Every ten years Sight and Sound magazine, one of the world’s most distinguished film publications, releases a new edition of their “greatest movies of all time” poll. While similar polls are shoddy and without merit, Sight and Sound’s is quite the opposite. Over 800 film professionals of the most respected including scholars, critics and directors chime in with their opinion.
Since 1962 only one film had topped the list: CITIZEN KANE. In 2012, though, Orson Welles’ American classic was displaced by Alfred Hitchcock’s bold, ambitious masterwork, VERTIGO.
This accolade would appear impossible when looking back at VERTIGO’s reception during its initial 1958 release. Dismissed as a minor Hitchcock effort, especially since it was made right after the director’s universally praised REAR WINDOW and NORTH BY NORTHWEST, VERTIGO made audiences and critics more confused than anything else. Most thought the film was too long and boring and didn’t provide the Hitchcock’s trademark thrills, chills and dark humor. Critics were indifferent and it didn’t perform well at the box office.
If the story ended there cinema would have lost a seminal treasure. Luckily scholar Robin Wood’s 1962 essay regarding the film as Hitchcock’s greatest work rejuvenated discussion surrounding it. Slowly but surely others began to take notice. Over decades praise for the film grew so much that it was given a beautiful restoration in 1996 in the 70mm format.
And it’s in this big, beautiful and essential presentation that we are proud to show Hitchcock’s VERTIGO.
Jimmy Stewart plays the film’s central figure, retired San Francisco detective Scottie Ferguson. His performance is a brilliant mix of contained internal struggle and showy melodrama. Matching Stewart’s crazily perfect and bizarre turn is the gorgeous Kim Novak, who tackles the tricky role of Scottie’s love interest.
The great Saul Bass contributes mesmerizing title sequences along with a trippy dream sequence and Bernard Hermann’s score is beautiful, chilling and timeless. All these things are great, but most of all VERTIGO displays Hitchcock working at the top of his powers. He takes chances and succeeds wildly on all fronts.
Time and reflection have allowed VERTIGO to finally, after 55 years, receive recognition as one of the greatest films of all-time. The big question isn’t whether or not the distinction is deserved but rather why it took so long.