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February 10, 1984 - Image 16

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The Michigan Daily, 1984-02-10
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M so
Starring James Stewart and
Kim Novak
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Now playing at the State Theater
By Paul Clipson
H AUNTING THE screen once
more is a film both spellbinding
and disturbing in its directness of vision
and style. Surprising, since it first
graced the screen over 20 years ago.
Although originally a product of a '50s
hollywood star system, the rerelease of
Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, marks the
return of a film which is probably the
most personal and masterfully con-
structed Hitchcock ever made by the
"master of suspense."Vertigo is a film
like no other, from start to finish, it's in
a world and class of its own. The film
was first distributed in 1958 and is now
part of a package.
Vertigo is concerned with obsessions
in particular an obsession with illusions
and appearance. The film begins with a
prologue detailing an incident in which
Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart) ex-
periences acrophobia, a fear of heights.
Scottie hangs from a rooftop high above
San Francisco with a fellow officer who
plunges to his death trying to save him.
As a result, Scottie quits the police for-
ce and while recovering, is hired by an
old college buddy Gavin Elster (Tom
Helmore), to tail his wife.
It seems that Elster's wife, Madeline
(Kim Novak), is possessed by her dead
great grandmother,, Carlotta Valdez,
who committed suicide exactly a cen-
tury before. Elster now believes that
his wife Madeline may take her own
life, since lately she has been acting in a
mysterious manner.
A skeptical Scottie follows Madeline
as she visits various sides of "Old San
Francisco" - a museum, a turn of the
century hotel, and a graveyard. All
these places are steeped in both the
past and with Carlotta's presence.
When Scottie saves Madeline from an
apparent suicide attempt, the two fall
in love. But in a typically Hitchcockian
world where danger can lurk in every
corner, nothing is what it seems to be,
and for Scottie and Madeline, tragedy is
Just one
Alfred Hitchcock
Rear Window/The Trouble With Harry/
Rope/The Man Who Knew Too Much/
By Paul Clipson

soon to follow.
At this point, Hitchcock's fascinating
mechanisms of telling technique are
only just beginning to twist and turn the
storyline into a dizzying tale of death,
deception and manipulation. Hold on,
because the story's really only just
begun. There are many surprises and
shocking relevations to follow, par-
ticularly for the generation of filmgoers
who have yet to be caught up in Ver-
tigo's hypnotic narrative.
For those who saw the film when it
first came out, this chance for a second
viewing reveals the film's ability to
move and disturb its audience-a fur-
ther testament of its greatness..
Rarely does a film combine its
elements into such a perfectly fun-
ctioning whole. Hitchcock focuses our
interest on the mind of Scottie
Ferguson and in doing so strengthens
our identification with his reactions and
his viewpoint. Hitchcock had ex-
periemented with this idea of
physically focusing narrative through*
an individual character in Rear Win-
dow, but now it is much more fully
As we share Scottie's thoughts and
feelings, we too become involed with
the mysterious woman Madeline. But
as the film progresses, this bond of
viewpoints is severly strained, as we
see Scottie unaware of the consequen-
ces of his actions. This adds an odd and
finally distressing mood to the film as
Scottie is further alienated from us.
Hitchcock fills his fable with symbols
of death and the past. The Spanish
cemetary scene, for example; which
was shot during a bright, sunny day,'
evokes a mysterious romanticism for
ghostly yesteryears. Hitchcock under-
scores the scene with a doomladen at-
mosphere of death which surrounds the
characters throughout the film. This
other-worldly mood, a great
achievement by Hitchcock, is at the
same time mysteriously sombre and
calm, but gradually becomes a harsh,
spinning vortex of environments.
Mirrored rooms, sleazy hotels, dark
corridors and overpowering colors
begin to oppress Hitchcock's charac-
ters. Green, one of the most notable
colors in the film, emphasizes both
Scottie and Madeline's almost morbid
fascination with the past and with the
death that surrounds it.
Watching the film is like experien-
cing a dream during which its at-
mosphere and mood encircle its
characters and the audience. This ac-
centuates Hitchcock's vision with a life
and breadth scarcely seen in films


