Ugh, where to begin...literally everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
RAH, if I sound rude, know that I have the utmost respect for your work. The simple fact is, Vertigo has always been very special to me, and the Egyptian Theatre succeeded in making the experience a complete mockery...this is the first time I've HATED watching Vertigo.
First of all, let's get the soundtrack out of the way: I went in resigned to the fact that I'd be subjected to the old Foley mix. However, I haven't heard the Foley mix in nearly a decade (I always used the mono track on the DVD), and my god is it terrible...I shouldn't have worried about the footsteps, but the doors. The dialogue may have sounded thin and distant, but every single door seemed to slam in my ear. When Midge walked of the Doctor's office, the whole theater laughed, the door had made such a loud thunk it seemed like he'd thrown her out. I would love to say I was able to look past it, but it did hurt the immersion considerably.
However, let's forgive all that, because the problem has been rectified on the Bluray. I was prepared to compromise the aural experience for "imagery that you'll never forget". I did get that, but in a way I totally wish I could forget.
From the very beginning, things started looking wrong. The image was projected at an angle where you could see the right edge of the screen and the credits were nowhere near horizontal. This mockup is the closest I can get, but it looked worse in motion.
Very noticeable scratches showed up from the first frame...at first I didn't mind, after all no one cares about the old Universal logo, but extremely distracting defects and even a torn frame would show up throughout the film. This 70mm print has been damaged. Remember the purposefully degraded newsreel in Citizen Kane? In many places, this looked worse.
One thing: the credits background did not turn red for Muir Matheson's credit as it does on the Bluray.
The rooftop chase on the Bluray has been rightly criticized for being so dim. However, looking at the 70mm screening, I was surprised that it was no better, but actually worse! There was a very noticeable vignette that continued through the whole film, the top-right side in particular was always noticeably darkened. There was very little contrast, which continued through the whole film.
At no time did black levels approach anything you could remotely call "black". It was like watching Vertigo on a huge, extremely high resolution, but cheaply made LCD screen. This was terrible to behold in a completely darkened theater. This combination of greyish blacks, low contrast, and dimness meant the whole film seemed washed out and any dark scene was nearly unwatchable. The forest scene in particular was horrible.
I had thoughts I've never had while watching Vertigo; halfway through the film, I thought how fortunate Scottie and Madeleine were White and not Black people, because we otherwise wouldn't have seen anything of their faces other than the whites of their eyes. I can't believe my mind went there, but it's the honest truth.
At least 2 of the reel changes were extremely shoddy: after Madeleine breaks away from Scottie in the stable, there's a shot of Scottie looking after her and another shot of him walking to the door frame and pausing. Instead, the projectionist cut straight from the break to the outdoor shot of Scottie rushing to catch Madeleine, with an extremely jarring break in the music. The scene where Scottie follows Judy to her hotel also seemed to lose a few quick shots, though to be brutally honest, by this time I'd already given up hope of enjoying the film and was waiting for the torture to stop.
And as if to add insult to injury, the runtime of the film was definitely sped up. I initially thought the movement of the characters and camera, which reminded me of the motion smoother "soap opera" effect option TVs have nowadays, was due to the 70mm resolution. However, having seen Vertigo countless times and being accustomed to the "rhythm", shots and dialogue seemed to be coming at me faster than usual. This was extremely apparent during the 2 monologues, the Coroner's and Judy's letter scene. Also, the older woman whom Scottie sees with the Jaguar, who in any case already talked quickly, seemed to be spitting out her lines without any pause in between. In hindsight, I should've had a stopwatch, but the film ended at 9:53PM. I'm not sure when it started, but my last text message, composed while the emcee was blathering about upcoming B-movies and a joke about a Judy Barton driver's license in the lost and found, was sent at 7:48PM. There is no way this screening matched the official 128 min runtime.
The effect of this was to rob the film of its mystical quality and make it almost downright comedic. For the first time, I felt the love story was rushed, and Stewart's acting at this tempo seemed devoid of subtlety. By the final third, he gave me the impression that he wanted Judy's transformation done ASAP, like homework that has to be turned in a day early. People were laughing at lines that should've carried heavy meaning...I can't blame them, I felt the urges too!
I spent the whole film cringing and wondering what the final tower scene would look like. The Bluray looks heavenly compared to the monstrosity projected on the screen. There's really nothing I can say except provide these examples of the greyish mud the audience was left to decipher:
I wish I were exaggerating, but the reality is my photoshop skills aren't good enough to show how bad it actually was. If this was my first viewing of Vertigo, I would've gone out with the impression that the film was an overhyped piece of garbage. Every aspect of it that provides such emotional power was butchered. I still have a lot of rage, but I have to sleep...I'm feeling like Sgt. Hartmann from FML: That projectionist must not be allowed to contaminate the Earth!!!