One of Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock's most heralded films, 'Vertigo' is also considered one of the director's most personal projects, as well as a career highlight for legendary lead Jimmy Stewart. Based around a retired police detective who suffers from acrophobia, the dramatic climax begs for a striking tower or tall building to film atop. While San Francisco's Coit Tower is often seen and mentioned in the film, Hitchcock opted to invent his own bell tower at California's largest Spanish mission, Mission San Juan Bautista.

One of Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock's most heralded films, 'Vertigo' is also considered one of the director's most personal projects, as well as a career highlight for legendary lead Jimmy Stewart. Based around a retired police detective who suffers from acrophobia, the dramatic climax begs for a striking tower or tall building to film atop. While San Francisco's Coit Tower is often seen and mentioned in the film, Hitchcock opted to invent his own bell tower at California's largest Spanish mission, Mission San Juan Bautista.

Location as Character: Private detective John "Scottie" Ferguson (Stewart) is hired to follow a woman he believes to be a client's oddly behaving wife, Madeleine, played by Kim Novak. The Mission becomes the center of a typical Hitchcockian plot of deceit, surprise, and death. It's also where Scottie overcomes his fear of heights, though unfortunately a little too late to save himself a lot of grief.

Historical Significance: Whenever a film character is climbing a stairwell and looks down, it is known to filmmakers as the 'Vertigo Shot.' That's because Hitchcock's Second Unit Camera Operator Irmin Roberts cooked it up to visually express Scottie's anxiety over heights. Tim Burton's 'Batman' overtly references the climax by Batman chasing Joker up a enormous bell tower. Over 50 years after the film's debut, the images of a Jimmy Stewart standing atop the Spanish steeple, defeated, is one of Hitchcock's most iconic moments.



Fun Fact: The Mission's bell-wall was treated as a "bell tower" staircase. Hitchcock had seen the location before the original tower had to be torn down due to dry rot. When he returned to film, he was disappointed by the lack of height, so his crew matted in the tower with a painting using studio effects.

Directions: Mission San Juan Bautista is located in San Juan Bautista, California, which is about a 90-minute drive south of San Franisco on the US-101. Just follow the signs, it's the most famous site in the area.

Visitor's Info: Mission San Juan Bautista has served mass daily since its founding on June 24, 1797. It also served as a barracks for soldiers, a nunnery, and the home of José Castro, Commandant General of Alta California. Although the Mission stands atop the San Andreas Fault and has been damaged by numerous earthquakes, it has never been demolished.
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