Save The Cat! Video Tribute 8: Vertigo


Hey Gang!  I apologize for the 4 week hiatus on the blog here.  We got very busy at Mediajuice the past couple of months and I just did not have the bandwidth to keep posting new tributes the past few weeks.  With that said, I’m happy to say we are BACK on track for the final 3 tribute videos which will be (starting with this blog’s tribute) Vertigo, Who Framed Roger Rabbit (next week) and finally (…drumroll please….) Top Gun as our final Save The Cat video tribute.  Thanks to everyone who has emailed me about the video tributes that have been posted so far.  Its encouraging to hear from so many people who are fellow “Save The Cat’rs” as well as aspiring screenwriter / filmmakers who have been inspired by our video tributes.

OK on to this week’s video tribute, Vertigo.  Without question its one great masterpieces in all of popular cinema.  Hitchcock applies a masterful hand once again in this film as well does his screenwriters on Vertigo (Alec Coppel & Samuel A. Taylor).  Many have said that Vertigo doesn’t really follow a known writing structure and I will admit, upon first dissection it seemed to be fairly abstractly written.  But upon a closer look at the beats within vertigo, you can definitely find a plot through-line and even very defined “Save The Cat” like beats…you just have to be willing to see them in different places than where they would normally occur in a modern film.  With that disclaimer, lets get into the 1st few beats here.  You notice right off that the OPENING IMAGE beat is strong and visceral, i.e. “..A man’s hand suddenly grips the ladder on the railing of a building…”  We don’t know who this is, or where they are but this opening scene chase atop the roof of a series of buildings is suspenseful and gets your attention right away.  The ensuing fall that happens, almost plunging our hero to his death and subsequently revealing that he has acrophobia thus giving him “vertigo” is even more interesting.  In the beginning we have no idea what any of this has to do with the future events of the movie or even how it ties in with the overall plot, but its alot of fun for any cinephile to sit back and just soak in the Hitchcockian “setup” of characters, shots and locations that we know will “payoff” strongly in the end.  However, when the CATALYST appears at around minute 13 in the movie, its so seemingly casually presented that you wouldn’t know it unless you were looking for it.  It feels like just another random meeting Jimmy Stewart is having with a friend (after his seemingly random meeting with his friend & ex-fiance) but as you continue to watch you see that his friend asking him to spy on his wife is what begins the whole crazy, unpredictable journey for Scottie (Jimmy Stewart). The “DEBATE” beat is fairly straight forward in that Scottie argues with his friend for a few minutes and then takes the job which “breaks us into Act 2″….Scottie tailing Madeleine all around town.  The FUN & GAMES is just that, ALOT of fun. Watching Scottie follow Madeleine and try to figure out her strange behavior, the strange locations and ultimately why she would want to commit suicide is a rich experience and really what all suspense movies should be like.

And now for one of the stronger SAVE THE CAT moments in a film.  Scott (Jimmy Stewart) saves Madeleine (the woman he is spying on) from drowning, which is really a suicide attempt.  He didn’t save a cat…he saved a woman who we have become invested in, or at very least interested in, so whether consciously or unconsciously we are endeared to him.

OK, the “bad guys close in” section of Vertigo is definitely the strangest part of the movie (it also reveals alot about the Madeleine character which we haven’t know up to this point).  I’m sure there are alot of opinions about why Madeleine feels compelled to kill herself or why she feels in “danger” but the simplest explanation is she is a paranoid schizophrenic.  I’m not sure if this term even existed in the 50’s but its pretty obvious that this chick is just crazy.  Her behavior, her dialogue, EVERYTHING tells us that she is just not all there, which reinforces the CATALYST of the entire movie, which is that her husband thinks something “isn’t right” with his wife (Madeleine) and asks his good friend (Scottie), who also happens to be a retired detective to spy on her so he can gain some insight into her behavior.  No such luck.  She’s just crazy and its alot of fun to watch Scottie sort of go crazy in his pursuit of her craziness.

Its very unexpected to see a 1958 film embrace such an abstract and counter cultural plot for a movie.  It’s refreshing to know that one of the masters of cinema took chances and made films that were not “popcorn” cinema, but embraced deeper more introspective themes.  Heck, if anyone could convince a major Hollywood studio to do it…it would be Hitchcock.  That’s partly what makes me love Vertigo so much a filmmaker.  Its such a weird little 50’s movie that Hitchcock not only got Hollywood behind AND got major movie stars involved with but also seemed to get the public excited about.  That’s the dream of any filmmaker…make a movie that even though not everyone will understand right away, upon 2nd glance will appreciate it deeply.

Bottom line, Verigo is a great film…but you do need to watch it a few times to fully appreciate it (or at least I did.)  🙂

all the best,



One Response to “Save The Cat! Video Tribute 8: Vertigo”

  1. Alfred Hitchcock directed some of the most memorable movies of all time.
    Notably, The Birds and one of his earliest works and one of my favorites,
    39 Steps.

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