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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Spellbound

Starring: Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Rated: NR
RunTime: 111 Minutes
Release Date: December 1945
Genres: Classic, Drama, Mystery, Suspense

*Also starring: Jean Acker, Donald Curtis, Rhonda Fleming, John Emery, Leo G. Carroll, Norman Lloyd, Wallace Ford, Bill Goodwin, Regis Toomey

Review by Brian Koller
2½ stars out of 4

"Spellbound" is a slightly disappointing entry from the production and direction team of Selznick and Hitchcock. There's romance, psycho-babble and an entertaining dream sequence, but character motivation and plot development are not convincing.

The plot has an eminent young doctor (Gregory Peck) arriving to a pyschiatric institute as its new director. He promptly has a romance with lovely doctor Ingrid Bergman. Peck begins acting strangely, and is revealed to be an amnesiac impostor, and murder suspect. Peck and Bergman flee to old timer psychiatrist (Michael Chekhov), who studies Peck's dreams. Peck is cured, but there is still the matter of the murder.

Peck does as well as he can given his character. Sometimes he acts normal, then suddenly freaks out when he sees black lines on a white background. He can also be threatening, testy, or catatonic, and has amnesia and a "guilt complex" to boot. It is frustrating to find some consistency to his character, or the motivation for frigid Bergman to fall suddenly for him to the extent of ruining her career.

More quibbles: one scene has the pychiatric doctors performing surgery. I am no medical expert, but aren't these separate fields? Another scene has Peck able to recall a dream with considerable detail, with Bergman and Chekhov instantly able to surmise the significance of each detail. Later, Peck is suddenly able to determine the cause of his guilt complex and recovers completely from his amnesia at the same moment. Peck is jailed and tried for murder, but this is depicted as a few Bergman speeches.

I am no psychiatrist, but it seems simplistic to me that a disturbed person is just a supressed memory away from being normal. Most people who have psychological problems (eating, drinking, smoking, gambling, spending, relationships, whatever) are aware of their problems but simply lack the willpower or discipline to change their behavior. Whoops, time to get off the soapbox!

Hitchcock movies often have terrific music, but this one seems to borrow from both "Gone With the Wind" and "The Lost Weekend" The latter is understandable since Miklos Rozsa did that score as well. He also did the score for "A Song to Remember", and was nominated for 1945 Academy Awards for Best Score for all three films!

Looking for the positive, Bergman is lovely and capable, Chekhov is well cast, and the script and story moves things along nicely. But the dubious pychiatry, and problems with Peck's character and plot resolution keep the film from being particularly good.

Copyright 1997 Brian Koller

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