I’m surprised that this movie is held in such high esteem relative to other Hitchcock films. I liked it, and I thought there were very good parts of it, and I thought it was better than Haley did. But it didn’t strike me as one of his best films beyond the dolly shot which is now of course classic (maybe the infamy of that shot robs the film of some of its staying power, since its influence has now been diffused amongst the rest of cinema?) or the climactic two scenes: the rotating embrace between Judy and Scottie or the doomed ascent up the clock-tower.
What worked particularly well for me in the film (and I’d say less so for Haley) was the descent of Jimmy Stewart. I am a sucker for these sorts of meta-referential roles, the collapse of an American icon into a stalker and out-and-out shell. I think there is a message here that I need to sit and digest a bit more to understand completely (as opposed to, say, Rear Window ↗, which was pretty clear in its undertones about consumption & the role of the audience.)
Roger Ebert’s retrospective review was fairly kind to the film, and I think hinted at what I’m getting at but in a similar vague way: he describes this as a sort of ur-Hitchcock, with the message being in relation to how Hitchcock views the world and views women. I thought that was a useful lens, but again — it still escapes me somewhat.
A welcome piece of this film that I forgot to touch upon until just now, though: San Francisco. What a perfect choice of setting and location, and Hitchcock dotes equally on the steep neon-clad streets and the esoteric landscapes just out of the city.