PG, 128 minutes
James Stewart; Kim Novak
Vertigo opens with a short prologue that details the circumstances under which Detective John Ferguson (James Stewart) develops an acute case of acrophobia that leads to vertigo whenever he climbs a steep flight of stairs or gets more than a few feet above the ground. After leaving the police force because of this condition, John is approached by an old acquaintance, ship yard magnate Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), to tail his wife, Madeleine (Kim Novak). Gavin is concerned about Madeleine's health -- she has frequent black-outs and he believes that the spirit of a dead woman is attempting to possess her.
As John follows Madeleine, watching her day after day, he falls for her. Eventually, the two meet and discover that the attraction is mutual. But even love is not enough to overcome John's vertigo, and he is unable to save her from a fall from the top of a church bell tower. Madeleine's death causes John to suffer a breakdown, and, during his recovery, a chance encounter on the street brings him face-to-face with a woman, Judy Barton (Novak), who is the spitting image of his dead love.