This is universally rated as one of Alfred Hitchcock’s Top Ten Movies. Starring James Stewart, who stars in a number of Hitchcock’s films, this story encapsulates almost every aspect of a suspense/thriller…almost.
I’m probably going to be in the minority here but, I didn’t think this film was all that great. And I like Hitchcock movies. I love Psycho, The Birds, Lifeboat, Rear Window, North by Northwest was good. But when I watched this, I guess I may have expected too much.
Now, I think Jimmy Stewart was an incredible actor. I think this man was incredibly talented and I love and am sentimental about a number of films he’s been in. So, when I saw that he was in this, I just knew that it was going to be good. It wasn’t horrible, not even bad. But, it wasn’t as good as Psycho, The Birds or Lifeboat…and Lifeboat was an entire film that took place on a tiny little lifeboat in the middle of the ocean during WWII.
So, I didn’t think my expectations were all that high. I do see why this film would have been a big hit at the time it was released. I do always keep the era of release in mind when I am watching films because it makes an impact on what kind of content is going to be in the film. In the 50s, blood was RARELY seen on screen, if ever actually. Horror movies weren’t evolved to what we see today.
The fact that a woman jumps to her death by throwing herself into San Francisco Bay and then in the same movie we see a woman fall to her death from a church bell tower…trust me, the fact that it was a CHURCH bell tower in a horror film is not lost on me. Also, the fact that a police officer dies in the very beginning is appalling for the times. I am well aware of all of this.
But maybe it was the way that this tale was told that was more off-putting to me. Again, I know I’ll probably be in the minority here but, I just didn’t feel like the story flowed smoothly like other Hitchcock films. At the end, when everything is coming together, I just felt dejected and highly unsatisfied. I guess I felt like the ending was anti-climatic in a way.
In short, the story goes like this:
We have a former cop, Scottie, who retired due to his fear of heights and vertigo, which caused the death of a fellow police officer. He is enlisted by an old college buddy to follow his wife, whom he thinks is in danger and possibly possessed by some spirit of a woman from long ago. The husband, who wants his wife dead, hires a look-alike to be the woman Scottie follows. During his surveillance the two actually interact and fall in love. But, pretending to be buddy boy’s wife, she “jumps to her death” into the San Francisco Bay, following the mental illness and suicide plan of the husband. Then, she shows up as herself, later on. Scottie cannot shake his love for the woman he fell in love with and coaxes his “new girlfriend” (who is the same woman, unbeknownst to Scottie) to make changes to herself to look and act like the lady he fell in love with. Eventually, they fight and she runs off. She reveals to him the truth about the whole charade and he gets angry and chases her to a bell tower. As they go to embrace as she asks for forgiveness and professes her love for him, she sees a shadow, which turns out to be a nun, out of the corner of her eye that startles her so much so that she steps backward, falling from the tower and to her death.
Okay, so that’s probably a record summary for me. Very short, I know. I just couldn’t deal with all the details.
Now, with everything I said previously, don’t think that I don’t believe this movie is worth watching, because I do. It’s rare that I find a movie, especially a classic film, that is not worth seeing at least once…although it does happen. Truthfully, the only reasons I chose to watch this was because it was a Hitchcock film starring Jimmy Stewart. That alone warrants watching it. But, is it a film I will choose to watch as a first choice again? Nah, probably not. Any Hitchcock film is worth seeing at least once. This one is no exception.