Without wishing to tar everyone in the movie business, you get the impression that, at times, Hollywood likes to sneer at acrophobics, such are the number of films devoted to scaring those with an irrational fear of heights.
And wouldn’t you know it, we’re about to compound the misery of those suffering from acrophobia. For we have compiled a selection of Tinseltown’s many vertigo-inducing clips. To those people, we apologise. To the rest of you, keep your heads…
Mission: Impossible 4 - Ghost Protocol
Tom Cruise is many things, but a scaredy cat is not one of them. For his latest Mission: Impossible venture, his mission, which he chose to accept, was to dangle from the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. All in the name of a top stunt. The Burj is 2700 feet high. Tom Cruise is all man.
Early Nineties action blockbuster Cliffhanger is, as the title suggests, set up a mountain where a lot of time is spent hanging off precipices, cliffs and the like. The opening sequence when Sylvester Stallone tries to keep hold of a fellow climber after her harness breaks will pretty much scare every heebie and definitely every jeebie out of acrophobics.
As befits an Alfred Hitchcock film, the tension at the climax of Saboteur as goodie Barry Kane and nasty Nazi sympathiser Fry battle it out at the top of the Statue of Liberty is tangible. And when Fry slips over the edge, holding onto Kane for dear life, the view beneath him is a stark reminder of terrible things can happen when you find yourself duking out at the top of very tall and dangerous buildings. Especially if you’re a nasty Nazi.
Man on a Ledge
Manhattan has a lot of tall buildings. Ideal for a protest with a difference then. Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) climbs onto a precarious ledge high outside the Roosevelt Hotel. A negotiator is sent to try and talk him out of committing suicide, however, Cassidy is a convict trying to protest his innocence. He knows this dangerous act will grab the attention of New York. Let’s just hope he doesn’t fall.
This one’s not just for acrophobics, but their spiritual cousins, pteromerhanophobics, too. That’ll be fear of flying then. Or maybe that should be this one’s not for them. Anyway, watch in amazement as Arnold Schwarzenegger does various daring dos while aboard an out of control plane. Wow as he hangs out of the plane, sans parachute; whoop as he freefalls in an attempt to catch a parachute, feel slightly nauseous as you see the ground somewhere in the distance.
Man On Wire
This one’s more about what you don’t see, rather than what you do. It’s about what you know is happening. In 1974, French high-wire artist (and some would say madman) Philippe Petit completed a high-wire walk between the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. After the events of 11 September 2001, this feat (for which he was arrested, although the charges were later dropped) took on extra significance. This 2008 documentary about his unbelievable walk was keenly anticipated and appreciated – the photo stills recording his walk a testament to his bravery.
Harold Lloyd is the great granddaddy of these films. His mesmeric work in the iconic silent comedy Safety Last! has gone down in celluloid history. As he hangs off the clock hands high above the roaring metropolis below he sets in motion a century of classic cinematic moments that would frighten those afraid of heights. Reprised memorably in Back to the Future and most recently in Martin Scorcese’s Hugo.
What else could it have been? The classic acrophobic picture. And the one which is perhaps to blame for people confusing acrophobia (fear of heights) and vertigo (a spinning motion related to acrophobia but not specific to it). Alfred Hitchcock’s masterly psychological thriller stars James Stewart as the disorientated private investigator. The scene in which he hangs precariously from a rooftop is the final word in suspense. Don’t look down, Jimmy!
(Images: All Star)