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YMMV / Vertigo

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  • Adaptation Displacement: Based on an obscure French novel, D'entre les morts (The Living and the Deadnote ), by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac. Like most books adapted by Alfred Hitchcock, it's long since been overshadowed by the movie. note 
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: The film doesn't really try to explain the motivations of Scottie and Judy, leaving it up to the viewer to determine why they do the things they do. As a result, everyone who sees it seems to come away with a slightly different take on them as characters. Even Midge has become a popular subject of discussion, as a reflection of Scottie and his attitudes toward women.
    • Judy herself gets a full novel dedicated to telling her side of the story called The Testament of Judith Barton by Wendy Powers and Robin McLeod, including that she wasn't really Gavin's mistress and was blackmailed into being involved in the murder of his wife.
  • Award Snub: Entertainment Weekly considers the failure to even nominate Jimmy Stewart for his performance as Scottie to be the worst Oscar snub ever. Many tend to agree, although they would add that there are many others which are comparable. Of course, Vertigo, and Hitchcock's films of the '50s in general for that matter, were not seen as Oscar Bait in their day and Stewart likely never had a chance.
  • Awesome Music: Bernard Herrmann's haunting main title, and "Scene D'Amour".
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment:
    • Downplayed but there is a strange scene when Scottie is first following Madeleine. He sees her in her hotel room, goes in to ask the receptionist about it and she claims no one has used the room today. She even has the key behind the desk to prove it and they inspect the room just to make sure. It's never explained how she left the hotel room and returned the key without the receptionist knowing, and assuming Judy is a real person (some interpret the entire end sequence as All Just a Dream, probably even a Dying Dream of Scottie who never really made it past the opening scene), she shouldn't want to actively evade Scottie; she needs him to follow her to make the plan work.
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    • Yet another downplayed example is the coroner's speech in the court, almost bordering on satire. He seemed much more interested in chastising Scottie (despite admitting he couldn't possibly bear any legal responsibility for Madeleine's death) than in determining the cause of the victim's death.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Plenty of fans self-identify as being on Team Midge.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • The fact that the film's leading ladies both named the heroine in Down with Love - which is a Genre Throwback to the 1950s. The character's name is Barbara Novak.
    • The original 1958 poster calling it "Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece" was maybe viewed as a rather ambitious bit of exaggerated hype at the time. Today, lots of people wholeheartedly agree with that statement.
  • Hype Backlash: It's finally achieved the critical and cultural prestige and popularity to face this. Especially after the film unexpectedly dethroned Citizen Kane in the 2012 Sight and Sound Critics' Best Films pollnote  It was a modest success (an Acclaimed Flop by fifties standards) in its time, and critically mixed, and more or less vanished off American screens for decades. It's only since The '90s, that it enjoyed the critical reputation it now has. While the general consensus nowadays is that Vertigo should definitely be counted among Hitchcock's best works, you will find plenty of professional critics or even casual moviegoers feeling that it got way more praise than it deserved and much of the original 1958 criticism of it was in fact well founded. Possibly one of the most convincing arguments is that the film isn't innovative on a technical level (with the notable exception of the appropriately named cinematographic gimmick known as the Vertigo Effect). It's pointed out that from the aesthetic-technological view, a Hollywood without Vertigo wouldn't differ a great deal, from the Hollywood we know today, as compared to Citizen Kane or Star Wars. Among Hitchcock's enthusiasts, Psycho, Rear Window or Rope, for example, are considered more influential and well-executed movies. Alfred Hitchcock himself considered Shadow of a Doubt as his best movie.
  • It Was His Sled: Madeleine was killed by her husband, Gavin who hired Judy Barton to impersonate her and make Madeleine's death look like a suicide.
    • Judy dies the same way Madeleine does.
  • Memetic Mutation: "Madeleine"'s "suicide".
  • Narm:
    • Near the start, Scottie's on-the-nose line to Midge "we were engaged once" comes across as very heavy handed and said purely to tell the audience their relationship.
