Vertigo (1958)

 ●  English ● 2 hrs 8 mins

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This emotionally charged and heart-wrenchingly poignant tale follows the trials and triumphs in the life of John "Scottie" Ferguson, a retired San Francisco police detective who suffers from acrophobia. A wealthy shipbuilder who is an acquaintance from college days approaches Scottie and asks him to follow his beautiful wife, Madeline. He fears she is going insane, maybe even contemplating suicide, because she believes she is possessed by a dead ancestor. Scottie is skeptical, but agrees after he sees the beautiful Madeline. What will Scottie's investigations of Madeline's activities reveal? How will the relationship between Madeline and Scottie unfold?
See Storyline (May Contain Spoilers)

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes, James Stewart, Kim Novak

Crew: Alfred Hitchcock (Director), Robert Burks (Director of Photography), Bernard Herrmann (Music Director)

Rating: A (India)

Genres: Drama, Mystery, Romance

Release Dates: 21 Jul 1958 (India)

Tagline: A Mystery Revised... A Master Remembered!

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Did you know? When this movie opened at San Francisco's legendary Castro Theater during its restored re-release in October of 1997 (only a few months after the death of star James Stewart), it did more business there than any other theater in the US that weekend. Read More
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as Midge Wood
as John 'Scottie' Ferguson
as Madeleine Elster / Judy Barton
as Manager of McKittrick Hotel
as Coroner
as Pop Leibel
as Car Owner Mistaken for Madeleine
as Scottie's Doctor
as Gavin Elster




Production Company
Associate Producer




Screenplay Writer

Camera and Electrical

Director of Photography


Music Director


Costume and Wardrobe

Costume Designer


Film Type:
Colour Info:
Sound Mix:
Frame Rate:
24 fps
Aspect Ratio:
A Mystery Revised... A Master Remembered!
Alfred Hitchcock engulfs you in a whirlpool of terror and tension!
The most intense SUSPENSE.....EXCITEMENT....EMOTION ever generated by a motion picture!
A Hitchcock thriller. You should see it from the beginning!
Filming Locations:
Revealing Mistakes
When Scottie buys new clothes for Judy at Ransohoff's, Judy is shown trying on a pair of shoes. Due to the extremely low camera angle when Judy walks away from the camera, it's easy to see that the shoes are not new- their soles are heavily scuffed.

Revealing Mistakes
When Scottie is following Madeline, while they are driving, Scottie's car turns a couple of seconds before his hand turns the steering-wheel.

Errors in Geography
Scottie and Judy drive through a grove of eucalyptus trees that is located south of San Juan Bautista on the way there from San Francisco.

Crew/Equipment Visible
As the camera moves away from Scottie standing at the edge of the tower, the shadow of the camera can be seen for a split second on the outer wall of the tower. On the Alfred Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection DVD, the image is cropped so the shadow cannot be seen.

When Scottie watches Madeleine walk into the Mission Dolores, there's a mirror on the right front fender of his car. In later shots there's no mirror there.

When Scottie watches Judy on the street talking to her friends outside the flower shop, the same sailor walks past in the same direction, from right to left, twice within 10 seconds.

When the manager of the McKittrick Hotel is walking Scottie to Madeleine's room, the door is cracked open. A close-up shows the door closed and the manager proceeds to open it.

While Scottie is spying on Madeleine in the art museum, the furniture and artwork in the gallery seen through the open doorway next to Carlota's portrait is rearranged between shots.

When Scottie and Madeleine are on the coast, she's wearing a white coat with a gauzy black scarf. The scarf is arranged differently in different shots and sometimes is missing entirely.

Both times the main characters drive to the old mission, the wide shots show them driving on the right side of the road. However, all shots inside the car show them driving on the left side of the road.

As Madeleine leaves the florist in her Jaguar, Scottie follows her in his 1956 DeSoto, with license number HAF 376. However, 54 minutes into the movie, he follows her again, but the camera car, a similar DeSoto, with Scottie at the wheel, passes the HAF 376 licensed DeSoto which is erroneously parked at the curb.

