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Vertigo (reissue)


Stars: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes, Tom Helmore. Henry Jones

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

A gleaming new VistaVision print for the Hitchcock classic recently voted the best film of all time. Maybe it isn't quite that, but still a masterpiece of twists and turns, as we meet San Francisco ex-cop Scottie Ferguson (Stewart), who has a fear of high places after a near-death experience in which a colleague did die, leading to Scottie's resignation from the force.

Now he's approached by a wealthy acquaintance, Gavin Elster (Helmore), who asks Scottie to follow his beautiful wife Madeleine (Novak), who has been behaving strangely. Scottie becomes fascinated, even obsessed with the blonde vision, but we see their acquaintance lead to disaster.

It's an object lesson in suspense from the Master, pitching us right into the action from the start and pulling the wool over the eyes of most of us right up to the devastating climax.

There is much for Hitch's many fans to savour in his smooth and atmospheric handling of the complex tale (based on a story by the authors of The Fiends/Diabolique). Stewart, here near the end of the richest period of his career, is as assured as ever as the increasingly stressed hero groping for a grip on what exactly is going on, while Novak's lack of expression in a difficult role (originally intended for Vera Miles, who lost out through pregnancy), strangely adds depth to her performance.

The tense scenes in a bell tower are brilliantly staged: the icing on the cake of this powerful and quite disturbing film thriller.

David Quinlan

USA 1958. UK Distributor: Park Circus (originally Paramount). Technicolor.
128 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 12 Jul 2018