    • The mental breakdown in the middle of the film can come off like a badly done Disney Acid Sequence.
    • The final scene with Judy falling to her death off the belltower upon being startled by a curious nun could probably provoke a chuckle or two instead of an appriopriate sense of tragedy. It doesn't help that the aforementioned nun's reaction makes it look like she witnesses this kind of things every Tuesday.
  • Narm Charm:
    • The plot relies on obvious contrivances and centers on an almost hilariously convoluted murder scheme. Even people who love the film have called its plot "preposterous". But the direction and acting is so good, it doesn't matter.
    • The Driving a Desk process shots when Scottie drives Judy back to the mission at the climax mistakenly have the car on the wrong side of the road for part of the scene. But it actually works, because Scottie has become so unhinged at that point that it makes sense that he'd be Driving Like Crazy.
    • "You were a very apt pupil too, weren't you? You were a very apt pupil!" A line that sounds odd when it's spoken, but Stewart's delivery makes it work.
  • Older Than They Think: A thriller with Film Noir elements (although it's in Technicolor), set in an iconic, photogenic location, where a mentally unstable man has an obsessive relationship with a younger blonde woman. Infidelity, a murder plot, a character who ends up Faking the Dead and a tall bell tower also figure into the story. That would be 1953's Niagara, starring Marilyn Monroe. There's been some speculation over whether it had any influence on Hitchcock. For bonus points, it co-starred frequent Hitchcock leading man Joseph Cotten.
  • Poor Man's Substitute: Kim Novak for Grace Kelly as the classic Hitchockian blonde.
  • She Really Can Act: Doubled with Vindicated by History. At the time of the release (and throughout her acting career), Kim Novak's acting abilities were largely dismissed by the audience and critics alike - and Vertigo initially did little to change that. However, with a newly found appreciation for the film itself there gradually came recognition that it would have lost a great deal of its magic, had it not been for the actress who portrayed the female lead. Novak's trademark vulnerability seems tailor-made for this film, with her performance in the second half especially moving and powerful. She manages to get the audience to sympathize and identify with a character who would otherwise be considered a Femme Fatale villain.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: One of complaints about the movie is that The Reveal of the Plot Twist, a good 40 minutes before the ending, ruined the potential for a more shocking finale. This was more or less an Intended Audience Reaction on Hitchcock's part (The Novel he adapted from indeed did have such a twist, but Hitchcock and his screenwriters changed it), since he wanted a Halfway Plot Switch that converted a Psychological Thriller into a character study about The Hero's sexual obsession and neurosis, and part of the way of achieving that was via Perspective Flip of seeing the hero from Judy's point of view.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • The disturbing scenes where Judy is forced to get the same grey suit that Madeleine wore. He bullies her verbally into doing it (as well as having her hair dyed), but the employees in the boutique and hair salon go along with it without question due to the patriarchal moral standards of the time. While the film portrays his actions as disturbing, it's odd to modern audiences for bystanders to not have the same reaction.
    • The hotel clerk blithely notes that "Carlotta Valdez" is a pretty name in spite of being "foreign." These days, it would be pretty rude to describe an American citizen's non-English name as "foreign," and it's also pretty ironic given that the Valdez family traces its lineage in San Francisco to before America's annexation of California.
  • Vindicated by History: Neither a box office hit (though it recouped costs) nor critically acclaimed (except by Hitchcock's admirers in France) when it was originally released, it is now regarded as one of Hitchcock's best and most popular films, and by many film-makers and critics as his masterpiece, alongside other essentials made in a 9 year stretch - Rear Window, North by Northwest, Psycho, The Birds.
  • The Woobie: Madeleine Elster, acutually Judy Barton has the worst luck in the film. She's gets used in Gavin's scheme to kill his wife, she constantly has to think about killing herself, Scottie — the closest person she has to a companion — doesn't love her for who she is and tries to recreate "Madeleine" when she finds her true nature, and pretty much feels useless at this point. And all this happens before she gets scared by a nun and dies for real. Remind us again who the real protagonist is?


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