DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD IN SAYING EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
SPELLBOUND (director: Alfred Hitchcock; screenwriters: Ben Hecht/from the story "The House of Dr. Edwardes" by Francis Beeding; cinematographer: George Barnes; editor: William Ziegler; cast: Ingrid Bergman (Dr. Constance Peterson), Gregory Peck (John Ballantine), Leo G. Carroll (Dr. Murchison), John Emery (Dr. Fleurot), Wallace Ford (Hotel Stranger), Bill Goodwin (Hotel Detective),  Rhonda Fleming (Mary Carmichael), Michael Chekhov (Dr. Alex Brulov), Alfred Hitchcock (Man Carrying Violin); Runtime: 111; United Artists; 1945)

 
"A syrupy serving of Freudian analysis."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A syrupy serving of Freudian analysis that looks tempting but tastes of too much superego, id, and subconscious jive to be taken seriously. It's Hollywood's version about what psychoanalysis is all about, which is making the analyst a combination of a savior and parental figure who can magically unlock the secrets of the mentally ill by offering them love and concern on a couch. This is the first major film about that subject, and its sincere presentation to show it in its best light is often awkward and seems quite outdated when viewed today. Hitchcock throws in a murder mystery that works a little better than all the mumbo jumbo Psych 1 lingo.

Dr. Constance Peterson (Ingrid Bergman) is a brilliant but dogmatic, unfeeling, over-analytical psychoanalyst, in a mental institution located in rural Rutland, Vermont, who upsets her male colleagues by not returning their sexual advances. Her new boss, Dr. Edwardes (Peck), immediately attracts her and they fall in love to the consternation of her former pursuers who thought she was frigid.

It turns out that Dr. Edwardes is an impostor and an amnesiac, who has taken the place of  the missing doctor. Just before he's discovered he slips a note under her door and flees to a NYC hotel to try and figure out the cause of his dizzy spells and who he is, and how he got to become Dr. Edwardes-- the shrink who was scheduled to replace the hospital's twenty year veteran, Dr. Murchison (Leo G. Carroll).

Constance runs to NYC after the possibly dangerous man, whose sanity is under question, and when found takes him to Rochester to meet her elderly mentor, the wise psychoanalyst, Dr. Alex Brulov (Chekhov). He gets the amnesiac to relate to him a dream, one that was artfully designed by Salvador Dali (the highlight of the film). It then becomes a murder mystery tale as the amnesiac through Constance's loving help unlocks her lover's past secret and enables him to visualize where Dr. Edwardes is buried in the snow and how they met for lunch in the presence of Dr. Murchison. But when the police find the dead man, they discover he's been killed by a bullet and charge the Gregory Peck character with murder. To the rescue comes Constance, who does her analyst thing and figures out who the real murderer is. As she told Brulov, she could never love a murderer and therefore the way is clear for her to marry Peck.

It's a heavy-handed film that is earnestly played by the stars, but has no resonance. It was one of the master's weaker films, yet it's still worth seeing because there are many imaginative Hitchcock touches throughout.

The script was written by Ben Hecht, who obviously didn't have much of a feel for the subject-matter. His idea of psychiatry is limited to having the practitioner sweet talking the patient to spill his guts out and miraculously coming up with the cure to all his problems. Ingrid and Peck do their best to work through the stale lines they are forced to say, though they never make their characters believable despite their best thespian efforts. This film is really spellbound.

REVIEWED ON 9/28/2001     GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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