Alfred Hitchcock

V is for Vertigo (1958)

Former police detective John ‘Scottie’ Ferguson (James Stewart) is suffering from acrophobia and vertigo when he’s recruited by an old friend to investigate the strange activities of his wife, Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak), but as he follows her movements Scottie becomes dangerously obsessed with her.

My second Alfred Hitchcock film and perhaps one of his most popular films – or at least one that has an easily recognisable name. Again, I knew nothing about the plot of Vertigo going into it, and I think that worked in the films favour. Though to be honest, I’m not sure how I’d describe the plot as it can get very convoluted and hard to follow.

The colours in Vertigo are beautiful. San Francisco looks stunning and there are scenes where the camera really shows off the city. There’s a lot of pastel colours in the clothes and the sets, and then there’s neon lights from hotel signs, they should clash but they don’t. A dream sequence with animation is unexpected but it’s vibrant and unsettling, really making an impact even though it’s pretty short. The “vertigo effect” is impressive and unnerving. It puts you in Scottie’s shoes when he’s at his most vulnerable.

Scottie is an interesting character. Before he starts investigating his old friend’s wife, he seems like an enthusiastic person, fun to be around even while he’s struggling with his newfound condition. He has his friend Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes) to help him, whether that’s just to be someone to talk to or to help him with a case. She’s bubbly and smart and is clearly in love with him, but he either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. And once he becomes caught up in Madeline Elster, all he shows her is indifference which she doesn’t deserve.

As Scottie’s obsession gets more and more out of hand, the tension amps up through the score and Scottie’s behaviour. He changes as he becomes entangled in Madeline. He becomes a strong and frightening force as his passion overtakes logic and it’s uncomfortable to watch.

While the two-hour runtime of Vertigo seemed to drag at times, the ending seemed rushed as everything was wrapped up. It also seemed to have a non-ending, leaving me with more questions and wanting to know what happened to these characters next. As Vertigo is only the second Hitchcock film I’ve watched, I don’t know if this is a Hitchcock thing, or is just pure chance that both Vertigo and Family Plot left me feeling this way.

Vertigo is an eerie film with a couple of brilliant performances from Kim Novak. Her different mannerisms were fantastic, even if she didn’t have perfect chemistry with Stewart – though that might be down to how much older than her he looked. The mystery was complicated, and as the film progressed I found myself caring more about the women in Scottie’s life than the man himself, even if he was possibly driving himself to madness. 3/5.

F is for Family Plot (1976)

When Blanche Tyler (Barbara Harris), a phoney psychic, and her taxi driver/private investigator boyfriend George Lumley (Bruce Dern) are trying to track down a missing heir, they cross paths with a pair of serial kidnappers.

Family Plot is the first Alfred Hitchcock film I watched (I’m a terrible film fan I know) and it turns out, it was his last film. I find some sort of symmetry in that.

Family Plot is a fun thriller that’s more comedic than I thought it’d be, considering the director and the preconception I had of him and his films. The humour is very wry and often dark as people are kidnapped, there’s attempted murder, and Balance and George are trying to con a wealthy old lady out of her money.

The duos of Harris and Dern, and Karen Black and William Devane who play the kidnappers, are great to watch. Each pair have a very different relationship, but they all bounce off one another well and they play interesting characters.

There are some really fun filming devices in Family Plot, like an overhead shot of a graveyard where George follows someone on parallel paths. It’s funny because as the viewer you can pick put both characters routes and you know they can’t avoid George, but their efforts to do so make it all the more entertaining.

I found the score, composed by John Williams, really interesting especially in the sense of how and when it was used. It made great use of silence and showed how it could increase the tension more than a big soundtrack could.

Family Plot is perhaps a little long and certain events could’ve been tighter, but it’s still an engaging film with an interesting mystery at its core. 3/5.

My Film Year in Review and my Film-Related Goals of 2020

In 2019 I watched a lot of films but not too many that I got overwhelmed with meeting a self-enforced target. In total I watched 242 different films, 251 films including rewatches. I saw 76 films at the cinema as well. I have a full list of all the films I watched here and I also put together a list of my Top Ten Favourite Films of 2019 last week for your reading pleasure – I’d recommend all of my favourites to anyone, no matter their taste in films.

With the film-related goals I set myself it was a bit of a mixed bag. One of the reasons I wanted to not put pressure on myself to watch films every day and hit a ridiculously high target, was so I could watch the many TV shows I’ve missed or got half way though and not feel guilty about it. In the end I didn’t watch many TV shows at all. In fact, I watched one and a half. I watched all of Stranger Things season three which I loved and binge-watched over a weekend. You can see what I thought on Twitter as I did some spoiler-free live-tweeting. I also started to rewatch Shadowhunters as the last series came out so thought it would be nice to rewatch it from the beginning and by the time I did that the new episodes would be out. It didn’t quite work like that because I’m someone who just stops watching TV shows even when I’m enjoying them. I got near to the end of series 2 so I only really have a season left to watch and half of it will be new to me. Maybe in 2020 I will finish my rewatch and live tweeting of one of my favourite shows.

I did complete the 52 Films by Women challenge once again. I watched 56 films directed by women (all of which happened to be first time watches) and I watched 71 films that were written by women. However, I didn’t watch very many of my unwatched DVD’s and Blu-rays, and in fact I bought more and now have over 80 unwatched films.

Now it’s time for the fun stats stuff. I have a Pro membership on Letterboxd which allows you to see all your film-viewing stats and I love it.

My most watched actors of 2019 were:

I rewatched and reviewed the Fast & Furious franchise (which I adore) so that’s why almost half the actors here are from at least one of those films. I made the effort to watch a lot of Brie Larson and Keira Knightley films so that’s why they’ve gotten a spot. I rewatched the sequel Star Wars trilogy, the Lord of the Rings, the Transformer trilogy and the John Wick trilogy so that explains people like Keanu Reeves, Andy Serkis and Hugo Weaving a couple of the other actors, but some people like Jim Broadbent and Joan Cusack were a surprise.

My most watched directors also show off the fact I watched a lot of Fast and Furious (Justin Lin), Star Wars (J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson) and Transformers films (Michael Bay). I like how Antoine Fuqua makes an appearance once again (he’s one of my favourite directors) and I tend to rewatch his films fairly often. It’s a shame there’s only one woman on this list. I watched four of Mira Nair’s films that I hadn’t seen before but while I watched over 50 films directed by women, I think she was the only female director I watched multiple films from.

So what are my film-related goals of 2020? I’m going to continue to watch what I want, when I want, and not feel like I have to watch a film every day when I’d rather be reading or discover a new TV show (that I’ll only watch half of before stopping even when I’m enjoying it). I definitely want to finish watching Shadowhunters and if I manage to get through a couple of other TV shows that I’ve been meaning to watch for ages in 2020 that’d be great. I think The Alienist returns this year and as that’s like the one show besides Stranger Things that I’ve watched in its entirety recently, I’m definitely looking forward to that.

I want to complete the 52 Films by Women challenge for both directors and screenwriters again. I have been doing (and completing) this challenge since 2016 so it’d be cool to make it a fifth year in a row.

I will once again say I want to get my unwatched DVD’s and Blu-rays down. As I said, I have over 80 of them to get through but I do have a plan to tackle this! It is going to be related to the A-Z in April Challenge but more will be revealed in the Spring. I not only have a Clint Eastwood boxset to get through, but an Alfred Hitchcock one as well now so maybe I’ll make some headway with those this year.

Do you have any film-related goals for 2020? How easy/difficult do you find it is to make time to sit down and watch a film?