MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
“Spellbound” is perhaps the earliest Alfred Hitchcock film that I identify with the director. It also has his signature feel which includes innovative camerawork and effects, along with a story that includes a high degree of danger.
Ingrid Bergman plays a doctor at a psychiatric hospital who is introduced to a new doctor, played by Gregory Peck. However, once he starts showing signs of emotional instability, she discovers he may not be who he says he is. This leads the two of them on a mystery to discover his past and a possible murder he might have committed.
Even though this film is steeped in the 40s in terms of style and delivery, it stands out with several things. The most notable is the use of surrealism for a dream sequence that was designed by Salvador Dali. Even by today’s standards, this dream sequence is integral to the plot and quite innovative. It’s not just thrown in to show emotional distress. It is necessary to solve the mystery.
There’s also some neat cinematic elements that Hitchcock uses, including point-of-view shooting. Made in an age when master shots often became a standard scene style, Hitchcock shows some real thought behind his composition.
Even though its two-hour running time seems a bit long, some of this is taken up with the overture and exit music. The movie is quite brisk and smooth.
The presence of both Bergman and Peck show the two as true movies stars of the Golden Age of cinema. They are surprisingly young and attractive, particularly Peck whom I know from later films. Both stars are able to portray their characters without getting wrapped up in the cheesy moments of 40s-era cinema, and their performances are still of high quality to this day.
Of course, I cannot talk about this film without tipping my hat to Mel Brooks, who used elements of it for his brilliant spoof “High Anxiety.” To me, that makes these films practical companion pieces for the care with which the directors worked more than thirty years apart.
This new Blu-ray comes with a commentary from film experts Thomas Schatz and Charles Ramirez Berg. Featurettes include “Dreaming with Scissors: Hitchcock, Surrealism and Salvador Dali,” “Guilt by Association: Psychoanalyzing Spellbound” and “A Cinderella Story: Rhonda Fleming.” Additional bonus content includes a 1948 radio play, audio interviews with Hitchcock and the original theatrical trailer.