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Spellbound? Not quite, but not far off
Spellbound  (DVD)
Member Name: sunmeilan
Spellbound  (DVD)
Advantages: Gripping mystery
Disadvantages: Some over-acting, not entirely believable
When I think of Alfred Hitchcock, this isn't a film that springs to mind, but nevertheless I'm glad I had the opportunity to watch it. Hard to believe that it first came out 60 years ago! Once again, Hitchcock deals with psychological issues; although it seems that he doesn't have a huge amount of time for psychotherapy and the like, he is prepared to accept that it may work, and for the time, this must have been quite enlightening. As usual, the tension is maintained from the beginning through to the end; even my boyfriend, not usually keen on this sort of film, felt compelled to find out what happens.
Alfred Hitchcock, as director, deserves a quick mention for those of you that may not be familiar with his work. He was born in the East End of London and had a regular, religious upbringing. His interest in films began around 1915 and by 1920, he was a title designer for Lasky's film studios in London. He began to direct films after being called in when a director for whose films he was designing the titles fell ill and Hitchcock took his place. He eventually moved to Hollywood in 1940 and continued his career there. Films, for which he is most famous, include Psycho, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief and Strangers on a Train. His last film, called Family Plot, was made in 1976.
Dr Constance Petersen (Ingrid Bergman) is a psychoanalyst in a home for those in need of psychoanalysis. She is known for her cold, icy temperament and lack of feelings towards her male colleagues. Then Dr Anthony Edwards (Gregory Peck) arrives to fill the position of director of the home; its current director being persuaded to retire to allow for new blood. However, his odd behaviour leads Petersen and her colleagues to believe that something is not quite as it should be. Petersen eventually discovers that Dr Edwards is actually John Ballantine, an amnesiac, who may or may not have been involved in the death of the real Dr Edwards.
Ballantine and Petersen fall in love; but Ballantine is scared that he will drag her into a compromising position and so escapes, leaving Dr Petersen with the address of the hotel to which he is going. The police are called in, but Ballantine has already left. Dr Petersen follows him, convinced of his innocence and that he is suffering from a guilt complex because of something that happened to him in his childhood (very Freudian). They move to the home of Dr Petersen's former teacher, Dr Brulov, who finds out their secret and eventually promises to help Petersen work on Ballantine to try to find out what he has forgotten.
Together, they realise that Ballantine has an irrational fear of track-marks in the snow, and so Dr Petersen takes him to the ski area where he eventually remembers he went to with the real Dr Edwards. This jogs his memory to the extent that he remembers what happens. However, nothing is straight-forward and it is clear that Dr Petersen's help may not have been such a good thing after all.
This film is a great show-piece for Ingrid Bergman, who is rarely out of the picture as Dr Petersen. Although there is a romantic element to the film, this is much under-played - a pleasant change from some of Bergman's films, such as Casablanca. I also thought it was a pleasant change to have Ingrid Bergman's character as a woman, looking after a man, rather than the other way around. On the whole, she acts well and there is far less over-acting than other roles I have seen her in.
Gregory Peck looks incredibly young and hollow-cheeked in this role. He is believable as an amnesiac, but only just. There are occasions when he pulls faces and looks so shell-shocked that were it a film by another director, it would be a comedy. Somehow though, he does pull it off and I was hooked.
I watched a version of the DVD that came free with a weekend newspaper and therefore had no special effects; however, the version available on Amazon has the following:
Moving menus and chapter points
Obviously, I cannot comment on them.
The film is in black and white and has a classification of PG.
This film is not one of Hitchcock's best, but it is probably one of his most interesting. There is a strange dream sequence when Ballantine is describing his dreams to Dr Petersen and Brulov, involving eyes and playing cards - this was apparently designed by Salvador Dali, and for its time, must have been quite impressive. There is also a scene where someone is holding a gun first pointing at someone else and then at himself/herself, but all that is seen is the hand and the gun - apparently this was a specially modelled giant hand and gun for effect.
On the negative side, there are some ridiculous scenes of Petersen and Ballantine pretending to ski, which were so unlife-like, they were ridiculous. And the plot does nearly fall down because of the speed at which Ballantine recovers his memory - as far as I am aware, something like this would take years to solve. However, full marks to Hitchcock for making a film that admits that there may be something in this psychotherapy business - having had it myself, I do think it works, although I am aware that many people out there don't agree. The title, Spellbound, however, is somewhat unfortunate in that it has magical connotations and to my mind, psychotherapy is anything but and should not be portrayed as such.
On the whole though, a well-made, chilling film that kept me hooked until the end. And the fact that Bergman and Peck are so good to look at can only be a good thing. Recommended.
The DVD, including features, is available for £3.97 from Amazon! What a bargain.
Summary: Not one of Hitchcock's best-known films, but worth a watch nevertheless