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Harrison's Reports (1958) - Vertigo




"Vertigo" with James Stewart, Kim Novak and Barbara Bel Geddes

(Paramount, June; time, 123 min.)

Brilliantly photographed in Technicolor and VistaVision against authentic San Francisco backgrounds, this latest Alfred Hitchcock "thrillorama" offers further evidence of his mastery in mystery and suspense, for, despite its flaws, not the least of which is a far-fetched, unbelievable story, it grips one's attention from start to finish. Hitchcock's expert handling of the story and the players wrings every ounce of intrigue and suspense from the action, which centers around a retired detective who becomes an unwitting tool in a bizarre murder plot when he is hired by a friend to shadow his beautiful wife, supposedly a neurotic with suicidal tendencies. James Stewart turns in a top-notch portrayal as the detective who suffers a shattering emotional experience, and a surprisingly good job is done by Kim Novak who plays sort of a dual role to trick him and to prevent him from learning that he had been tricked. It is a contrived story and much that happens is illogical, but the treatment is so good that one does not seem to notice this. The running time, incidentally, is much too long for what the story has to offer:—

Fear of height, brought about by the death of a fellow officer, causes Stewart to resign from the San Francisco police department. Barbara Bel Geddes, his girl friend of many years, consoles him. Shortly thereafter, Tom Helmore, a rich college chum, hires Stewart to shadow and protect Kim Novak, his wife, whom he describes as a suicidal neurotic, possessed by the spirit of an insane great-grandmother who had committed suicide. Stewart follows Kim to a number of strange places, including a graveyard and an art gallery, and they meet for the first time when she throws herself into San Francisco Bay and he rescues her. A strong love develops between them, and one day, while they visit an old mission in an effort to clear up the mystery concerning her condition, she breaks away from him, runs up to the mission belfry and leaps to her death. Stewart, unable to stop her because of his fear of height, suffers a mental breakdown. Upon being released from the sanitarium, he wanders around the streets and one day encounters a girl who bears a striking resemblance to Kim (also played by Miss Novak) even though her hair, makeup and speech were different. He cultivates her friendship and in a series of suspense-laden incidents discovers that she really is Kim and that she, in league with Helmore, had worked out a scheme whereby Helmore had hurled his real wife from the belfry when Kim ran up into the tower, thus establishing Stewart as a witness to her "suicide." Stewart confronts Kim with this discovery after bringing her up to the belfry again and the shock causes her to fall tragically to her own death.

It was produced and directed by Mr. Hitchcock from a screenplay by Alec Coppel and Samuel Taylor, based upon the novel "D'Entre les Morts," by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejec.

Adult fare.