Alfred HitchcockUSA128 minutes1958ColourEnglish
A former detective (James Stewart) develops a fatal obsession with an otherworldly blonde goddess (Kim Novak), in Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece of erotic fixation.
One of Hitchcock's personal favourites, and voted the greatest film in the history of cinema in the most recent Sight & Sound poll, Vertigo lives up to its title as it pulls us into a dreamlike vortex of obsession. San Francisco cop Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart) retires from the police force after a rooftop mishap leaves him with a paralyzing fear of heights. When he is hired as a private investigator to follow a friend's seemingly suicidal wife (Kim Novak), Scottie finds himself falling in love with the doomed woman — and after she is taken from him, he seeks to recreate her in the person of a cynical shopgirl (Novak again). A film of spiralling illusion, in which Scottie's desperate attempts to remake his past leads him into a grim fixation on a phantom, Vertigo is cinema's greatest liebestod in its portrait of a passion that leads to death; Bernard Herrmann's anxious-making score adds to the film's aura of inexorability, in which time and memory form a vertiginous whorl that cannot be eluded. "Hitchcock's masterpiece ... and one of the four or five most profound and beautiful films the cinema has yet given us" (Robin Wood).