This is one of the least successful Hitchcock films since he became a big name (it just broke even and had a mixed reception upon release). However, barring Psycho, this is the film that time has been kindest to. It is now considered his greatest accomplishment (barring Psycho) and is seen as his most mature film. It took his common tropes and ruthlessly took them apart.
John “Scottie” Ferguson (played by James “There Will Never Be A More Likable Actor Ever” Stewart) is a police officer who retired early due to an incident caused by his vertigo. He’s hired by his friend to investigate his wife, Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak), who has been behaving strangely lately. Unfortunately for John, he starts falling for her, which leads to problems when the film’s famous twist occurs.
People who like to criticize this film often say that the plot ended two-thirds of the way into the film. That’s true if you look at this with a “Who Killed Laura Palmer?” mentality. The actual plot is Scottie dealing with his vertigo and depression. The mystery that occurs is, for lack of a better explanation, coincidental. It gives a reason for Scottie to act. When people complain about that, it’s like complaining that Casablanca was about America’s refusal to get involved in WWII.
It’s the most realized Hitchcock film, mostly because it’s the one which knew how to do what it was doing. That it wasn’t a success is disappointing (only slightly, though, since it caused his next film to be “North By Northwest”). However, time can help or hurt a film like nothing else and time has been exceptionally kind to this film.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes