May 6, 2015
Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock was said to be one of his greatest masterpiece. While pursuing a criminal across the rooftops of San Francisco, detective Scottie Ferguson slips and finds himself dangling from the gutter of a tall building. A colleague falls to his death in an attempt to rescue Scottie as he looks on in horror. Scottie is contacted by college acquaintance Gavin Elster, who has heard of Scottie’s accident and wishes to hire him to trail his wife Madeleine, who Elster believes is possessed by the spirit of her great-grandmother Carlotta Valdes. Scottie later learns from Elster that Carlotta committed suicide at age twenty-six—Madeleine’s current age—and he fears that Madeleine, too, has suicidal tendencies. Scottie is initially skeptical but begins to follow the beautiful and mysterious Madeleine in her wanderings around San Francisco.
The next day, Scottie continues to trail Madeleine, this time to a spot under the Golden Gate Bridge, where he watches her throw herself into the San Francisco Bay. Scottie dives in and rescues the unconscious Madeleine and drives her to his apartment, where he undresses her and puts her to bed. When Madeleine awakens, she claims not to remember anything about her suicide attempt, so Scottie tells her that she appeared to have slipped. As they talk, they begin to fall in love. But when Scottie leaves her to answer the phone, Madeleine slips out the door and flees. The next day, Scottie is surprised to trail Madeleine back to his own apartment, where she is leaving a thank you note for him. They decide to spend the day wandering together, traveling to the giant sequoia forest at Big Basin, where Madeleine makes evasive allusions to her possession and her strange dreams about death. She describes a place in her dreams that looks like Spain, which Scottie later recognizes to be the mission at San Juan Bautista.
Scottie tells Madeleine that he can explain her strange obsessions as a repressed memory of time she must have spent at the mission. He resolves to take her to the spot to bring to rest the notion that she is possessed. When they arrive, she recognizes it all, and after professing her love for Scottie, runs agitatedly toward the bell tower. She heads up the spiral staircase with Scottie in hot pursuit. Near the top of the tower, Scottie’s acrophobia strikes, and he is unable to continue the climb. He looks out the window in time to see Madeleine’s body hurtle down to the rooftop of an adjoining building. Scottie flees. He is next seen at the coroner’s inquest, where Gavin Elster is cleared of all responsibility for his wife’s death, but where Scottie is berated by the coroner for allowing his phobia to, in effect, cause the death of an innocent person. Wracked with guilt and grief, Scottie spends the next year catatonic in a sanatorium, where Midge attempts to bring him back to reality.
After his release from the sanatorium, Scottie again wanders the streets of San Francisco, seeing hints of Madeleine in everyone. He follows one woman, who he believes looks like a brunette Madeleine, back to her apartment and questions her relentlessly about her identity. She says her name is Judy Barton, that she hails from Kansas, and that she works in a department store. Scottie invites her to dinner. As soon as he leaves to allow her to change her clothes, Judy begins to pack a suitcase. Hesitating about…