When Scotty takes Madeleine out of water her shoe is off. When they have reached the pier Madeleine has both shoes again.

The ice cubes in Gavin and Scottie's drinks disappear.

Character Error
Gavin Elster mentions that the speedometer of his wife's car indicated she had driven 94 miles. This should be the odometer. An odometer measures distance, and a speedometer measures speed.

Audio/Video Mismatch
When the manager of the McKittrick Hotel first appears we hear her say, "Yes?" to Scottie off screen, and in the next shot a moment later we see her mouth the word without any sound.
Scottie wears suits of four separate colors in the film: blue, blue-gray, gray, and brown. This is a collection that would be considered typical for a professional bachelor of the era.

When this movie opened at San Francisco's legendary Castro Theater during its restored re-release in October of 1997 (only a few months after the death of star James Stewart), it did more business there than any other theater in the US that weekend.

The building exterior used for Madeleine's apartment building is located at 1000 Mason St., across the street from the Fairmont Hotel.

The original novel on which this movie is based by Boileau and Narcejac is called in french "D'entre Les Morts" (From Among The Dead). It is a play on Luke's Gospel Chapter 24 verse 5, spoken by the Man, or Gardener, after the Resurrection: "Who comes to seek the living amongst the dead?". This is said to, amongst others, Mary Magdalene whose name is nowadays used as Madeleine, the name of the protagonist in novel and film.

John Ferguson's apartment is located at the corner of Jones and Lombard, just one block west of the famed steep switchback block of Lombard Street.

The scene outside Elster's shipyard where Hitchcock makes his cameo appearance at approximately 11 minutes in, was actually the Paramount prop department gates.

Ransohoff's of San Francisco was a famous and trendy high-end boutique. It closed in 1976.

Alfred Hitchcock had originally opted for another location for the famous staircase sequence, but associate producer Herbert Coleman's daughter (Judy Lanini) suggested the Mission at San Juan Bautista (the location that was eventually used) as a more suitable location for filming.

A theme song titled "Vertigo" by Livingston and Evans (Jay Livingston and Ray Evans) was recorded by Billy Eckstine, and was reportedly used for promotional purposes, but was not included in the film's final cut. Word has it that Alfred Hitchcock didn't feel it was appropriate.

Scottie's car is a white 1956 Desoto Firedome Sportsman Hardtop Coupe. Madeleine's is a green 1957 Jaguar Mk. VIII. Midge's is a gray 1956 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Coupe.

Kim Novak hated wearing the important gray suit because it felt confining. However, she learned to make it work for her, as she saw it a symbol of Madeleine's character.

Many critics attributed the film's failure to James Stewart, who was considered miscast as the romantic lead, partly due to his age.

The screenplay is credited to Alec Coppel and Samuel A. Taylor, but Coppel didn't write a word of the final draft. He is credited for contractual reasons only. Taylor read neither Coppel's script nor the original novel; he worked solely from Alfred Hitchcock's outline of the story.

San Juan Batista, the Spanish mission which features in key scenes in the movie doesn't actually have a bell tower - it was added with trick photography. The mission originally had a steeple but it was demolished following a fire.

The movie's poster was as #3 of "The 25 Best Movie Posters Ever" by Premiere.

Costume designer Edith Head and director Alfred Hitchcock worked together to give Madeleine's clothing an eerie appearance. Her trademark grey suit was chosen for its colour because they thought it seemed odd for a blonde woman to be wearing all grey. Also, they added the black scarf to her white coat because of the odd contrast.

The film is based upon the novel "D'Entre les Morts" (From Among the Dead) which was written specifically for Alfred Hitchcock by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac after they heard that he had tried to buy the rights to their previous novel "Celle qui n'était plus" (She Who Was No More), which had been filmed as Diabolique (1955).

