Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Ingrid Bergman,
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Audio: DTS HD Mono
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Features: See Review
Length: 118 Minutes
Release Date: January 24, 2012
“You cannot keep bumping your head against reality and saying it's not there.”
Spellbound is, for me, a lesser Hitchcock film, which is one way of saying it still towers over most other filmmakers' finest works.
The storyline is a bit simplistic, even if the film does wade into the waters of psychoanalysis, still a growing fad in 1945. At the heart of it is a pretty young doctor and a handsome amnesiac who may or may not be guilty of murder. She may be a scientist, but doggone it all, she's going to PROVE that any man who looks that good can't be guilty of any wrongdoing.
The doctor is Constance (the luminous Bergman), who works at clinic and tries to talk patients through the barriers that keep them unbalanced. Enter a new boss (Peck), who seems smart enough, but reacts wildly to simple things, like a pattern drawn by a fork on a linen tablecloth.
Turns out, he is not who he says he is...in fact, he doesn't know who he is, but the man he is playing is real enough...or was real. What happened to the real doctor? He doesn't know, but can't shake the feeling he may have murdered the man in order to step into his shoes.
Love has a tendency of switching off the brain, so with cops and professionals galore after the mysterious stranger, Constance joins him on the run with the hope of recovering his memory and proving to the world that he is no killer.
The most striking part of the film is the dream sequence, which pays obvious homage to Salvador Dali and awakens some of Hitchcock's sense of style. But the ending always felt like a bit of a cheat to me, and one I can never quite suspend my disbelief enough over to embrace.
But still, this is a film featuring two of Hollywood's greatest legends lighting up the screen with chemistry and power, and under the direction of a true master, makes for more than a worthwhile investment of two hours.
This 1945 release looks nice on Blu-ray...there is some softness here and there and some flicker owing to the age of the print, but still, it makes for the best version of the film I've experience in my home theater.
The one channel mono is a little thin sounding and not quite noiseless, but it serves adequately.
This loaded Blu-ray starts with a commentary from a pair of film professors offering insight into the making of the film and the science that inspired it. Two featurettes focus on the Dali-inspired dream sequence and the psychology behind the film, while another shows a modern interview with Rhonda Fleming, who has a small but scene-stealing role at the beginning.
Rounding out is a 1948 radio play of the story starring Joseph Cotten and Valli of The Third Man fame, plus an audio interview with Hitchcock by director Peter Bogdanovich discussing the movie, and the original trailer.
Mediocre Hitchcock is better than no Hitchcock at all, and Spellbound offers solid Hollywood entertainment despite some flaws that really only stand out if you compare it to the master's other and more substantial works.