Vertigo: Spinning mystery

From the disorienting credit designs
at the film's beginning to the shockingly
unforgettable ending, one's attention is
sucked into this whirlpool of mysterious
images. Many of the film's scenes were
shot near dusk, when San Francisco's
Spanish architecture casts long, lazy,
sombre shadows across the streets of
the city and the surrounding California
landscape. This mood recalls the
surrealist paintings by Salvador Dali
and De Cherico; two painters who
focused on the clarity of dreams and the
lack of logic in reality. This is a charac-
teristic quality in Hitchcock's film in
which illusion and reality bind to form
an expertly created dreamlandscape.
San Francisco is certainly the perfect
parallel for Scottie's anxieties as its
steep streets and vertiginous hillsides
wait to trigger his acrophobia at any
Bernard Herrmann's magnificent
musical score for the film, with its
beautifully realized spiralling themes
and mysterious motifs, is almost as
essential in conveying the film's dark
drama as its visuals are.

Vertigo's captivating aura, its power
to move, probably stems from Hitch-
cock's own obsession with the
seemingly romantic quest of James
Stewart's character, a tired and cynical
man, whose will to possess the woman
of his dreams, Madeline, can only lead
to painfully tragic consequences. In his
greatest performance, James
Stewart's popular simple-minded
American mystique is psychologically
pulled inside out. As a result, Stewart's
Scottie cruelly ignores his ex-fiancee's
love and blindly lives to support his own
dream, his illusionary lover, Madeline.
Hitchcock's own obsession, for he too
was a man fraught with sexual anxiety
and bitter sadness toward the human
psyche, is presented in its most barren
and umcompromisingly disturbing
state - an investigation of his own
paradoxical fantasies - illusions both
mesmerisingly beautiful and in the end
tragically false. This makes Vertigo
one of the most uniquely moving and
passionate films ever made, certainly
not one to miss.

George Carlin
Office of Major Events
Hill Auditorium
Saturday, February 11, 8 p.m.
By Michael Fisch
SOME PEOPLE notice the strangest
things that everybody notices but
nobody else has the guts to point out.
Things like: People will buy any-
thing, even plastic regurgitation,"...
joke shops even have two kinds, one's
imported from Korea . . . ,
Or: The way people always stick
their hands four or five slices deep into
a loaf of bread to get the "good stuff,"
and then leave the rest of the slices all
twisted out of shape for the rest of the
family. "Hey, let my family eat the bad
Or even: If there's only a little bit of
milk left in a carton, you don't do
anything with it, you just put it back in
the refrigerator. "If I can't use it I
shouldn't have to throw it away."
One person notices this type of thing
better than anybody else - George
Carlin has a way of making an
audience laugh so hard at everyday
things that they forget that they're
hearing about things that really do hap-
pen to everyone.
Carlin has been "Class Clown" since
his days in Catholic Gammar School.
He proudly describes himself in those
days as a ". . . disruptive influence ....
Carlin first entered the realm of
professional comedy as a disk-jockey
at KXOL in Fort Worth, Texas. He and
Jack Burns, later of the comedy team
Burns andSchreiber, worked as a team
under the name "D. J. and Newsman,"
producing the evening shift. In their off
hours they worked on polishing their
comedy routines in hopes of earning a
berth as "real comedians."
They never did get their "lucky
break," so instead they just loaded up
their car and headed out to Hollywood.
Things were tough for the pair in the
land of movie stars. After a month of
fruitless searching, their apartment
was robbed and they were forced to
return to radio. Said Carlin, "We had
" -
~ .

