‘Vertigo’: The most shocking scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece


Alfred Hitchcock Classic vertigo (1958) You can hook yourself up in a number of ways. If the unfolding of the tragedy in the opening scene doesn’t catch you, the hypnotic scenes of Detective John “Scotty” Ferguson (Jimmy Stewart) driving through San Francisco — or perhaps the biggest plot twist in the history of cinema — certainly do. Will be from.

Actually, vertigo One of the few movies that has it all. With so much going on, the audience barely gets a moment to process the most suspenseful scene of the film. It takes place during Ferguson’s tailings of Madeleine Alster (Kim Novak). While Hitchcock never revealed how Ferguson survived the opening scene, Madeleine’s disappearance at the McKittrick Hotel is even more shocking.

Madeleine Alster disappeared before John Ferguson’s eyes in ‘Vertigo’

James Stewart and Kim Novak in the Alfred Hitchcock movie ‘Vertigo’ | Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images

By the time Madeleine (Novak) is stopped by McKittrick, Ferguson (Stewart) has seen her circling. He has bought a bouquet of flowers from the back entrance of a shop; visited the grave of Carlotta Valdez at Mission Dolores; And checked out the portrait of Valdez in the Palace of Legion of Honor.

You can laugh at the clarity of Ferguson’s tail at points, but you can expect someone as haunted as Madeleine to remember her in her shadow. Once we get to the McKittrick Hotel, however, all bets are off.

She parks her car in front (the corner of Gough and Eddie), goes inside, and moments later appears in the window, drawing a shadow of her street-facing room. Ferguson goes inside for information from the doorman (Ellen Corby) only to learn that Madeleine isn’t there. According to the concierge, “Miss Valdez” was not there at all that day.

Alfred Hitchcock reveals the reason for Madeleine’s disappearance in ‘Vertigo’

Jimmy Stewart leans on a car with Kim Novak in the driver's seat and a view of San Francisco in the background.  from 'vertigo'

Kim Novak driving a car and talking to James Stewart in the movie ‘Vertigo’, 1958 | Mondadori via Getty Images

To try to explain Madeleine’s disappearance, you’re almost forced to go in vertigo Explanations. If that didn’t happen—if it was a figment of Ferguson’s imagination—what else has he imagined? Did he really see her going to the flower shop? Maybe that explains how he remembered her in Mission Dolores?

Then there’s a comment Hitchcock said to François Truffaut about the concierge: “A paid fellow,” Hitchcock said. OK, let’s go with it. During Ferguson’s conversation with the concierge, Madeleine must have had to hide – or dart out – through an alternate exit. Meanwhile, someone must have had to stand beside Ferguson in his car.

The Concierge’s Part in the ‘Vertigo’ Plot Doesn’t Solve the Riddle

Kim Novak talks on location with Alfred Hitchcock during the shooting of 'Vertigo'.

Kim Novak with Alfred Hitchcock on the set of ‘Vertigo’ | Sunset Boulevard / Corbis via Getty Images

Obviously, Hitchcock’s explanation takes care of the practical matter of missing out. Nothing supernatural was going on, and Ferguson couldn’t even imagine it all on his own. But that doesn’t explain why Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore) would take this step as part of his assassination plot.

That is, until Alster’s goal was Ferguson’s ultimate mind. If Alster wanted to get Ferguson into thinking he couldn’t believe what he saw—that he, Ferguson, was already on the verge of a mental collapse—it would have been a way. Whatever it was, the scene remains in the imagination as much as anything vertigo.



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