Why Found-Again? An usually good question! When I told my mother I’d added some Hitchcock to the ol’ Netflix queue, she said, “Ooooh. Vertigo. Have you seen it before?” and I had to admit I was stumped: the end of Mel Brooks’s Hitchcock parody High Anxiety borrows heavily from Vertigo, and so I wasn’t sure whether I’d seen the real deal or a cunning imitation that would fool a five-year-old. I’m still not, either.
The Premise: Ex-cop with a well-founded fear of heights Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart) is asked by an old friend to do a spot of surveillance. The subject? The friend’s wife, who is feared to be having a breakdown.
Is our hero being played as a pawn in a web of psychologically complex intrigue that will eventually involve tall buildings? Is this Hitchcock?
First, the good parts: Vertigo is a beautiful, beautiful movie, with gorgeous San Francisco scenery and costumes by Edith Head. It stars Kim Novak, the archetypical Hitchcock blonde, and features Barbara bel Geddes as an adorable artist who’s still sort of in love with Scottie. As someone whose youthful fear of heights once led to hyperventilating in a lighthouse, I expected to be sympathetic to the protagonist, if nothing else.
What I didn’t expect was to be slightly bored as our hero spends an awful lot of time 1) driving around while wearing a hat and 2) professing deep, passionate love for a woman he’s barely met. There are ways to pull this off—I may have mentioned I’m a fan of old-time radio, where plot contrivances aren’t exactly unfamiliar territory—but I don’t think it worked this time.
The Verdict: …Maybe? As someone whose favorite Hitchcock will probably always be an eternal tie between Charade and Rebecca, it’s possible I’m just not the audience for this one.
Might go well with: After the Thin Man, a good stiff drink like the ones all the characters have in abundance—even the artist with the tiny, crappy kitchen.
Next time: I’m so glad I’m not a relationship counselor. Related: is a book ever a bad gift?