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The Spectator (1997) - Hitchcock possessed




Steyn reviews "Vertigo," directed by [Alfred Hitchcock]] and starring James Stewart.


(PG, selected cinemas) The return of Hitchcock is always welcome, but the return of Vertigo (1958) is especially so. Gorgeously restored and digitally remastered, it's never looked better, especially all those wacky signature effects: the spiral motif, symbolising the psychological vortex of the film; the vertigo effect itself, created by zooming forward and tracking back simultaneously on a miniature set, so that the stairwell itself seems to uncoil and then compress; and, of course, Hitchcock's camera gliding in and out, slowly, slowly, slowly ‑ memorably spoofed, like everything else in Vertigo, in Mel Brooks's High Anxiety, where the camera tracks in too far and bumps into the window.

Vertigo opens on the rooftops of San Francisco, where Scottie, played by James Stewart, is in hot pursuit of a villain. A police colleague comes to his aid, but Scottie can only hang helpless from the building's edge as his fellow officer plunges to his death. Diagnosed with vertigo, Scottie quits the force and reluctantly takes a job trailing an old school pal's wife, who the husband insists has been possessed by a suicidal ancestor. When Madeleine does, indeed, kill herself, by diving from a bell tower he's too scared to climb, Scottie is consumed by guilt and suffers a nervous breakdown. At which point, he runs into a remarkably similar‑looking woman and gets obsessed all over again, determined to discover the link, as the film's original trailer put it, `between the ...

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