Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's All In The Mind, 12 Mar 2013
This review is from: Spellbound [1945] (Alfred Hitchcock) [DVD] (DVD)
This 1945 film that master director Alfred Hitchcock made during his spell working for Hollywood 'mega-producer' David O Selznick has a number of things going for it, but overall does not (for me at least) rank with Hitch's top work. In its favour, it has the (relatively) novel premise (at the time) of being a study about psychoanalysis, a subject (together with its related issues) that Hitch was, of course, to feature in a number of his later films (Strangers On A Train, Psycho, Marnie, etc).

Spellbound also features a generally impressive performance from Ingrid Bergman (her first of three for the director) as the outwardly cold-hearted (a 'human glacier'), but passionate, psychoanalyst Dr Constance Petersen, into whose mental institution arrives one day (apparently) Dr Anthony Edwardes (Gregory Peck) as a replacement for imminent retiree Dr Murchison (the reliable Leo G Carroll). Bergman is good here, particularly during the more suspenseful (as opposed to romantic) moments, though not (for me) as effective as she was in the superior Notorious. Peck, though, whilst OK as the amnesiac with a guilt complex (another of Hitch's protagonists whose circumstances have, through no fault of their own, conspired against them) just does not quite cut it for me, and makes me wonder what Hitch stalwarts Cary Grant or James Stewart would have made of the role. I also regard the film as being something of a film of two halves. The first hour is generally suspenseful as Petersen's suspicions as to Edwardes' background are aroused, and also features some amusing, good-natured joshing of Petersen's infatuation with the institution's newcomer by her work colleagues. The second half, in which Petersen and Edwardes effectively elope, whilst still containing a few nice set-pieces, rather overdoes the romance and is, for me, less engaging.

That said, there are still more brilliant trademark Hitch set-pieces and delightful cameo acting performances to leave the vast majority of other film-makers in the shade. My favourite set-pieces include (short-hand): doors opening sequence; letter under the door; rail ticket window; unidentified policemen in the room; white bathroom and razor; downhill skiing; concluding gun barrel POV. Cameo performance wise we have: a young Rhonda Fleming as the vampy inmate Mary Carmichael (scratching an orderly's hand); the marvellous Norman Lloyd (yes, him from Saboteur's Statue of Liberty scene) as the guilt-ridden inmate, Mr Garmes; Wallace Ford as a (typically Hitch) flirtatious man hassling Petersen in the hotel lobby; and Michael Chekhov (rather more than a cameo) as the forensically intellectual doctor, Alexander Brulov.

Of course, the film is also famous for its Salvador Dali dream sequence which is very interesting and novel for its time. Miklos Rozsa wrote a generally impressive score for the film, which mixed both the haunting and the romantic (although, for me, the main romantic theme is probably overused).

Not absolutely top notch Hitch, therefore, but of considerable merit, nevertheless.
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Keith M
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