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Spellbound

Released Oct 31, 1945 1h 51m Mystery & Thriller List
86% Tomatometer 42 Reviews 82% Audience Score 10,000+ Ratings When Dr. Anthony Edwardes (Gregory Peck) arrives at a Vermont mental hospital to replace the outgoing hospital director, Dr. Constance Peterson (Ingrid Bergman), a psychoanalyst, discovers Edwardes is actually an impostor. The man confesses that the real Dr. Edwardes is dead and fears he may have killed him, but cannot recall anything. Dr. Peterson, however is convinced his impostor is innocent of the man's murder, and joins him on a quest to unravel his amnesia through psychoanalysis. Read More Read Less
Spellbound

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Critics Consensus

Spellbound's exploration of the subconscious could have benefitted from more analysis, but Alfred Hitchcock's psychedelic flourishes elevate this heady thriller along with Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck's star power.

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Critics Reviews

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Marjory Adams Boston Globe A fascinating, grim, exciting motion picture, based on the currently popular interest in psychiatry, and illustrating a new method of crime detection. It is a "whodunit" (the current name for mystery dramas) raised to a de luxe intellectual plane. Dec 31, 2020 Full Review Dave Kehr Chicago Reader ...beneath the facile trappings there is an intriguing Hitchcockian study of role reversal, with doctors and patients, men and women, mothers and sons inverting their assigned relationships with compelling, subversive results. Oct 5, 2019 Full Review Jake Wilson The Age (Australia) Today this seems above all a forward-thinking portrait of a woman battling for authority in a man's world. Sep 27, 2018 Full Review Josh Larsen LarsenOnFilm Memorable for its stylistic flourishes... Rated: 2.5/4 Aug 16, 2023 Full Review Fannie Hurst Modern Screen The unwary spectator who finds himself relaxed in the restful darkness of a motion picture theater, is going to be let in for shock. Jun 15, 2023 Full Review Mike Massie Gone With The Twins Bergman and Peck are sensationally convincing as unlikely romancers in a feverish setting. Rated: 7/10 Aug 15, 2020 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

