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Spellbound
BLU-RAY disk
02.15.2012 By: Chris Bumbray
Spellbound order
Director:
Alfred Hitchcock

Actors:
Ingrid Bergman
Gregory Peck

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Dr. Constance Peterson (Ingrid Bergman) is psychiatrist at a remote mental hospital. When the head of the clinic has a nervous breakdown, a replacement, the young Dr. Edwardes (Gregory Peck) is brought into replace him. Immediately, Peterson is drawn to the high-strung, but compassionate Edwardes- but Edwardes is not who he says he is. Rather, he’s an amnesiac posing as Edwardes, who he believes he may have murdered. Now hopelessly in love with the man posing as Edwardes, Peterson helps him escape the police in order to begin intensive psychoanalysis, with the hope that she can discover the truth, and exonerate her lover.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
SPELLBOUND is a good example of how Alfred Hitchcock could take a disposable subject that was in vogue at the time (psychoanalysis being all the rage in post-WW2 America) and shape it into something resembling art. Apparently, SPELLBOUND was never one of his favorite films, with it being a routine assignment from his producer, David O’Selznick, who still held a contract over Hitch’s head at the time. It was simply designed as a vehicle to exploit two of his new stars, Ingrid Bergman, and Gregory Peck- with this only being his forth film.

However, what started off as a routine assignment soon turned into something more for Hitchcock, as he developed something of an obsession with leading lady Ingrid Bergman, with her becoming, for a while, his muse. Eventually, their collaboration would continue with UNDER CAPRICORN, and the amazing NOTORIOUS (review coming soon). As for SPELLBOUND; Hitch took the Freudian subtext, and shaped it into a romantic drama, with less of an emphasis on the psyche, and more on the sparks created by the two stars. While Peck never became one of Hitchcock’s go-to leading men (although they re-teamed for the misfire, THE PARADINE CASE)- they worked well together, and Peck makes for a sympathetic patient- although Peck being Peck (a good guy to the core) it’s never really in question whether or not he is or isn’t a killer.

Despite being a routine Hitchcock film, SPELLBOUND does have two scenes that are pretty heady for 1945, and are still studied by film historians to this day. The first is an extended dream sequence designed by Salvador Dali, which harkens back to his work with Luis Brunel, and it’s amazing Hitchcock was able to sneak in a scene like this under O’Selznick’s nose (although the sequence was cut down significantly). The other big, virtuoso scene is a brief one, where, in a POV shot, someone turns a gun on themselves, and fires- with an explosion of red (this being a black and white film) exploding across the screen. It’s a simple touch, but very effective.

THE EXTRAS
Like REBECCA, SPELLBOUND comes with a slew of informative extras. First is a commentary track with film historians Thomas Schatz and Charles Ramirez Berg which is good, but not as good as the Richard Schiekel track from REBECCA. Next are two featurettes , one examining Hitchcock’s relationship with Salvador Dali, the other on the way he represents psychoanalysis on film. Another featurette examines the career of Rhonda Fleming, who was discovered via her small role in this film, and became a modest film star as a result. There’s also the Lux Radio Theatre version of SPELLBOUND, featuring two latter Hitchcock actors, Joseph Cotton and Alida Vali. Finally, there’s an excellent audio interview between Hitchcock and Peter Bogdonovich, and the trailer.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
While not top-tier Hitchcock, SPELLBOUND is still better than anything most other directors at the time were doing and a film that holds up wonderfully in a modern context. The leads are appealing, the romance is exciting, and the technique is masterful. Highly recommended.
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