A Mission’s Movie Past: Vertigo Day at the Park

Pay tribute to San Juan Bautista, and Hitchcock's masterpiece, at a film-themed fest.

Paramount Pictures

THE CITY AS STAR: It would be hard, and entirely pointless, to argue that San Francisco isn't one of the principal stars of Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo." From the Lombard Street pad that was home to Jimmy Stewart's character Scottie to the Golden Gate Bridge -- you know the iconic shot, of Kim Novak's Madeleine pausing beneath it -- the city was, and is, a stand-out superstar in this cinema classic. But the detail-devoted, site-specific-loving director found places outside of San Francisco that fit the 1958 film's atmospheric aesthetic.

Both 17 Mile Drive and Big Basin Redwoods State Park are seen at key points along the tension-building journey shared by Scottie and Madeleine, and, perhaps most famously of all, San Juan Bautista plays a pivotal and striking role. (We'll cautiously leave out exactly occurs, with a meek and apologetic "spoiler alert," as we know full well that you know just what happens at the mission in the movie.) The mission, of course, is real, though Hitchcock used a bit of movie magic, and fans still flock to the state historic park to see one of the best-known visuals in "Vertigo" with their own eyes. And many of the movie's mavens venture there each year for Vertigo Day, which includes a lecture, tours, and, yes, a free screening of the film.

SATURDAY, SEPT. 26... is the date for the 2015 Vertigo Day, which is organized by the Plaza History Association. What's to do? The $15-per-person tours kick off at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, tours "emphasizing film locations and fun film facts." A lecture on Mr. Hitchcock is at 4:30 p.m. -- it's ten bucks -- though you can buy a pass for a tour and the lecture together. And then, drum roll please, "Vertigo" starts at 8:10 p.m. on the lawn near the mission. It's definitely one of those California-quirky happenings, where movies are screened where they were shot. Okay, yes, this happens elsewhere, and our state doesn't own this type of cinema-cool event, but we've just about perfected it. It's a fine early-fall night to take in a velvety chiller of a film at the very spot where Mr. Hitchcock, and his actors, once stood, over a half century ago. But will you wear your smart gray suit, a la Madeleine? It's iconic, though maybe not made for comfy film viewing on a lawn.

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