Let’s imagine that Alfred Hitchcock‘s Vertigo (’58) never existed. Let’s also suppose that by way of some kind of odd exercise or experiment 100 present-tense directors (all ages, genders and persuasions) have been asked to write and shoot a thrilling scene in which a couple of male San Francisco cops (a detective and a uniformed beat cop) are chasing a thief across the rooftops.

Let’s also presume that a fair percentage of the directors would decide to show one of the cops falling to his death while the other slips and is seen hanging from a rain gutter, and with no apparent way of rescuing himself.

I guarantee you that 98% or 99% of these directors would end this scene conclusively by showing us what happens to the hanging-from-the-rain-gutter person.

They would either show the protagonist (a) falling to his death, (b) somehow making a great acrobatic lunge for safety and miraculously succeeding, or (c) being rescued at the last second by a late-arriving cop or a civilian bystander.

None of them, trust me, would end the scene without some kind of clear-cut, life-or-death payoff. They would never consider leaving the rain-gutter guy in some sort of existential limbo as the scene fades to black.

But Hitchcock did this, and that’s what makes Vertigo‘s very first sequence a piece of fascinating, unforgettable, bold-as-brass art.

What other film (crime, action, suspense, anything) has put a major character in serious jeopardy during an early scene, and has never shown us how he/she gets out of danger? Please name one or two.