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Vertigo, 1958

Director

Alfred Hitchcock

Cast

visit the film locations

San Francisco

Flights: San Francisco International Airport

Tourist info: San Francisco tourism

Stay at: Hotel Vertigo, 940 Sutter Street (tel: 415.885.6800) between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets.

Visit: the Palace of the Legion of Honor, Legion of Honor Drive in Lincoln Park (admission charge; tel: 415.750.3659)

Visit: Mission Dolores, 320 Dolores Street at Sixteenth Street in the Mission District (BART Metro: 16th Street-Mission)

Visit: San Juan Bautista State Park, Second Street, between Washington and Mariposa Streets, San Juan Bautista, three miles east of Highway 101 (tel: 831.623.4881)

Visit: the Old Mission of San Juan Bautista, San Juan Bautista, 90 miles south of San Francisco, just east from Route 101.

Visit: Big Basin Redwoods State Park, 21600 Big Basin Way – Route 236 – at Boulder Creek (tel: 408.338.6132) off Pacific Coast Highway 1, south of San Francisco toward Santa Cruz.


Trivia

Vertigo has been a major influence on many film-makers, particularly Brian De Palma, who makes references to it in Obsession and Raising Cain.

Paul Verhoeven borrows both the film’s style and its San Francisco location for Basic Instinct

Vertigo filming location: the Old Mission San Juan Bautista, California

Vertigo filming location: The climax at the old mission: the Old Mission San Juan Bautista, California

Over the Golden Gate Bridge, about 15 miles north on Shoreline Drive, Mill Valley, off Route 1, are Muir Woods (open 8am-sunset, tel: 415/388.2595), the Giant Redwood grove, home to some of the largest and oldest living creatures on the earth, Sequoia Sempervirens – “Always green, ever living” – supposedly where Madeleine gets the heebie-jeebies contemplating the past. It’s here, near the visitor centre, that you can find a section of tree trunk on which significant dates in history are recorded.

The actual filming location, though, was Big Basin Redwoods State Park, 21600 Big Basin Way – Route 236 – at Boulder Creek (tel: 408.338.6132) off Pacific Coast Highway 1 south of San Francisco toward Santa Cruz.

The seashore, where Scottie follows the apparently distraught Madeleine, is Cypress Point on Seventeen-Mile Drive, on the wild Monterey Peninsula. I can’t show a photograph. The tree is, believe it or not, copyrighted. Only, as they say, in America...

When Madeleine finally succumbs to her suicidal impulse, Scottie suffers a nervous breakdown, recuperating in a sanatorium, back in San Francisco at 351 Buena Vista Avenue East.

Vertigo filming location: York Hotel, now the Hotel Vertigo, Sutter Street, San Francisco

Vertigo filming location: Judy becomes Madeleine at the ‘Empire Hotel’: the Hotel Vertigo, Sutter Street, San Francisco

Overwhelmed by his own obsession, he refashions lookalike actress Judy Barton into Madeleine’s dead image. For the transformation of Judy back into Madeleine, Hitchcock pulls off one of his dazzling visual coups, filling the seedy hotel room with an unearthly green neon glow. Although the film’s Hotel Empire has undergone a name change and a major facelift, you’ll still recognise Judy’s lodging.

For many years it was the York Hotel but – three cheers! – it’s since been relaunched with a long-overdue recognition of its heritage as Hotel Vertigo, 940 Sutter Street, between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets just west of the downtown area. With a slick and stylish makeover, it’s a world away from its dowdy Fifties appearance – but it’s still the setting of one of the cinema’s great scenes.

Vertigo filming location: Plaza Stables at the Old Mission San Juan Bautista, California

Vertigo filming location: Madeleine’s memories of the old mission: Plaza Stables at the Old Mission San Juan Bautista, California

The movie’s climax returns to the scene of Madeleine’s suicide/murder. About 90 miles south of San Francisco, just east from Route 101, is the quiet little town of San Juan Bautista, home to a clutch of beautifully restored period buildings preserved as the San Juan Bautista State Park.

The park and its Plaza, part of a historic landmark adjacent to the 15th Spanish era mission, represent what was once the town square of the largest town in central California – a vital crossroad for travel between the north and south of the state.

Vertigo filming location: Plaza Hall at the Old Mission San Juan Bautista, California

Vertigo filming location: The inquest at the old mission: Plaza Hall at the Old Mission San Juan Bautista, California

On the town’s central plaza you’ll find the Plaza Stables Madeleine claims to remember from a previous existence, and Plaza Hall, the courtroom where the inquest is held (though, once again, the interior was recreated in the studio).

The park is open Tuesday through Sunday for self-guided visits and you can also reserve guided walking tours. You’ll find it on Second Street, between Washington and Mariposa Streets

Alongside the park, the mission itself is the Old Mission of San Juan Bautista, the largest of the Spanish missions and houses a small museum, open daily from 10am to 4pm. Don’t expect to see the bell-tower, from which Judy finally plunges to her death. The church’s tower had collapsed many years before and the movie’s climax makes use of a superimposed painting.

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