Hidden Gems brings to light little known film gems which have somehow slipped through the collective cinematic consciousness. You’re welcome.
Films about being dizzy were legion in the 1940s and 50s, reflecting a widespread distrust of government and an increasing paranoia about the activities of the Soviet Bloc. Who can forget Stanley Kubrick’s groundbreaking Whoops-a-Daisy starring Peter Sellers, or Billy Wilder’s hilarious satire I Need to Sit Down, starring Jack Lemmon. In an attempt to bolster his failing reputation – following the little known and underwhelming Read Window – British director Alfred Hitchcock decided to cash in on the trend with Vertigo, a film about a policeman Scottie (played by relative unknown James Stewart) who retires from the force following a dizzy spell during a rooftop chase. Living in San Francisco doesn’t help, nor does a case he takes on as a private investigator involving an old friend’s wife.
Hitchcock’s film is a sun-kissed noir, a convoluted twisting plot taking place in the labyrinthine twists of San Fransisco. Scotty is an empty man filling his empty days with an obsessive pursuit which threatens to consume him entirely. Bernard Hermann’s score is a luscious and hypnotic setting for the story and the acting is superb. Unfortunately, the film was a commercial and critical disaster and is very difficult to get hold of now. Hitchcock went on to make the poorly received Psycho and is now largely forgotten as a film director. If he’s remembered for anything, it’s because he was fat. In this he resembles Orson Welles, a similarly corpulent ghost from the past whose films are unjustly ignored.
The British Film Institute in its recent retrospective of Dizzy Cinema not only neglected Hitchcock’s work but denied that Vertigo even existed and Sight and Sound in its poll of top film critics found the film positioned number one of one hundred films that were considered ‘absolute bullshit’.
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