First of all, the title is a misnomer. The protagonist, a detective named Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart), suffers from a debilitating fear of heights, which is in no way the same thing as vertigo. (Fans of Arrested Development will remember that Lucille Two, played by Liza Minelli, suffers from actual vertigo, a condition which results in a loss of equilibrium.)
Nonetheless, Vertigo is a far better title than Acrophobia, and also better than From Among the Dead, the literal translation of the French novel upon which the film is based. So maybe Hitchcock and company's bit of cinematic license doesn't have to be such a grudging thing.
According to the recently-released edition of Sight and Sound's once-a-decade poll of film critics, Vertigo is now the greatest film of all time. It stole the top spot from Citizen Kane, which has held it for 50 years. The freshly-anointed Vertigo has had its profile raised, and although such polls are tiresome things, they do provide a good excuse to revisit certain classics that are sometime simply taken for granted. Even those who haven't seen Vertigo know it's a “masterpiece.” Local excuses for not having seen the film, shot in San Francisco and Monterey, will seem even more flimsy after this weekend's screenings at the Castro — in 70mm, no less.