|"Good night and sweet dreams... which we'll analyze in the morning."|
|Time: 111 mins.|
Rating: Not Rated
Won Academy Award for Best Score. Nominations for Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Special Effects, Best Supporting Actor (Chekhov) and Best Picture.
One of Hitchcock's more scintillating tales with wonderful performances from Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck. Filmed in the era where psychology was still looked upon as a crock by not only the medical profession, but the world at large, SPELLBOUND centers on the mind and its power for denial. The film gets a little heavy-handed in the middle with all the psycho-babble, but Bergman and Peck keep it entertaining. Like most of Hitchcock's films you're never quite sure what's truly going on until the last frame. It's pretty clear from the beginning that the most obvious suspect is not the actual killer, but it's fun to watch Bergman figure everything out. SPELLBOUND gives her the chance to break out of her usual simpering, "save-me", kind of roles, by playing a strong, intelligent, unrelenting woman. She still needs to be saved and has many a "love-sick" scene, however, it's a part that allows her to take center stage and run with it.
Bergman plays a doctor at a world-renowned psychiatric institute, who can only be described as extremely cold and clinical. That is until she meets the new head of the clinic, played by Gregory Peck. It doesn't take long for him to melt her reserve, after all he's not only good looking but a first-rate psychologist as well. At least that's what everyone thinks until he begins to have "episodes". Bergman soon discovers that he's not who he claimed to be. In fact, he might be a cold-blooded killer the police believe he killed the doctor and assumed his place. This would be quickly settled if only he could remember what happened, or who he is for that matter. Bergman knows she could cure his amnesia and get to the bottom of the murder if she could only get him only for a few days of psycho-analysis.
He must be innocent because there's no way she could fall in love with a killer. His wild mood swings speak otherwise, but she's not about to let him go down without a fight. By enlisting the help of her medical school mentor, they hammer they're way into that thick skull of Peck's and through dream analysis uncover what caused the death of the doctor. It doesn't get them closer to the true killer, but at least they find out what was behind Peck's enormous guilt complex. She ends up cornering the real killer and places herself in mortal danger. However, it all comes out right in the end.
SPELLBOUND isn't the best film Hitchock ever made, but it has some truly dazzling scenes, mainly the dream sequence created by Salvador Dali. It has to be one of the most unique and weird pieces of film ever shot. It's a shame Dali didn't do more designing for films, but, then again, it would be hard to fit his style into most movies. From the giant eye curtains to the faceless people, this sequence is dark, creepy and uncomfortable. The doctors figure out the dream's meaning far too easily in my opinion, but there's only so much screen time.
There are moments that I found Bergman's portrayal a bit strident she can't see past her love but she is brought back to reality by the performance of Michael Checkov, who plays her mentor. His is the voice of experience, reason and humor. It's a great supporting turn. He cares for her, but doesn't completely trust her judgement in this instance, which helps keep him alive. This is one of Peck's first major screen roles and he makes the most of it. Granted it's hard to play an amnesiac, so his portrayal is somewhat all over the place, charming one minute, sullen the next. For the most part, he isn't really given much to do except moon at Bergman and appear dangerously unstable, both of which he captures quite well. Peck and Bergman do manage to create a passionate chemistry, so that kind of makes up for the lack of character development. At least in my book.
SPELLBOUND is a pretty good suspense/drama, but if you're not into the psycho-babble you might want to try SUSPICION instead. You get pretty tired of hearing about guilt-complexes and the trauma of childhood by the end, but the love story and mystery are enough to sustain interest. This is definitely one of Hitchcock's more intelligently written films and maybe that's it's flaw. To much talk, not enough danger. In any case, Bergman and Peck make the viewing worthwhile.