Alfred Hitchcock made a brilliant decision when he and Vertigo screenwriters Alec Coppel and Samuel Taylor were plotting the opening scene. After the beat cop falls to his death, it appears that Detective Scotty Ferguson (James Stewart) hasn’t a chance. Hanging from a flimsy rain gutter, no way to pull himself up…forget it. Beyond that, what are the odds Ferguson could continue to hold on until a police rescue team shows up, which could take at least five or ten minutes if not longer?
And so the rascally Hitchcock solves the problem by doing a quick fade-to-black. And in the next scene Ferguson is alive and well and hanging out in Barbara Bel Geddes‘ apartment. What?
Before this no director had ever left a movie star in this kind of jeopardy without depicting or promising a rescue of some kind. Hitchcock decided to ignore the rules by leaving Ferguson (and, in a sense, the audience) hanging from that gutter for the rest of the film. No other name-brand director at the time would’ve attempted such a strategy, and as far as I can recall no director had done anything like this since. Am I wrong?