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Vertigo is a 1958 psychological thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock based on the 1954 novel D'entre les morts by Boileau-Narcejac. The screenplay was written by Alec Coppel and Samuel A. Taylor.
The film stars James Stewart as former police detective John "Scottie" Ferguson, who has been forced into early retirement due to disabilities (vertigo and clinical depression) incurred in the line of duty. Scottie is hired as a private investigator to follow a woman, Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak) who is behaving peculiarly.
The film was shot on location in San Francisco, California, and at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. It popularized the dolly zoom, an in-camera effect that distorts perspective to create disorientation, to convey Scottie's acrophobia. As a result of its use in this film, the effect is often referred to as "the Vertigo effect".
The film received mixed reviews upon initial release, but has garnered acclaim since and is now often cited as a classic Hitchcock film and one of the defining works of his career. Attracting significant scholarly criticism, it replaced Citizen Kane as the best film of all time in the 2012 Sight & Sound critics' poll and has appeared repeatedly in best film polls by the American Film Institute. In 1996, Vertigo underwent a major restoration to create a new 70mm print and DTS soundtrack.
After a rooftop chase in which his latent acrophobia results in the death of a police officer, San Francisco detective John "Scottie" Ferguson (James Stewart) retires, spending much of his time with his ex-fiancée Midge Wood (Barbara Bel Geddes). Scottie tries to gradually conquer his fear but Midge suggests another severe emotional shock may be the only cure.
An acquaintance, Gavin Elster, asks Scottie to tail his wife, Madeleine, claiming she has been possessed; Scottie reluctantly agrees. The next day Scottie follows Madeleine to a florist where she secures a bouquet of flowers; next, she visits the grave of Carlotta Valdes; then she visits an art museum where she sits watching Portrait of Carlotta, a painting of a woman resembling her. Lastly, she enters the McKittrick Hotel, but when Scottie investigates, she is missing and the clerk insists she has not been there.
Midge takes Scottie to a local history expert, who informs them Carlotta Valdes tragically committed suicide. Another visit with Gavin reveals Carlotta is Madeleine's great-grandmother, whom Gavin fears is possessing Madeleine. Gavin also says Madeleine has no knowledge of Carlotta. Scottie tails Madeleine to Fort Point (just beneath the Golden Gate Bridge), where she suddenly leaps into San Francisco Bay. Scottie rescues Madeleine and takes her to his home. The meeting is tense and leads to a strange intimacy between them, but Madeleine quickly slips out when Scottie receives a phone call.