director – Alfred Hitchcock

Cast – James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Del Geddes, Tom Helmore


Vertigo was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and based on the book D’entre les morts (The Living and the Dead) by Pierre Boileau and Pierre Ayraud. Despite a rather lukewarm reception upon its initial release, it is today frequently called Hitchcock’s masterpiece.

The story features a retired detective (is there any other kind?) called “Scotty”, who is played by Jimmy Stewart. He suffers from a condition which gives him vertigo, or the fear of heights. He is lured back into one more case by a friend, who fears his wife’s body is being taken over by a dead ancestor. However, with all apologies to Shakespeare for the butchering, the twists the thing, wherein to catch the attention of the audience. Without the mid point twists, where the movie shifts gears dramatically, the movie would have been a hopelessly derivative one, but thankfully the plot I just described is only the springboard Hitchcock uses to get to the second act,where the real themes of deception, obsession, and loss come through.

The movie treats these themes maturely and honestly. We are shown Scotty losing a loved one and then obsessing over her, even meeting a stranger on the street who resembles her and harassing her until she goes to dinner with him. Scotty is never excused for his actions, and due to scenes showing his illness after her death (and the fact that he is played by Jimmy frickin’ Stewart) we always sympathize with him. This is rather chilling, as we realize we are being made to sympathize with a man who becomes nothing less than a stalker, who brutishly forces another woman to become his lost love. This is most likely, I think, the reason why critics and audiences weren’t as kind to this film as to other of Hitchcock’s films. It is in fact, rather off putting at first. However, Hitchcock sticks to his guns, and never excuses Scotty, which was a brave move and, in the end, a great one.

In 1996 Vertigo‘s actual physical film negative underwent a complete restoration. It was extensively cleaned and polished, as it had degraded considerably. It became known as a rather controversial restoration, as the color mix was alleged to not be exactly the same shades as was originally intended, and the sound mix was also redone from scratch. The original actors voices were, of course, kept, but all sound effects were totally redone.

My point is, this movie has become so loved (even obsessed over, which is interesting as obsession is a main theme of the film) that people are upset when even the sound effects are replaced with (apparently identical sounding) replacements. I find this dangerous, and is the type of devotion usually reserved for the “Greedo shot first and Lucas changed three shots in the new release of A New Hope and so I want the Original right now” variety of movie goers. It is important when reviewing any movie (ESPECIALLY a revered classic) to keep an open mind, and, not to put too fine a point on it, to see and recognize where things go wrong. And while Vertigo is really a wonderful movie (and one of my favorites) there are some things wrong with it. Small things of course, but they are there nonetheless.

The main thing wrong is the ending of the movie. Without giving any details away, the editing is awful. If one cut (of about half a second) had been made to a single shot, the movie would have ended on a much more convincing note. If you have seen it, you most likely know of what I am speaking. If not though, please don’t let it bother you. If that is all a movie has wrong with it, it must be a good one indeed.

The only other major problem is a character called Midge, or rather, how she is used. She is Scotty’s ex-fiance, but the two are on wonderfully good terms. She is played beautifully by Barbara del Geddes. Rarely will you find a more caring, strong , and even complex woman character on film. She is a strong supporting character throughout the film, yet she is abandoned with still a large part of the movie to go. I wanted some resolution for her character, yet none is given. Now in the DVD I have of the movie they include a “European Ending” to the film, which Hitchcock was mandated to make for the European market. Part of it shows Jimmy going to Midge’s home after the events of the film are over. He says nothing, and she says nothing, and they stand silhouetted by the window, with drinks in their hands. It is a simple shot, but it says so much, and it is inferred that the two stay friends, with Midge helping Scotty through his hard times. If only this ending was used!!

(The “European Ending” also has Midge listening to the radio, and the announcer describes how the “bad guy” of the film is caught. This was a requirement of the time, but Hitchcock was so angry to be forced to change the film that he added a bit to the newscast. The announcer goes on to read (after the announcement of the villain’s capture) a report of high school students mounting a cow and riding her up the steps of the Town Hall. This totally ruins the seriousness of the scene, and was Hitchcock’s middle finger to the censors who made him change his film. With this taken out however, I much prefer the European Ending.)


There is not much else to say, as this film has been reviewed to death. All I can do is recommend you watch this (of course, with an open mind as always.) Hitchcock is on the top of his game here, as are the major performers. Bernard Hermann’s score is nothing less than iconic, and the film altogether is one of the moodiest and atmospheric meditations on human behavior you will ever see. Enjoy!



“Vertigo” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia



February 20, 2010 Posted by | 5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Thriller, Year - 1950-1959 | , , , , | Leave a comment

DC vs. Marvel

DC Movies vs. Marvel Movies

There are many great rivalries. Pepsi and Coke. Liberal and conservative. Star Wars and Star Trek. DC and Marvel…

I watched The Dark Knight and Iron Man recently, one a DC property, the other from Marvel. I was having difficulty deciding which one I prefer, and wondered how this would tie in to the relationship between the two companies films (or at least the films based on their properties). So off I went to Rotten Tomatoes, and here are all the results.

I ignored any films not released in theaters, but other than that I have all the movies here. I also included movies like Road to Perdition and History of Violence as they are DC properties, even though they aren’t superhero movies.



Films based on DC Properties

Film Tomatometer % Rating


Batman ——————————————— 70
Batman Returns ——————————— 77

Batman Forever ——————————— 45

Batman and Robin
—————————— 12

Batman Begins
———————————– 85

The Dark Knight
——————————— 94

Catwoman —————————————– 10

Constantine ————————————— 46

A History of Violence ————————– 87

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen ——– 16

Road to Perdition —————————————– 82

The Spirit —————————————————- 14

Steel ———————————————————– 13

Supergirl —————————————————– 8

Superman: The Movie ———————————– 93

Superman II ———————————————— 87

Superman III ———————————————- 23

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
—————– 11

Superman Returns ————————————— 76

Swamp Thing ———————————————– 69

V For Vendetta ——————————————— 74

————————————————— 64

DC Report

Average: 52.5%

Lowest Rated Movie: Supergirl (8%)

Highest Rated Movie: The Dark Knight (94%)

Films Based on Marvel Properties

Film Tomatometer % Rating

Blade ————————————– 55
Blade 2 ———————————— 58
Blade Trinity ————————— 26
Daredevil ——————————– 44
Elektra ———————————– 10
Fantastic Four ————————- 26
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer ——- 37
Ghost Rider —————————– 26
Howard the Duck ——————— 16
Hulk ————————————— 61
The Incredible Hulk —————– 66
Iron Man ——————————— 93
The Punisher (1990) —————– 24
The Punisher (2004) —————– 29
The Punisher: War Zone ———— 25
Spider-Man —————————— 90
Spider-Man 2 —————————- 94
Spider-Man 3 —————————- 63
X-Men ————————————– 81
X2: United ——————————- 88
X3: The Last Stand ——————– 56
X-Men Origins: Wolverine ———- 37

Marvel Report

Average: 50.2%

Lowest Rated Movie: Elektra (10%)

Highest Rated Movie: Spider-Man 2 (94%)


So, according to Rotten Tomatoes (and thus, most of the major American film critics), DC on average produces the best movies, but only just. Interestingly, it also has the worst movie on the list, the woeful 1984 Supergirl (clocking in at a nice little 8%.) They are tied for the top movie, as both The Dark Knight and Superman 2 have an incredible 94% rating.

So for now at least, DC is king.


Comments? Any films you think should be higher? Lower? Under-rated, over-rated? Feel free to comment below.


February 12, 2010 Posted by | List | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments