Spellbound

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SPELLBOUND  was a big hit in its day, paving the way for a slew of psychological suspensers, making much use in its script of the new-fangled jargon from the emerging field of psychiatry.  As a result, it’s pretty campy today.

Gregory Peck plays an amnesiac who poses as the new head of staff at a mental hospital. He’s uncovered, then he’s implicated as a possible murderer. Ingrid Bergman is the clinically detached shrink-whiz whose posture is thawed by contact with the handsome young case.spellboundMacGuffin_18jul2009

Much of your interest might lag about halfway through its 111 minutes, when it seems as though the slowly paced story may go on all night, and the end result is more of ‘now-I’ve-seen-it’ than ‘glad-I-caught it’.  Some amusing supporting work comes from Michael Chekhov, playing the venerable Viennese doctor (later lampooned by Howard Morris in Mel Brooks’ High Anxiety).

spellbound_gunIt’s the directorial touch of Alfred Hitchcock that keeps the hook in, complete with bizarre Salvador Dali dream scenes.  Miklos Rozsa’s weird music broke ground for composers in illustrating the ebb and flow of minds in maelstrom.  Essential for fans of the director, even though the dated screenplay keeps it lower down on the list of his vehicles.

With Leo G. Carroll, John Emery, Wallace Ford, Rhonda Fleming (her first billed role, at 22), Regis Toomey.  Coming out at the end of 1945, it amassed a gross of $7,775,000 and won Rozsa an Oscar for his score and was nominated for Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (Chekhov), Cinematography and Special Effects. Peck & Bergman were ‘involved’ during the production; Hitchcock fell out with producer David O. Selznick (a common occurrence); the famous Dali dream sequence, which last two minutes in the film, was originally a 20-minute swirl.  Rozsa’s music had another blessing—it inspired 16-year old Jerry Goldsmith to become a film conductor.

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