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A decidedly weak offering from master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock this film offers the opportunity to see a disturbingly beautiful dream sequence choreographed by Salvador Dali play out and little more. The plot is standard psychological thriller fare and the romance feels tacked on but the first half of the film concocts a mystery rather effectively only to lose all sense of control and pacing in the second half. Featuring two of the biggest stars of this era, Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck, the film was a surefire box office hit and earned a Best Picture nomination but 74 years later it's reputation has not held up and it pales in comparison to Shadow of a Doubt (1943) and Lifeboat (1944).
Respected psychiatrist Dr. Constance Peterson, Ingrid Bergman, falls in love with Dr. Anthony Edwardes, Gregory Peck, a new hire at the hospital she works at who will be replacing the elderly Dr. Murchison, Leo G. Carroll. Their new romance is jeopardized when it is discovered that Edwardes is not who he claims he is and is in fact an amnesiac who may have killed the real Edwardes. Going by the name of ‘John Brown' he runs away but Peterson follows him and attempts to counsel him into discovering his past traumas and figuring out what happened to the real Edwardes. With the help of Peterson's former mentor Dr. Alexander Brulov, Michael Chekhov, they unlock the memories of Edwardes and he realizes that he did not commit the murder. He is apprehended by the police before they can reveal this new information but Peterson later discovers the true culprit.
The concept of the film is interesting as traumatized men are a running theme in Hitchcock's work and he is usually able to make good use of the various tics and fears that these characters have. Sadly the trauma of this character is not particularly deep, he believes that he is responsible for his brother's death, and the set up for the big reveal is brief which makes the end of the film unsatisfying. Were Brown to experience more than just hysteria at the sight of lines and were the scenes of his psychoanalysis more complex than Peterson urging him to ‘remember' the film would have been a more interesting exploration into a disturbed man's psyche. The film's portrayal of mental illness is not as backwards as some films from this time period and it does not feel as though those with amnesia are being exploited for the entertainment of audiences but it is not entirely sympathetic to their case either.
Bergman and Peck, not my favorite actors from this time period, fail to invest their roles with the realism necessary for a story like this to work. Selling the idea of ‘love at first sight' is always difficult but other films have made it work due to the incredible chemistry between the two leads. While Bergman and Peck had an affair in real life that supposed passion does not translate onto the screen as while it is believable that there is a mild attraction between the two I couldn't believe that a respected psychiatrist would give up everything to follow a man who may or may not be a murderer. In terms of their individual performances, Bergman is serviceable but often mannered to the point of distraction as Peterson seems too stiff and pained for her commitment to her lover to be believable. Peck is acceptable as he steps slightly outside of the kind father figure/holy man persona he was closely identified with throughout his career. The role does require him to do a lot of staring into space and snapping suddenly from romancing Bergman to having flashbacks of his trauma he handles the transition fairly well and appears legitimately spooked. Both struggle with the more stilted dialogue they are gifted when asked to simply display the connection between their characters and that is what prevents the film from rising to the levels of Strangers on a Train (1951) or Saboteur (1942).
Fortunately this film did not win Best Picture because it is not Hitchcock's best work although Rebecca (1940) is not much better but with competition like The Lost Weekend (1945) and the transcendent Mildred Pierce (1945) it is easy to see why this was edged out.
No, not Hitchcock’s best, but a grand, beautiful old Hollywood flick with wonderful performances. When the music score swells and Peck walks towards camera, for a massive love closeup, it is the definition of Star Power! While dated, when compared to it’s Oscar competition in 1945, it plays much better than The Lost Weekend (the other big ‘issue’ movie that year).
A very peculiar Hitch film. The Salvador Dali influences severely enhance the dreamlike quality throughout it, and Bergman is astonishing to watch. There's a little too much to absorb from one viewing but I think it stands out quite a bit in Hitchcock's filmography, even with a lot of typical macguffins you expect, the performances and psychoanalytic sequences feel way ahead of its time.
Alfred Hitchcock directed film from 1945.
In this mystery psychoanalysis is at the forefront in a murder mystery of an eminent doctor.
The doctor (Edwardes) is supposedly set to take over a psychoanalysis clinic as its director.
He supposedly appears in the guise of the actor Gregory Peck. Quite young looking for such an eminent doctor.
It later emanates that the supposed Dr. Edwardes is an impersonator as such. Get it?!
The Peck character seemingly genuinly does not know how he is impersonating the doctor. How, why etc.
At this point the character of a fellow young psychoanalyst Dr. Constance Peterson (Ingrid Bergman) takes centre stage in the plot as she tries to help the fake Edwardes solve the mystery.
The film is not the best Hitchcock film I have watched but is still more watchable than many recent films!
Peterson helps solve the mystery of fake Edwardes, real name John Ballantyne and what happened to the real Dr. Edwardes.
She is aided by her old mentor and his methods including inducing the dreams of Ballantyne.
Hence follows a dream sequence more befitting of a James Bond title sequence/pop video. The sequence designed by Spanish surrealist artist Salvador DalÃ.
It features eyeballs, and a 'scantily clad lady in a gambling room....'
As with many Hitchcock films I have found some scenes take place on the railway and in this film the setting of Grand Central Station in New York.
There are better Hitchcock films but even so worthy of a viewing when you can see it.
This Hitchcock is too heavy on the romance, but the premis is interesting. Even the much talked about dream sequence is too short to have any great impact. Has the odd Hitchcock touch here and there but on the whole a pretty dull affair.
This is a novel film about the subconscious. It starts slowly but finds ways to bring out the suspense and mystery. Bergman and Peck have undeniable chemistry. My favourite scene is a stunning piece of cinematography: Peck's drinking of milk, seen from the perspective of the drinker. This is the only Miklos Rozsa collaboration with Hitchcock, which is a shame because no one does epic quite like Rozsa. If you like the music, you should listen to the piano concerto based on Spellbound.
It could perhaps be tighter but I really love this film and I love the whole David O' Selznick period of Hitchcock's work. Where at times the plot may be a little clunky it is completely blown away by the central pairing of Bergman and Peck and some of the breathtaking visuals and camera tricks. Hitchcock is just having so much fun in this picture and it really lifts the entire film, the doors opening in Bergman's mind is my particular favourite.
Marvellous direction, music and acting along with a suspenseful, intriguing plot and incredible set piece scenes make this yet another Hitchcock classic. Also features a dream sequence created by Salvador Dali.
Spellbound plays more like '50s sci-fi than it does a Hitchcock thriller. The pseudo-science presented is almost laughable, and the soundtrack is distractingly cheesy. I also had a hard time with the melodramatic performances from Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman. This movie is a big misfire from Hitchcock.
For anyone who's interested in Psychology and also enjoys a good Whodunit, this is going to be fun. For me, spellbinding is just about the right word to use for this addition to the Hitchcock filmography. Incredibly tense and unpredictable, it presents us with a fascinating story that doesn't take long to get you hooked, always keeping you guessing and on the edge of your seat until the very end, throwing a number of twists and turns at you along the way. The editing and score, as well as some very nice shots all contribute hugely to the atmosphere. Salvador Dali even brought his talents to a visually stunning and surreal dream sequence that has his fingerprints all over it. Peck and Bergman are perfectly cast and play their parts fantastically, but if there's one thing I could possibly nit-pick at it's just how unrealistically quick the romance is to blossom and the irrational devotion that comes with it. It's a particularly strange oversight considering a) the character in question is supposed to make a living out of being a rational and analytical person, and b), such a large part of the premise is reliant on her being the opposite. It may not be quite as perfect as some of Hitch's top films, but it's definitely up there with his better works and I found it very enjoyable.