When Alfred Hitchcock's wife, Alma Reville, saw the film, she said that she liked it, except for one shot where Kim Novak walks towards the San Francisco Bay, which she felt made Novak look too large on the screen. For years afterward, when discussing this film, Hitchcock would insist that Alma hated this film.

The word "vertigo" is only spoken once in the movie, towards the beginning by Scottie to Midge. After that it is never uttered again.

Poorly received by U.S. critics on its release, this film is now hailed as Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece.

While Madeleine recovers in Scottie's apartment from her fall into the bay, he waits on his sofa. Seen on his coffee table is a copy of the 1950s pulp men's periodical "Swank", which much later would develop into an extreme hardcore pornographic magazine. At the time, it would have consisted of a mix of cheesecake pictures and action/adventure stories by contemporary writers.

Midge's remarks about the "cantilevered" brassiere designed by an aircraft engineer are a reference to the story that Howard Hughes had an engineer invent a new type of underwired bra for Jane Russell.

In 2012, Vertigo replaced Citizen Kane (1941) in the Sight & Sound critics' poll as the greatest film of all time.

When Kim Novak questioned Alfred Hitchcock about her motivation in a particular scene, the director is said to have answered, "Let's not probe too deeply into these matters, Kim. It's only a movie."

The flower shop, Podesta Baldocchi, has been in business in San Francisco since 1871.

Alfred Hitchcock had originally wanted to use his now-famous Vertigo zoom in Rebecca (1940), but due to lack of technology at that time he couldn't do it. The technique was inspired by a time when Hitchcock had fainted during a party.

Bernard Herrmann's score is largely inspired by Richard Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde" which, like the film, is also about doomed love.

Kim Novak does not speak until more than a third into the movie.

Scotty's apartment actually exists, and it boasts the improbably stunning view of Coit Tower through its living room window, which looms over Scotty and Madeleine in the apartment scenes. True aficionados can find it (near Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco) by positioning themselves in the same relation to the tower that is seen through the window.

The zoom out/track in shots were done with miniatures laid on their sides, since it was impossible to do them vertically.

Alfred Hitchcock reportedly spent a week filming a brief scene where Madeleine stares at a portrait in the Palace of the Legion of Honor just to get the lighting right.

Audrey Hepburn expressed an interest in playing the dual roles of Judy and Madeleine.

In a later interview Alfred Hitchcock said he believed Kim Novak was miscast and the wrong actress for the part.

Alfred Hitchcock was embittered at the critical and commercial failure of the film in 1958. He blamed this on James Stewart for "looking too old" to attract audiences any more. Hitchcock never worked with Stewart, previously one of his favorite collaborators, again.

Kim Novak has told interviewers that while in her "Judy" costumes, she did not wear a bra (bralessness was extremely unusual for a woman of that time). Novak has said that it was an element of the Judy costuming that helped her feel much more comfortable as Judy than as Madeline, whose costumes were much more severe and stiff.

The Empire Hotel where James Stewart eventually finds Kim Novak is (as of 2009) the Hotel Vertigo (formerly the York) located at 940 Sutter St. in the heart of San Francisco. Novak's character lived in Room 501, which still retains many of its aspects captured in the film.

There is a 25 year age difference between James Stewart and Kim Novak, who were 49 and 24 respectively when the film was shot in 1957.

Uncredited second-unit cameraman Irmin Roberts invented the famous "zoom out and track in" shot (now sometimes called "contra-zoom" or "trombone shot") to convey the sense of vertigo to the audience. The view down the mission stairwell cost $19,000 for just a couple of seconds of screen time.

The film was unavailable for decades because its rights (together with four other pictures of the same period) were bought back by Alfred Hitchcock and left as part of his legacy to his daughter. They've been known for long as the infamous "Five Lost Hitchcocks" amongst film buffs, and were re-released in theatres around 1984 after a 30-year absence. The others are The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Rear Window (1954), Rope (1948), and The Trouble with Harry (1955).