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American Cinematographer (1986) - Letters: Vertigo




Wrong Side of the Road?

Upon viewing Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo again, I noticed something that bothered me the first time I saw the film. In the sequences where James Stewart and Kim Novak are shown via process photography driving down the Coast toward Carmel, they are obviously in the left-hand lane for no apparent reason. A frontal POV shot reveals that there are no other cars on the road that they might be passing and, with hills up ahead, it looks like they are just asking for a head-on collision.

I wondered if there was ever an interview with DP Robert Burks about the film in which he might have explained the reason behind these scenes. Did Hitchcock order the second unit to shoot it this way to illustrate Stewart's mental condition? Was the second unit from England, where driving on the "wrong side of the road" is normal? Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

— Douglas Hattala, Napa, Calif.

The scenes were photographed on a widely divided highway which, on film, has the appearance of a one-way road.