agreed never to work honestly, and so
we looked for jobs in radio."
At radio station KDAY they became
the morning show comedy team,
calling themselves the Wright Brothers
- they used the exposure as a
springboard to bigger things.
The two began to do stand-up routines
at Cosmo Alley, a Hollywood coffee
house. They would work at the club un-
til the wee hours of the morning and
then have to go to the radio station at 6
"Most, mornings we didn't make it.
We'd be about a half hour late. To cover
ourselves we would just start in the
middle of a sentence and let the listener
think his radio was broken," said
Eventually the two quit radio
altogether and embarked on the night
club circuit. Carlin says that the pair
boosted its confidence by buying new
suits,". . . the kind that turned brown or
blue or green, depending on the light, so
people would think we had a lot of
In 1962 the pair went their separate
ways. Carlin married his wife of 21
years, Brenda, in 1973. From there his
career began to spiral.
Carlin worked regularly at the Cafe
Au Go Go alongside other unknows such
as Richard Pryor and Jose Feliciano.
In 1965 he did the "Merv Griffin Show"
several times and the television ap-
pearances became more and more
In the late '60s, despite his ever in-
creasing successes, Carlin wasn't ext-
remely happy. "I was completely
dissatisfied with the kind of middle-
aged audiences I found in the night-
clubs," he said.
Carlin says that in 1970, while in Las
Vegas, it all came to a head. "Some
conventioneers in the audience didn't
like a routine I was doing on the word
'shit' and they began hassling me. I told
them what I thought and the hotel fired
me for it."
He began devoting himself almost
exclusively to college-age audiences.
"For the first time in my career I was
able to use allof myself in my act."
In January of 1972 he released his fir-
st album, FM & AM. Within the year it
went gold and the rest is history. Of his
next six albums, Class Clown, Oc-

George Carlin: Which of the seven dirty words N

cupation Foole and Toledo Window Box
went gold.
Things were going well for Carlin
throughout the early '70s, but by 1975
both he and Brenda had become heavy
cocaine abusers. Of his addiction,
Carlin said "A drug should be self-
limiting. It should tell you when you've
had enough. Cocaine was different. It
kept saying, 'You haven't had enough.'
I became an abuser almost instantly."
Fortunately, things are different
today. Carlin now performs the way he

wants to
and with
unique bi
On Fe
town. H
English ]
else can.
you can
like a sna
ticket o

I N THE FILM WORLD, there is
reason for celebration. The event is
the rerelease of five seemingly unseen
films by Alfred Hitchcock, apparently
not seen for over 20 years.
Recently Vertigo, one of the films,
began its exclusive area engagement,
returning to the screen after almost two
The other four films, Rear Window,
shown here in November, The Trouble.
With Harry, Rope, and The Man Who
Knew Too Much, will also return to the
screens of selected theaters this year.
There has always been a keen in-
terest in Hitchcock's films, particularly
the famous ones. Last year, Dial M for
Murder, in its 3-D version, was
rereleased theatrically with some suc-
Hitchcock's films are screened

regularly by all the campus film groups
in Ann Arbor, allowing endless amounts
of people to see Psycho, North by Nor-
thwest, To Catch a Thief and other
When Rear Window -premiered in
New York in September for the Film
Festival, it was greeted after its long
absence with rave reviews and much
praise. Vertigo and Rope were later
screened at the Toronto and Montreal
Film Festivals, respectively, and were
received in much the same manner.
The critics and public only voiced,
sorrow that the films were not shown
The films have been missed, that's for
certain. Rear Window was not only one
of Hitchcock's -most successful films
but was also a popular and admired
one. Although not a success critically or

financially when first released, Vertigo
has now become to many Hitchcock's
greatest film. During its absence, Ver-
tigo acquired almost legendary status
as well as a cult of fans, proving it was
perhaps a bit too "deep" for the
average American viewer of 1958. In a-
recent poll by a world wide panel of
critics, Vertigo was voted the seventh
greatest film ever made.
This success didn't change matters for
the other films until Universal bought the
rights to the films, they were virtually
impossible to see. When interest was
voiced over the films' rereleases, few
answers were given. At one time it was
thought that Paramount, who had
distributed the films originally, was in-
volved in court cases with several of the
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