Listen to the Greats Discuss ‘Vertigo,’ Hitchcock’s Magnum Opus

Watch a video essay about why Vertigo resonates so profoundly with filmmakers.
By  · Published on February 22nd, 2018

Watch a video essay about why Vertigo resonates so profoundly with filmmakers.

Alfred Hitchcock‘s Vertigo is a haunting psychological masterpiece. The film is about former police detective Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart) who has had to retire from the force early due to his vertigo. One day, an old friend hires Scottie to spy on his wife Madeleine (Kim Novak). Throughout the film, Scottie’s investigation of Madeleine sends him down a thrilling rabbit hole of obsession, lies, and deceit.

Vertigo is a breath-taking piece of filmmaking admired by regular viewers, filmmakers, screenwriters, critics and composers alike. This video essay by Alejandro Villarreal compiles clips of many of the greats discussing what Vertigo means to them. The video includes thoughts from Martin Scorsese, John Williams, Paul Schrader, David Fincher, Gene Siskel, Guillermo Del Toro, Brian De Palma, Stephen Spielberg, Roger Ebert, and more. You know there is something special about a movie when so many talented people sing its praises. Watch below:

Vertigo is widely lauded as one of the greatest motion pictures of all time these days. However, that was not always the case. The film was released to a muted reception in 1958. Many thought the film was too slow. Meanwhile, the film’s plot disappointed others, who said this was not what they expected or wanted from a Hitchcock film. On the other hand, Hitchcock blamed the unenthusiastic reception of the film on James Stewart’s dwindling star power – the actor was 50 at the time. Whatever the reason, the film did not receive the immediate response it deserved.

Hitchcock owned the rights to Vertigo and four of his other films, and in 1973 he removed all five from circulation. Nowadays, with Netflix and the rise of streaming services, we often take our easy access to films for granted. However, Vertigo wasn’t always so readily available to viewers. Once Hitchcock removed the film from circulation, getting a copy of Vertigo proved to be extremely difficult. Even James Stewart couldn’t get clips from the film. 

In the end, the reason Hitchcock pulled Vertigo from circulation is unknown. Nonetheless, the decision likely had something to do with the aforementioned disappointing response Vertigo initially received. After Hitchcock’s death, his estate re-released the film along with Rear Window in 1983. Fortunately, in the 70s and 80s, critics, filmmakers and regular viewers re-evaluated the film. In fact, many of those included in this video essay would’ve been part of this essential critical re-visit to Vertigo. Thanks to this, today anyone can – and should – easily get their hands on a copy of Hitchcock’s masterwork.

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Enjoys watching sunrises and sunsets, but prefers watching the Richard Linklater trilogy.