Gregory Peck Leaves Ingrid Bergman Spellbound
Although Alfred Hitchcock had directed numerous movies before he gave us "Spellbound" for me it's one of his earlier movies which hinted at what was to come with the likes of "Rear Window" and "Vertigo". It has elements of that styling which Hitchcock would take further with his later movies and although the storyline is not for me great it has the psychological side as Hitchcock's fascination with psychology came to the fore dealing with a character who is suffering from amnesia and the psychiatrist who is trying to unravel the mystery of who he is and what he may have done.
As Dr. Murchison (Leo G. Carroll) prepares to retire as head of Green Manors mental hospital his replacement Dr. Anthony Edwardes (The Million Pound Note) arrives and immediately hits it off with the beautiful but cold Dr. Constance Petersen (Notorious ). But it soon becomes apparent to Dr. Petersen that Edwardes is an impostor and is in fact a man suffering from amnesia. When it becomes general knowledge Edwardes goes on the run with Dr. Petersen in tow as she tries to unravel the mystery to who he really is and also what has happened to Dr. Anthony Edwardes.
So for about the first 3 quarters of "Spellbound" the storyline is for the most simple. We have this man suffering from amnesia pretending to be a psychiatrist and when it become evident he isn't who he says he is we have the classical on the run element along with a love interest as the truth about the man and the mystery over the man he's pretending to be is unravelled. For me it's not exactly exciting, but rather than just being simplistic Hitchcock concentrates on the psychological techniques used to discover who this man is and how he came to be suffering from amnesia. All of which it has to be said is a little heavy handed, elements of dialogue which reveal something about psychiatry and psychosis is almost forced down our throats in a very manufactured manner. It's not bad, it's even interesting but the blending of storyline with Hitchcock's fascination with the mind doesn't quite blend.
Whilst the first 3 quarters does seem to concentrate more on the way the mind and psychiatrists work it continues to have a sense of a thriller about it which then takes precedence during the last quarter. As such there are a few twists, a few surprises which gives "Spellbound" a reasonably decent climax but it almost feels like having explored all the psychological aspects Hitchcock was forced to deliver the thriller side of things and again that blend doesn't quite work. Despite it building towards the thrilling end it almost jars with what has gone on before.
What is quite good is that coming before he gave us the likes of "Vertigo" and "Rear Window" there are glimpses of Hitchcock's styling. There are some beautiful camera tracking shots as someone sits down on the psychiatrists chare or a shot from what comes across as being in someone's mouth when they take a drink, allowing us to see the blurred image through the bottom of the glass. There are also Salvador Dali inspired dream sequences which although look a bit cheesy compared to today's CGI enhanced scenes still work well to deliver the confusion of a fractured dream.
As for the acting well solid would be the best way to describe it. Gregory Peck delivers his tall, dark handsome frame as amnesiac John Ballantine and manages to convey the sense of fear he has when memories of who he is start to return, triggered by something significant which lays way to what happened. But there are occasions when he hams it up and the same can be said of Ingrid Bergman who comes across reasonably believably as Dr. Constance Petersen but then goes over the top in her enthusiasm when it comes to her feelings towards Ballantine. And whilst there are other important characters such as Dr. Murchison played by Leo G. Carroll and Dr. Alexander Brulov played by Michael Chekhov the movie for the most revolves around Peck and Bergman.
What this all boils down to is that in Alfred Hitchcock's long list of movies "Spellbound" comes somewhere in the bottom half thanks to it's heavy handedness and unbalanced storyline. But it's still entertaining and fascinating with its look as psychoanalysis and also the glimpses of techniques which Hitchcock would use to greater effect in later movies.