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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hitchcock Month - Spellbound

Spellbound (1945)
Starring Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

This will be film number twenty-one of the Hitchcock month-long fest and it is the most dated and melodramatic by far.  I'm not a fan of psychobabble and this film is full of it, trying to muster up some suspense by talking about psychoanalytical theories.  It just falls completely flat and very badly so.  It never drew me in from frame one and even moreso than Lifeboat (which I can at least appreciate for the concept), Spellbound is the worst Hitchcock film I've seen thus far.

Ingrid Bergman is psychoanalyst Dr. Constance Peterson who works at a mental hospital.  When the director of the hospital is forced into retirement, new director Dr. Anthony Edwardes (Gregory Peck) arrives and much too immediate to be believable, Constance and Anthony fall in love at first sight.  However, Constance soon begins to suspect that something is awry and sure enough she is correct.  It turns out that the man who is saying he is Anthony Edwardes is not Mr. Edwardes at all.  This impostor tells Constance that he believes he killed Edwardes, but his amnesia is not permitting him to remember anything, the least of which his own name.  Constance is certain he is not Edwardes' killer (because she couldn't fall in love with a killer) and she uses her psychoanalysis to dig deep into this nameless man's mind to determine what he really knows about the mystery behind Edwardes' murder.  If it all sounds convoluted and confusing while you were reading that, that's because it is.

Problem number one with the film is that it relies much too heavily on psychoanalysis as a plot device.  It's incredibly talky and the attempts at creating suspense are all done via Freudian dialog which just doesn't work.  The mysteries are solved by analyzing "Edwardes'" thoughts, not by uncovering physical clues, and it all just reeked of baloney to me.  Granted, I really despised my psychology classes in college so maybe it's just a bias on my part towards the entire concept of the film.

Still, it doesn't help that both Peck and Bergman are as about as exciting as watching paint dry.  Hitch, combined with a lukewarm script, can't cull anything out of these two.  All of the secondary characters are ridiculous caricatures as well. 

And it's not just the script and the actors that are a problem either.  The musical score by Miklós Rósza is painfully overbearing (how it won the Academy Award that year is beyond comprehension).  I rarely comment on scores unless they're excellent or awful and this one certainly falls into the latter category.

Spellbound is one of those movies that people who don't like old films can point to and say "See how corny and overwrought everything is from the music to the acting to the dialog?  How could you possibly like watching black-and-white films?"  Spellbound truly is full of every old-school film cliché. The only thing saving this from an 'F' is that I usually reserve that for films that are overtly offensive to me and while this doesn't quite hit that level (a Salvador Dali-inspired dream sequence is at least a little unique), it fails pretty miserably.

The RyMickey Rating:  D-

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