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SUMMER FILM SERIES IV: "Vertigo" - Hitchcock

  • Knott Science Center at Notre Dame of Maryland University 4701 North Charles Street Baltimore, MD, 21210 United States (map)

Vertigo (1958)
Introduction and commentary by Christopher Llewellyn Reed, chair of Film & Moving Image, Stevenson University

Hitchcock's penultimate film of the 1950s, and his fourth and final with James Stewart, Vertigo replaced Orson Welles' Citizen Kane as the best film of all time in a 2016 British Film Institute poll. Featuring a powerfully neurotic Stewart, the movie highlights the lush cinematography of longtime Hitchcock collaborator Robert Burks as well as the stirringly evocative score by Bernard Herrmann. Kim Novak co-stars as the hapless object of Stewart's desire, whom he meets when he is tasked, as a private detective, to follow the wife of an old friend. She is that wife, and soon he becomes a man possessed, forgetting all sense of professional ethics. Struck with a debilitating vertigo every time he climbs to even the smallest height, Stewart is unable to follow Novak when she runs, in a fit of depression, up the bell tower of the Mission San Juan Bautista. The ensuing tragedy plunges Stewart into madness, which is when the story really begins. This is the movie in which Hitchcock and Burks invented the dolly-zoom shot – now called the "Vertigo shot" – used as a visualization of momentary psychosis and seen in subsequent films such as Jaws and Goodfellas. See it for that, and for Stewart, who gives one of the most moving and disturbing performances of his long career. (128min, Color)

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