Vertigo is the best place to start a Hitchcock analysis. While many themes repeat in his films, Vertigo is most memorable for its psychological depth and mystique. Containing some of the most famous scenes in the history of cinema, Vertigo is also the “master of suspense’s” deeper message about the psychological manipulation that can occur in our own lives, in society, and amongst the elite. My thesis is that Vertigo is not just a film about an average guy that is caught up in a spiral of madness (a common theme in Hitchcock), but also an insight into the control and manipulation we see from those who are our masters. Not only does Vertigo present an elite shipping magnate that manipulates Scottie (Jimmy Stewart, protagonist), it demonstrates the lengths to which these powers are interested in, to use the words of the Collins brothers, “managing the beyond.” Vertigo is therefore a film about the manipulation of beliefs.
Initially the audience is shown a series of eyes, probably of Kim Novak, with spirals emerging. The spiral has the significance here of alerting the viewer that we are trapped. The swirling spiral of madness will grip us, causing us to dissociate, losing our sense of self and identity. Losing one’s balance, or falling, is thus a metaphor for the loss of place and identity: this will be the crucial point in Vertigo. How far can the manipulation of the psyche go to create and induce the loss of identity? In the opening scene we see a flashback to Scottie, a traumatized former police detective who was involved in the death of a fellow officer. While not intentional, Scottie was stuck on a ledge following a chase, which resulted in another officer falling to his death. Scottie emerged from the scene with vertigo, and only after a few years has he begun to make progress toward recovery. It is worth noting that for Scottie, the causes of his further descent into his downward spiral of obsession, mania and dissociation revolve around trauma.
Scottie spends his days with the homely “Midge,” waiting for something interesting to happen in his life, eschewing marriage. Midge is sexually frustrated, annoyed that Scottie has no sexual interest in her (or in anyone apparently). Upon receiving a special invitation to see his old war buddy Elster, Scottie reluctantly decides he must go, ignoring the innuendos of Midge. Meeting at a disguised location, Elster explains that he married into great wealth, particularly a family involved in the shipping business. Elster tells the fantastic tale that his wife Madeleine is possessed by a ghost – a dead woman named Carlotta Valdes. Scottie is incredulous but finally caves and agrees to Elster’s request that he follow Madeleine. Elster says Madeleine dissociates and drives to the Golden Gate Bridge and stares at the “pillars – portals to the past.” This will be significant later, especially as twin pillars are constantly seen throughout the film.
Scottie spots Madeleine at a club called Ernie’s and follows her to a florist, where Scottie begins to develop a fascination for voyeurism. Interestingly, he spies on her in the shop through a mirror which is a classic symbol of the psyche and its double. Scottie begins to fall in love with Madeleine, which only sucks him deeper and deeper into the spiral of insanity that awaits. The reference to wealthy shipping magnates and British power calls to mind the research of Fritz Springmeier, who is generally accurate in his claims. According to Springmeier, we can assume that the mention of connections to elite merchant and sea power is not accidental. He writes in regard to Hitchcock, the Onassis shipping magnates and Grace Kelley:
“Grace had many affairs including one with Bing Crosby. Grace Kelly worked for MGM. Alfred Hitchcock was the one who is credited with seeing a superstar in Grace. Alfred Hitchcock came from a British generational occult family, and was a dark genius who produced many exceptional films. Grace Kelly acted for three of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies. Dial “M” for Murder was the first. Later, Hitchcock visited Grace and Prince Rainer at their Paris home, and Grace made a rare public appearance in Apr. ’74 with Hitchcock in New York. Hitchcock’s life has been described by someone who knew him as “an enigma within an enigma.” Hitchcock was very secretive about his own life and his parents. We do know that he was instructed by the Jesuits at St. Ignatius College which he left in 1913. He had an extreme fascination for sadomasochism, which can be seen in his movies such as Frenzy.
Hitchcock liked to read sexual murder material, Edgar Allan Poe’s material, George Bernard Shaw’s writings, and Fabian New World Order advocate, H.G. Well’s books. He was extremely fascinated by the real life murderer John Reginald Holliday Christie who could only get a sexual erection by strangling women while having sex. Hitchcock’s own personality was unpredictable, and at times was cruel and tyrannical. He enjoyed cruel jokes on people and also enjoyed psychologically breaking down his actresses. He made several movies showing split personalities such as: Shadow of a Doubt, Strangers on a Train, Psycho, and Frenzy. Hitchcock learned to create and sustain dissociation in both his murderer and the viewing audience in his films. This can be seen in his film Blackmail. The concepts of dissociation, doubles, murder as love, mirrors, sadism, and humiliating people are common items in creating monarch mind-controlled slaves: they are also common items seen in Hitchcock’s movies. I don’t know the exact connection, except to say Hitchcock was familiar with the occult world and some of their mind-control techniques. The Queen knighted Alfred Hitchcock.”
Patterns and motifs begin to emerge, particularly in regard to espionage, mind control and psychological manipulation. I don’t think this is an accident, especially since Hitchcock was in the company of those at the top in British and international elite circles. Only a year later, Richard Condon would release his novel The Manchurian Candidate about a brainwashed assassin, highlighting the MKULTRA program, which would become a major Hollywood production three years following. It can therefore be reasonably assumed Hitchcock was aware of these methods of mind control, which originated in British and US intelligence circles. Is Vertigo an early “MKULTRA” type film? It certainly contains the themes of mind control, manipulation, dissociation and MPD/DID, which are important elements of that specific wide-ranging project. Consider how few among the public would have even known in 1959 of the existence of such a program, much less that it was as wide-spread as it was, with dozens of universities participating, despite it being featured in Condon’s novel. It is also significant that Madeleine’s first staged suicide attempt occurs at the Presidio Naval Base, which is on record for later being involved in mind control testing, programming and occult ritual activity.
