Stars: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes
Recently crowned the greatest movie ever made by British film mag Sight & Sound, Vertigo appeals to two factions of movie lovers typically separated by a large difference in preference: fans of psychological horror and those who appreciate a good romance. What this means for you, friendo, is scares and love-thrills.
Jimmy Stewart plays John "Scottie" Ferguson, a detective who's stricken by an overpowering fear of heights, and whose fragile psyche gets put into a tailspin as he begins a close investigation into an old pal's young, beautiful wife (Kim Novak). The love story comes from Ferguson's tender interactions with Novak's Madeleine, all delicately handled by Hitchcock to evoke genuine compassion for both characters.
As for Vertigo's darker side, the film's second half—loaded with clever twists and startling reveals—effectively transposes Ferguson's crumbling sanity onto the viewer. Employing some unsubtle visual aids, Hitchcock manifests the character's internal paranoia through a kaleidoscope that's both dizzying and hypnotic.
The film's about obsession and longing. So long as you don't come off as crazy, you'll have set the mood correctly.