Notes to Poem: Hitchcock Revisited in Vertigo

By Peter Y. Chou

Preface: The 50th Anniversary of Hitchcock's Vertigo Symposium was truly a learning experience of this classic film. I was inspired to compose two photo-essays afterwards: "Hitchcock's Vertigo & Dürer's Melencolia" and "Mythological Themes in Hitchcock's Vertigo". Soon I realized that many of the themes in Vertigo appeared as titles in Hitchcock's own films. After looking at Alfred Hitchcock's filmography in Wikipedia, I wrote the poem "Hitchcock Revisted in Vertigo" incorporating 25 titles from Hitchcock's films. I've highlighted the film titles in bold in the poem below. To the right are the dates to the Hitchcock's films including two from his TV episodes. To confirm the Wikipedia data, I've checked Ken Mogg's The Alfred Hitchcock Story (Taylor Publishing, Dallas, 1999) for film titles and dates. Each stanza in this poem contains at least one Hitchcock film title. The only exception is the middle stanza 5 which acts as a transition to the poem. Like the Orphean initiate who looks to the right with his wreath, Scottie sees Judy and brings Madeleine back from the dead (Frames #771-773 Vertigo: Orpheus & Eurydice). Elstree Calling is a 1930 British film where Hitchcock was one of the directors. Since Elster called Scottie to spy on his wife Madeleine and phoned him to report on his findings, this film title was too good to ignore and used in the poem as Elstree resembles Elster. At Stanford's Symposium, Professor Marilyn Fabe (UC Berkeley) spoke on "Mourning Vertigo". Whenever she screened Hitchcock's Vertigo to some 250 Berkeley students, she'd ask the class "Do you believe Scottie is cured at the end?" Half of the audience would raise their hands. Then she asked "Do you believe Scottie is devasted at the end?" The other half of the audience raised their hands. The survey came out equal each time. I would have belonged to the first group thinking Scottie finally cured himself of vertigo as he managed to the top of the Bell Tower. But looking at that last shot of the film (Frame #999) with Scottie's body language and facial expression, I now feel that he's definitely devasted in losing his love again. Hence this poem's ending— "haunting Scottie to the end of his days."

Hitchcock Revisited in Vertigo

Dial M for MurderElster calling
Scottie to be his secret agent to spy
on his wife Madeleine. She'll hold him
spellbound on a passionate adventure.

At Big Basin the lady vanishes
behind the redwoods before he finds her
and asks "Where are you now?" She tells him
dangerous lies— her dark dreams in Spain.

Was that 39 steps he ran up in
the bell tower at San Juan Bautista?
Because of vertigo he couldn't climb
to the top where she fell off to her death.

Scottie's psychosis after her death lands
him in a sanitarium where Midge comes
to see him "Mother's here"— but that didn't
help his breakdown nor did Mozart's music.

He looks at the rose bouquet in the right
window of the florist— then he spots
Judy reminding him of Madeleine as if
like Orpheus, he wins her back from the dead.

From the rear window of Hotel Empire
the neon lights flash as he kisses her
so passionately that the room changes
to the livery stable kiss before she died.

Judy puts on the Spanish jade necklace
of Carlotta and Scottie knows without
a shadow of a doubt that she's Madeleine—
suspicion of the rich and strangeMurder!

He takes her not to dinner but downhill
the mystery road of tall trees to that Mission—
drags her up the spiral stairs in a frenzy,
makes her confess to their near perfect crime.

Appearances are not what they seem—
Carlotta, Madeleine, and Judy—
the white shadow of three live ghosts
haunting Scottie to the end of his days.

            — Peter Y. Chou
                 Mountain View, 11-20-2008

Films of Alfred Hitchcock

Dial M for Murder (1954)
Elstree Calling (1930)
Secret Agent (1936)
Spellbound (1945)
The Passionate Adventure (1924)
The Lady Vanishes (1938)
Dangerous Lies (1921)
The 39 steps (1935)
Vertigo (1958)
Psycho (1960)
Breakdown (TV 1955)
Rear Window (1954)
Spanish Jade (1922)
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Suspicion (1941)
Rich and Strange (1932)
Murder! (1930)
Downhill (1927)
The Mystery Road (1921)
Frenzy (1972)
I Confess (1953)
The Perfect Crime (TV 1957)
Appearances (1921)
The White Shadow (1923)
Three Live Ghosts (1922)

Stanford Vertigo Poster
October 17, 2008

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© Peter Y. Chou, Wisdom Portal
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email: (11-23-2008)