Vertigo (1958)

This week I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 classic Vertigo, based on Boileau and Narcejac’s book D’entre les Morts. It was a picture with which I was unfamiliar, and I suspect I'm one of the few to have never before watched it. James Stewart, who plays Scottie, seems to be the archetypal 1950s American male, courteous but masculine, causing many a British lady’s heart to flutter as she observed him down the local Empire or Palace picture-houses. I still don’t feel bold enough to spoil the plot, but I will reveal that Kim Novak’s Madeleine Elster, the lady with some Scottie falls in love, dies twice, and both times within his reach. Now this seems most unfortunate if not impossible, but therein lies the tragedy. To lose a loved one to death is painful; to do so twice, a calamity.

The Bible speaks of the ‘second death’, a term used four times in the book of Revelation:

But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. 21:8

The death of the physical body is the first death, the eternal destruction of the soul the second. This is a double tragedy. Dying once is painful, dying twice a calamity. All people, saved and unsaved, will suffer the first death (save those alive at Christ’s return), but the horrors of the second death are reserved only for those who rejected Christ’s offer of sin’s pardon:

Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. Rev 20:6


The title Vertigo came from Scottie’s clinical fear of heights, the film’s opening scene cleverly depicting this. It is a dizziness, a fearsome wobbling of one’s vision and warping of perspective while looking downward, anticipating a terrible and inevitable fall. A great depiction of hell, perhaps. All perspective, lost. All safety and comfort, gone. All of Christ’s help and salvation, out of reach.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. Hebrews 12:2


Top image copyrighted by Paramount Pictures Corporation. Incorporates artwork by Saul Bass (1920–1996). Restored by Adam Cuerden. Movie Poster of the Week: Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo”. Public Domain, Link

Lower image by heliofil from Pixabay