Lileks Speaks the Plain Truth: Vertigo is Lame

Duller than a great thaw is Vertigo, hurdling contrivance upon contrivance with such impossible conveyance of thought that one watches it like a man at a mark, praying that the firing squad kills you straight off. And while the preceding bastardization of Much Ado About Nothing is entirely too pretentious to be clever, it’s still less pretentious and more clever than Vertigo. Anyway, here’s Lileks:

But suspenseful? Not really. The filthy, dirty, ugly “Frenzy” has ten times the nail-biting quotient. Humor? None. It’s soaked with obsession, which means it’s serious. Look: “Rear Window,” my favorite Hitchcock movie, is also about obsession, in a way – but it’s intellectual, questioning, deducing. And it’s overflowing with life and characters and subplots, most of which we never see in detail. Technically, it’s magnificent – much more so than “Vertigo.” Everything in it is believable. Most everything in “Vertigo” is hokum.

It’s as though Hitch decided in the wake of Psycho that if an audience will sit through a plot-shift, they’ll sit through a shift to no plot. He was wrong. Psycho works because after investing an hour into Janet Leigh, we want to see her killing punished, or at least explained. You don’t get very far into the third act of Vertigo before you realize that nothing is going to be punished or explained.

My choice for the greatest movie would be “Casablanca” – the easy, popular, ordinary choice, yes. But quick: quote me one line from “Vertigo.” Find me a minute in “Vertigo” that has the visual ingenuity of “Kane” or the dramatic tautness of “Casablanca.”

“Jaws” is better. “Metropolis” is better. “The Great Escape” is better. Hell, “From Russia With Love” is better.

Let’s milk it, shall we?

Top Ten Commercially Successful Films Which Are Better Than Vertigo:

  • 10. Lord of the Rings
  • 9. The Dark Knight
  • 8. Up
  • 7. Schindler’s List
  • 6. True Grit (original version)
  • 5. The Maltese Falcon
  • 4. The Empire Strikes Back
  • 3. The Godfather
  • 2. The Longest Day
  • 1. Pulp Fiction
  • And that’s off the top of my head.


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