vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958) is a dark meditation on romantic obsession that doesn't look or feel like any other Hollywood movie of the period. You wonder how Hitchcock managed to make this film at a major studio in 1958. Well, he was "the master of suspense," had Jimmy Stewart starring as a retired police detective mesmerized by a dead woman (Kim Novak), and the studio system in the late 50s was in a state of disarray. The film was unsuccessful financially and critically (which tells you something about film critics).
Vertigo's current reputation as one of the greatest films ever made is certainly justified. During public screenings I've heard people laugh, but it's nervous laughter -- everyone is in a state of emotional torment. On that level, Vertigo can be embarrassing to watch; even Brando in Streetcar doesn't manage the emotional nakedness Stewart achieves here.
This is the restored version, and if the sound effects are a bit souped up, it also offers the original stereo mix of Bernard Herrmann's score, which was unknown until restorers Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz started poking around in the Paramount archives. Come early and see Rear Window, too. Rating: NNNNN (December 18-19, Royal)