Back to the film: Elster meets again with Scottie and informs him that Madeleine is possessed by a ghost that lost her daughter. Carlotta Valdes had committed suicide, and Madeleine will eventually. Once again, this brings to mind the various mind control programs that were pioneered by US, Nazi, British and Soviet social engineers and psychologists due to “suicide programming.” In the history of mind control techniques, one of the early failsafes put in place to protect handlers and their respective governments was the suicide program, which made sure the subject would commit suicide to keep from revealing too much if the “alters” were unlocked. This is explained in my article here. I am not proposing my interpretation of Madeleine’s death at the end of the film (who is really Judy) was definitely a suicide programming, just that it is possible. Why exactly Judy/Madeleine jumps or falls is supposed to be up for debate.
In Vertigo, however, it’s not ultimately Madeleine that is the subject of the most rigorous mind control, but Scottie. We learn that all the events had been arranged by Elster, yet supposedly for the purpose of getting rid of his wife. Scottie was to be the alibi that would be fooled into seeing what he thought was Elster’s wife plunging to her death from the tower of the Catholic mission. Yet, why would a powerful shipping magnate need all the elaborate narrative just for a murder? Couldn’t a man powerful enough to arrange such a massively intricate manipulation and subterfuge of Scottie also simply hire a hitman? If this were only a story about the “perfect crime,” why such a big production? Why involve all the other people in the plot, who would also be accessories, if the desire was to only have Scottie as a witness? It is my contention that Elster is more like Maurice Conchis in The Magus, the master elite manipulator. Like Nicholas in The Magus, Scottie is drawn deeper and deeper into a narrative that is intended to manipulate his beliefs and desires to the point of total dissociation and splitting of his personality. And just like Nicholas in The Magus, Scottie cannot comprehend or handle the twisting of his psyche that his elite benefactor engages in. The average guy cannot fathom other men entirely different from he that live to play chess games with other men’s psyches.
One of the more mysterious scenes is the redwood forest, where Scottie takes Madeleine and tells her he loves her. Madeleine appears to be “triggered” into her Carlotta alter when she sees the spirals in the cut redwood. Here Madeleine walks between two pillars (trees) and becomes Carlotta. While it is true that Madeleine/Judy is scamming Scottie, it would appear that she may be beginning to actually believe she is possessed by Carlotta. If this analysis is correct, it would explain why she jumps at the end (unless she falls, but she doesn’t appear to fall). Madeleine/Judy and Scottie were both victims of mind control. Another piece of evidence supporting this is Madeleine’s dream she tells Scottie. She explains that in her sleep, she walks down a hall with mirrors with fragments (her split psyche), and at the end is darkness, which is her grave. Following this comes the first tower scene where Elster murders his wife and Scottie is again traumatized from the height. Scottie has a trippy, cartoon-like dream (is he drugged with a hallucinogen by Elster or just going mad?) and placed in the mental hospital. Scottie’s dream is exactly like Madeleine’s, but with him walking down the corridor to his grave. While in the mental institute, Scottie is completely dissociated, unresponsive to Midge’s entreaties. As a side note, the redwoods of San Francisco is where the elite Bohemian Grove Club is located, and earlier in the film, “Bohemianism” was mentioned, suggesting another possible correlation.
Although we don’t know if Scottie is drugged, his vision or dream does appear to be very hallucinogenic. Trauma-based mind control was known for employing the use of LSD and other psychedelics to cause a split in the personality. Although Scottie does not split into alters, he does transform, becoming oddly enough more like Elster. After he recovers from his mania in the mental institute, he becomes obsessive and controlling towards Judy (Madeleine), whom he meets a year later. Scottie is fixated on transforming Judy into Madeleine, and becomes murderous when he realizes Judy has the same pendant Madeleine had, proving they’re the same person. Interestingly, Judy reveals that she was a Midwest small-town girl who fled home to try her fortune in California. Unfortunately, Judy got mixed up with Elster and was paid and brought into his nefarious designs.
To what degree Judy is merely an accomplice or a pawn in Elster’s game is up for debate, but the final scene gives the impression that she actually began to believe Elster’s narrative for her – that she was possessed by Carlotta. When she falls or jumps, it could therefore be due to the fact that the shadow of the nun she sees represents Carlotta (she thinks), divine judgment for her deception, or possibly Satan himself. Elster could also be a powerful member of the Bohemian Club, and the robed figure she sees could hearken back to her “cult programming,” should that be the case. In this reading, Vertigo would be foreshadow something like Mulholland Drive from the genius David Lynch. In that film we also see a young hopeful starlet make her way from the Midwest to California, only to be caught up in a occultic spiral that leaves her dissociated and insane – a sacrifice to a dark evil behind Hollywood. I am admittedly speculating here, but it would definitely appear that there is an “MKULTRA” element to Vertigo, but why exactly Madeleine/Judy falls or jumps is a matter of debate. Another option is that Scottie has transformed and become like Elster: he pushes her out of rage due to his obsession. Is Vertigo about trauma-based mind control? Given Hitchcock’s associations and fascination with espionage, split personalities and elite machinations, it’s not a stretch.