Egyptian Theatre tonight seeing Alfred Hitchcock's VERTIGO for the very first time. The movie was fascinating, the 70 mm print was gorgeous, and the company, which included my fellow classic film blogger Deborah of Sidewalk Crossings, was most congenial. All in all, a perfect Friday night in Hollywood!
There probably isn't a whole lot new I can offer about VERTIGO, as so many classic film fans have already seen it. (That said, I'm still going to be as vague as possible about the plot, for the benefit of those who haven't seen it yet.) I found the film mesmerizing, with great mood, thanks to the acting, the beautiful shots of San Francisco, the color palette (lots of greens and yellows!), and the evocative score by the great Bernard Herrmann.
The story is somehow simultaneously simple and very complicated, leaving behind more questions than it answers.
And questions, I have lots of questions:
1) How did Scottie get out of his seemingly impossible predicament in the first minutes of the movie?
2) Midge is obviously hung up on Scottie, so why did she break their long-ago engagement? Did she think he wasn't serious enough about her? And why is he simultaneously a single loner yet always dropping in to hang out with Midge? There are seemingly as many mysteries in the characters' back stories as there are in the film's present-day storyline.
3) Wasn't there anything physical about Judy -- perhaps even the way she kissed -- that told Scottie her true identity?
4) So what exactly was Gavin Elster's motive? He wanted control of the money? His motivations and feelings of animosity are never clearly spelled out.
5) What was Judy's motive for the deception? If she loved Gavin, it's still not clear why she would love him that much.
6) Why did Judy back up to the table in the hotel? She looked as though she were either hiding something or perhaps going to grab the phone to dial for help, but knowing what she knew, why would she consider making the call?
7) What was the nun doing up there, anyway?
8) And the unanswerable question, what happened to Scottie next? Wow, talk about an abrupt ending!
Perhaps some of these questions will be answered in the Month of Vertigo blogathon taking place all next month, hosted by The Lady Eve's Reel Life. In her introduction Eve quotes critic David Thomason as saying the film is both "a masterpiece and an endless mystery," so perhaps I'm not alone in my questions!
An interesting point to consider: I felt that VERTIGO's use of colors and flashbacks seemed to set the stage for the later MARNIE (1964), another film about a chameleon-like woman of disturbed or questionable character.
Novak and Stewart made VERTIGO back to back with BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE (1958). Stewart is superb as the obsessed detective; when it comes right down to it, he's not always a very nice man, yet the audience is completely caught up in his emotions and what he experiences. The fact that it's an actor who has so much audience goodwill at the outset helps prevent him from being perceived negatively, particularly in the closing scenes dealing with Scottie's total obsession. Novak excelled in a role that's difficult on many levels; like Stewart, she engages audience sympathy despite her character's actions.
I especially liked Barbara Bel Geddes as Scottie's friend and old flame, Midge, whose appearances serve to jolt the film out of its melancholy mood.
I smiled when I recognized Bess Flowers, the perennial extra, dining in the first sequence in Ernie's. I was amused by what Jacqueline wrote about her in a recent post on MY REPUTATION (1946): "The inevitable Bess Flowers also plays one of the society friends at the party, but then she always shows up everywhere... I think I ran into her at the grocery store the other day." That gave me a big chuckle.
The highly stylized opening credits sequence, which foreshadows the story to come, was created by Saul Bass. There's a new coffee table book out on his work which I'd really like to get.
VERTIGO is available on DVD in a 2003 Collector's Edition and a 2008 edition in the Universal Legacy Series. It's also been released on VHS, including a widescreen edition I've been told is quite nice.
This film can be rented for streaming from Amazon Instant Video; the DVD can be rented from Netflix.
VERTIGO was Movie No. 9 on my list of 10 "unseen classics" to finally catch up with in 2011. The other films on the list seen to date were SHANE (1953), DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944), SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS (1941), BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (1955), STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951), THE LADY EVE (1941), BALL OF FIRE (1941), and THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955).
I'm pushing the final film on my 2011 list, SUNSET BLVD. (1950), to the very first day of 2012, when I hope to see it on the big screen at the Bay Theatre in Seal Beach, California.