Spellbound (1945)

Article #1611 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-12-2005
Posting Date: 1-9-2005
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Featuring Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Michael Chekhov

The head of a mental asylum is retiring, and a woman who practices psychiatry there falls in love with the man who replaces him. However, she discovers that the replacement is not the actual famous psychiatrist he’s supposed to be, but an amnesiac who may have murdered the original psychiatrist.

Fantastic content: The theme of madness is present throughout, which nudges the movie a little ways into the realm of horror. Also, the Salvador Dali dream sequences are weird enough to give a touch of fantasy to the proceedings. Nonetheless, this one is marginal.

Hitchcock’s movies from the forties are in general quite highly regarded, but I have to admit to not quite enjoying them as much as I do his works from other decades. It’s not that I think they’re badly done. Rather, it seems to me that he doesn’t quite ratchet up the level of suspense as well as he did both before and after; as a result, I tend to get a little bit bored with them. Such is the case with this one, as the fairly long buildup starts to take its toll on me. I think the movie also suffers somewhat from its use of Freudian psychology; it was innovative and relevant for its time, but now it seems dated and simplistic. Nonetheless, the movie is well done; the acting is top notch (especially from Ingrid Bergman and Leo G. Carrol), the story is quite fascinating, the dream sequences are well done, and the ending is fantastic. I also love the scene involving the straight razor and the glass of milk; it’s one of the tensest moments of the movie, and it has a great resolution. All in all, the strengths outweigh any weaknesses here, and it is a worthy entry in Hitchcock’s oeuvre.


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