SPELLBOUND (1945) B/W & C 111m dir: Alfred Hitchcock
w/Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Michael Chekhov, Leo G. Carroll, Rhonda Fleming, John Emery, Norman Lloyd, Bill Goodwin, Steven Geray, Donald Curtis, Wallace Ford, Art Baker, Regis Toomey, Paul Harvey
Unabashedly romantic, this suspense tale is famous for its eerie Miklos Rozsa score, the celebrated dream sequence by Salvadore Dali, and the "first-person" suicide which is the capper to the movie. Some prints include a brief and shocking use of color at the end of the film.
From The Movie Guide: "An intriguing Hitchcock thriller which probes the dark recesses of a man's mind through psychoanalytic treatment and the love of a woman. Dr. Edwardes (Peck), a young psychiatrist, begins a new assignment as the director of a modern mental asylum. His behavior, however, is rather strange and eccentric, causing Dr. Peterson (Bergman), a brilliant but emotionally icy doctor, to grow suspicious. When she discovers that the doctor's real initials are J.B., she doubts that he is really Dr. Edwardes. She wonders not only what happened to Dr. Edwardes, but who J.B. really is, thereby involving herself professionally and emotionally as she falls in love with J.B while digging into his past.
"Generated by David O. Selznick, who purchased the rights because of his keen interest in psychoanalysis, the film often gets bogged down in psychiatric and psychoanalytic jargon, but it is counterbalanced by the love story that develops between J.B. and Dr. Peterson. Depending on the viewer's preference, the breakthrough to J.B.'s mystery can be credited to one of two things: the success of modern psychiatry or the power of love. As Hitchcock describes it, the film is 'a manhunt story wrapped up in pseudo-psychoanalysis.' Although heavy on dialogue, it is not without some brilliant visual touches, most obviously the heralded dream sequence created by avant-garde artist Salvadore Dali. In its original conception it was far longer and more complex than the two-minute sequence that finally appeared. It was to have run 22 minutes (much of which was actually shot but edited out) and included a disturbing sequence described by Hitchcock: 'He [Dali] wanted a statue to crack like a shell falling apart, with ants crawling all over it, and underneath, there would be Ingrid Bergman, covered by ants! It just wasn't possible.' As it happened, Hitchcock did not even shoot the dream sequence, returning instead to London. The brilliant visual stylist Josef von Sternberg was first considered as the director of the sequence, but William Cameron Menzies (THINGS TO COME) was finally chosen, though he later expressed dissatisfaction and asked that his name be removed from the credits."
From the website The DVD Journal (www.dvdjournal.com), this review by D.K. Holm:
"Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945) has taken quite a beating over the years. The film is generally ridiculed for its lush and overwrought style. Hitchcock and Truffaut in their interview book collaborate in blithely dismissing it. Robin Wood dedicates only a paragraph to the movie in the first version of his book on Hitchcock. There is no BFI critical study dedicated solely to the film.
"And yet. And yet. For many viewers, there is still something compelling about Spellbound.
"For one thing, the world has changed around the film. What once may have struck the viewer as over-done now looks almost calm and classical in its style. That's because the least of Hitchcock's films, and those of his contemporaries, are so much better in comparison to 'the most' of current directors.
"For another thing Spellbound interestingly anticipates aspects of several later Hitchcock works. Here are the roots of Marnie's paralyzing moments evoked by suffusions of patterns and colors, as well as that film's sexual repression. Here, too, is Psycho's stuttering misdirection and easy-answer-for-everything concluding analysis. And the film also anticipates Vertigo's tale of the dramatic make-over and playing a part. (On another level the film also anticipates the 'leg or breast' scene in To Catch a Thief with Bergman's romantically vocalized choice of a 'liverwurst' sandwich while on a picnic.)
"The film's story probably is well known: Psychiatrists at the Green Manors asylum in Vermont are anticipating the arrival of Dr. Anthony Edwardes (Gregory Peck), who is destined to replace retiring head Dr. Murchison (Leo G. Carroll). After the slightly odd doctor arrives, he surprisingly forms a bond with the normally chilly Dr. Constance Petersen (as the name is spelled on the [DVD] box and in the subtitles, though it has also been spelled Peterson in some reference books), played by the star, Ingrid Bergman.
"Soon it comes to pass that the real Dr. Edwards has been murdered, and possibly by his replacement, who is an amnesiac unable to remember his own name (John Ballantyne). Soon the lovers are on the run, and Constance attempts to psychoanalyze the truth out of her patient-turned-lover, later with the help of her own mentor, Dr. Alex Brulof (Michael Chekhov). In the end, thanks to the love of a good woman and adherence to the articles of Freudianism, the man is cured and the mystery is solved.
"Out of this steaming brew of medical witchcraft and dime store romance, Hitchcock has managed to concoct something interesting if not entirely successful. Bristling under the yoke of producer David O. Selznick (the O stands for 'nothing,' as we learn from North by Northwest), Hitchcock basically threw out Spellbound's source novel, The House of Dr. Edwardes, revised the evolving script with a succession of handlers culminating with Ben Hecht. Their strategies included tricking up the proceedings by inserted surrealistic 'dream' images by Salvador Dali (later themselves revised and reshot by William Cameron Menzies).
"As Thomas Hyde explained in one of the few sympathetic critical studies of the film, 'The Moral Universe of Hitchcock's Spellbound (Cinemonkey magazine, No. 15, fall, 1978, pages 30 - 34, reprinted in The Hitchcock Reader), the picture is much more complicated than it first appears. There is a critique of Constance within the film while still privileging her as the central character. For Hyde, the film posits a conflict between intellectualism and emotions. Without a balance of both, Constance would neither solve the crime nor make necessary changes in her own life. For Hyde the film is about 'the deception of appearances, the untrustworthiness of authority, the nature of guilt and sin, and the moral responsibility of human involvement.'
"If Spellbound is subject to criticism, it is because the tale embraces the quackery of psychoanalysis. As Hyde shows, the film is also implicitly critical of psychoanalysis, which was taking Hollywood by storm, and leading to numerous movies set in madhouses, such as The Snake Pit. But giving any credence to the principles of Freudianism is risky, as the valiant work of Frederick Crews has shown, and Hitchcock is fascinated but also suspicious of the fad. Spellbound's psychoanalysis is a blend of absurd witch-doctor mumbo jumbo and common sense. Unfortunately, almost all literary criticism, some sociology, a lot of anthropology, and way too much film chat is bent to the precepts of what Nabokov called Greek myths applied to private parts. Because it is explicitly about psychoanalysis, the film offers the perfect chance to wallow in the bizarre conjuring of the system. Strangely, few modern critics have taken up the film as a key 'text.'
"That is probably because on the surface Spellbound seems so ridiculous. Take the moment when Constance first kisses the man she believes is Dr. Edwardes, who has inspired groupie-like feelings in her. As they embrace, Hitchcock shows us the heavy symbols of doors upon doors (of perception? of her mind?) opening. Yes, this may seem ludicrous and obvious at first, but given how carefully Hitchcock has woven the importance of doors throughout the film, both visually and verbally. Doors are first mentioned in the written prologue, and figure in every important scene, culminating in Constance's nervous exit after confronting the real killer. The kissing-doors moment appears less ludicrous and much more in line with the careful strategy of recurrent images to buttress the sub-plot free story."
SPELLBOUND won an Oscar for Best Score (Rozsa). The film was also nominated for Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (Chekov), Cinematography (George Barnes), and Visual Effects (Jack Cosgrove).