Spellbound is one of the great Hitchcock films. It’s not quite one of his classics, but it’s certainly quite good. It has Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, an Oscar-winning score by Miklos Rozsa and an amazing dream sequence based on designs by Salvador Dali.
In Spellbound Hitchcock goes where he’s never gone before – the deep recesses of the human mind. Bergman plays Dr. Constance Petersen, a cold scientific woman who always views the advances of men with a logical intrigue. That is until Dr. Edwards (Peck) shows up. The two fall head over heels for one another. However, this is a Hitchcock film and the honeymoon is very quickly over when it quickly becomes apparent that Dr. Edwards is not who he says he is. In fact, the real Dr. Edwards is dead and this man, who has no memory of who he really is or what happened, may have killed him. Their first clue is that the initials of his real name are J.B. and the color white triggers terrible reactions in him. So the two star struck lovers head out on the road to find out what really happened and hopefully prove the J.B.’s innocence.
They wind up at her mentor’s house, Dr. Brulov (Michael Chekhov), where the two doctor’s force J.B. to delve into his past which he is very reluctant to do. The highlight of the film comes when J.B. tells them about a dream he had which is visualized with the artist help of Dali. Finally Petersen puts her own life on the line ass they head up into the snow mountains to find the answer. Again, this is Hitchcock and he’s got a few more twists up his sleeve that ends with an amazing POV shot of a hand holding a revolver that turns and faces the audiences and fires, flashing a shot of red in this otherwise black and white film.
Spellbound isn’t a perfect Hitchcock film. It slows down from time to time as some very dialog heavy scenes flesh out the psychological ramifications of what is happening in the film. It’s not to say it isn’t interesting, but it does slow the drama down. Bergman and Peck are both fantastic in the film and their chemistry helps keeps these scenes as lively as possible.
When the film works, it’s stop on and these scenes prove to be some of Hitchcock’s more interesting. He breaks new ground in this film going places he’d never gone before. Spellbound isn’t quite on the same level of Hitchcock’s best films, but it’s still a great film in it’s own right and worth sitting down and watching.
This film is presented in 1.33:1 full screen and DTS-HD Master Audio. This is a great transfer, the film has never looked better. The audio is a little muddy at times, but the score sounds fantastic.
Commentary: with film professors Thomas Schatz and Charles Ramirez Berg. If you’ve read my other Hitchcock reviews up to this point, you know how I feel about these commentaries. Dreaming with Scissors: Hitchcock, Surrealism and Salvador Dali: (20 min.) A quick history of Dali followed by a discussion about his involvement in the film. We sadly learn here that much of the dream sequence that was shot was cut from the film and is lost forever. Guilt by Association: Psychoanalyzing Spellbound: (20 min.) Here we focus on the psychological aspects of the film and how Hitchcock worked that into the story. A Cinderella Story: Rhonda Fleming: (10 min.) Great story. Literally running to school she was spotted by an agent. The rest, as they say, is history. Radio Play (60 min.) 1948. Directed by Hitchcock. Starring Joseph Cotton. Hitchcock Audio Interview (15 min.) This one only comes with an interview with Peter Bogdonavich. Again, it’s very interesting. Lastly, is the film’s Original Theatrical Trailer.
With Spellbound Hitchcock tried something complete different from anything he’d done previously. The film isn’t perfect, but it is certainly uniquely creative with the Dali based dream sequence and some rather clever POV shots. Bergman and Peck both deliver amazing performances making this a very worthy Hitchcock film.
20th Century Fox presents Spellbound. Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock. Written by Ben Hecht. Adaptaion by Angus MacPhail. Suggested by the novel “The House of Dr. Edwardes” by Francis Beeding. Starring: Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Michael Chekov and Rhoda Fleming. Running time: 118 min. Rating: Not Rated. Released on DVD: January 24, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: alfred hitchcock, Gregory Peck