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Matthew B Spellbound was one of the first Hollywood movies in which psychoanalysis played a significant part. It includes such familiar tropes as dream analysis, a love/hate relationship between therapist and client, and a solution brought about by bringing unconscious thoughts into the consciousness of the patient. Nonetheless I can never quite make up my mind whether the movie is intended to promote the efficacy of psychoanalysis, as would appear to be the case at first glance, or whether the story is actually more sceptical about the ability of therapy to find all our answers. Given Alfred Hitchcock's detached and cynical humour, I am not sure if his portrayal of psychiatry is respectful, or if there is a secret dismissive amusement in his approach to the subject. Let us consider the argument for the defence. The film was certainly intended to be seen as a paean to the power of psychoanalysis. The famous producer David O Selznick wanted Hitchcock to make a movie based on his own therapy. Selznick enlisted one of the best scriptwriters of the age, Ben Hecht, who consulted psychoanalysts when writing the screenplay. Selznick brought in an actual therapist, May Romm, to act as adviser on the set. It is clear that the film expresses some degree of respect for the processes of psychiatry. The opening words on the screen before the action begins are in praise of the work of therapy. Many genuine concepts from psychiatry are thrown into the story. The solution to the murder mystery is not uncovered by a police detective, but by a psychoanalyst, Dr Constance Petersen (Ingrid Bergman). Constance gets to the truth, not by analysing evidence at the scene of the crime, but by analysing the dreams of her patient and lover, an amnesiac whose name is eventually revealed to be John Ballantyne (Gregory Peck). Given the prevalence of women in this field of study, this leads to an interesting reversal in the traditional gender roles for a movie. Ballantyne is the damsel in distress who needs to be saved by a stronger female character. Still how far did Hitchcock subscribe to these half-baked notions about the wonderful all-healing power of psychoanalysis? (I should say here that I have every respect for psychoanalysis and therapy. They can achieve wonderful things. However they are not the cure-all that this film sometimes implies.) Hitchcock was, I suspect, less on board with the idea than some of the people involved in making Spellbound. He was never a lover of Selznick anyway, and his 1940s films were made under duress, with unwelcome interventions by this controlling producer. Hitchcock dismissed Spellbound as, "just another manhunt wrapped in pseudo-psychoanalysis". As for the help of May Romm, the director clashed with the experienced practitioner on a number of occasions. He famously replied to one of her suggestions with the words, "My dear, it's only a movie". Hitchcock wanted to make an entertaining thriller first, and a Freudian examination of the mind second. However I cannot help feeling that Hitchcock goes further than simply reducing Selznick's beloved psychoanalytic content to the level of a mere thriller. While purporting to advocate the benefits of psychiatry, Spellbound also serves to ironically undermine it too. Now it is time to present the case for the prosecution. Perhaps the most notable aspect in the portrayal of the medical staff who work at Green Manors is that many of them seem as if they are in need of treatment themselves. The staff are spiteful and inquisitive, using their skills of deduction to gossip about one another. The retiring head of Green Manors, Dr Murchison (Leo G Carroll) has been forced to give up his position after an illness that seems to have been caused by stress. However the film's main focus is on Dr Constance Petersen and her relationship with the new director of the hospital, Dr Anthony Edwardes (Peck). Constance seems competent enough at her job, but her carelessness around patients caused my eyebrows to raise a few times. She opens letters with a sharp knife while talking to a man who thinks he is a murderer. Her supposedly superior manner antagonises another female patient. Of course projecting onto a doctor is normal in psychotherapy, but there is something cold and aloof about Constance. Much of the action in Spellbound is set around snowy landscapes that seem to reflect her frigidity, as well as the sense that something is buried beneath the surface waiting to thaw out. This applies to Constance, and also to the secrets that she will uncover. It is obvious that this self-enclosed woman is instantly attracted to her new Director, and it is not long before they are kissing. As they kiss, we cut to an image of doors opening by themselves on a corridor. The image is so obviously vaginal that I cannot help feeling that Hitchcock is enjoying a little joke here. At any rate, we can have no doubt that this repressed woman is fully opening up to him. The new Director has a peculiar aversion to the sight of tracks on white surfaces. He seems uncertain of the contents of a book that he has written. When asked to operate surgically on a patient (do psychoanalysts do that?), he is unable to carry out the work. However it is only when Constance compares the Director's handwriting to that in her signed copy of his book that she realises he is someone else. The mysterious pretender flees from Green Manors, and there is a suspicion that he is an amnesiac patient who may have murdered the real Dr Edwardes. Edwardes seems to have had a peculiar habit of engaging in unsupervised activities with his paranoid patients, including skiing. Once more the judgement and rationality of a therapist is called into doubt. I would not go so far as to call Spellbound a satire against psychoanalysis. In a way the film does extol the virtues of its subject matter. I would say rather that Hitchcock does not take the field of study quite as seriously as producer David O Selznick or writer Ben Hecht did. He is amused by the shortcomings of psychoanalysis and seeks to show them up, but mostly the issue is merely as a helpful device to move the plot along. Perhaps the film's most famous scene is the dream sequence that was designed by Salvador Dali. Some viewers find this disappointing, and this may be because Dali's original scene lasted for 20 minutes. As the film is already fairly long, this was cut to a more commercial two minutes in length. Sadly the edited footage is lost. What is left is impressive – a bizarre montage showing a man cutting eyes on curtains with scissors (recalling Un Chien Andalou), a faceless man holding a distorted wheel, and a giant shadow chasing our hero. All these elements have a symbolic meaning within the context of the story. I doubt they accurately reflect Freudian dream analysis, as they are a little too precise, but the scene certainly enhances the film. Hitchcock went on to make better films, but Spellbound would be a memorable film for any director, and, allowing for a number of talky scenes, it is a hugely entertaining thriller. I wrote a longer appreciation of Spellbound on my blog page if you would like to read more: https://themoviescreenscene.wordpress.com/2019/11/28/spellbound-1945/ Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 09/18/23 Full Review Pragya Kirti R " There's happiness in working hard, maybe the most! " Hitchcock made every frame with such delicate perfection that it felt like poetry wrapped in psychoanalytic study. In a way it's the study of psyche and passion that are intertwined with each other in darkly lost path. The music and the score is really haunting and thrillingly powerful. The dreamy scene designed by Dali is one of the most artistic and surreal pieces of imaginary scenes I've ever seen. Cinematography is brilliant so are practical and visual effects, one of the best of 40s. It's really hard to digest that this piece of cinema is so underrated despite being great in so many ways. Hitchcock is really the master of thriller and mystery, he directed every scene with a sense of delusion as to make viewer feel closer towards to the leads and confuse himself just like the JB, the accused character. Such illustrious direction done by Mr. Alfred Hitchcock. And the lead characters themselves, Bergman and Peck gave such a brilliant performance especially Bergman. I fell in love with her after this film, She's so dreamy OMG. That's what I call being spellbound. They handled the whole (well written and executed) screenplay and story with so much ease and without them it's like a body without a soul. And the performance that attracted me the most was by Michael Chekhov, He's so convincing as giant Psychoanalyst. Too adorable I guess. One of my fav films of Hitchcock for sure ❤️✨ Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 04/07/23 Full Review Dick C It's an excellent film, Spellbound, 1945 by Sir Alfred Hitchcock...as usual based on a novel, The House of Dr. Edwardes by Hilary Saint George Saunders and Francis Beeding...and fantastic adaption for screen, Ben Hecht and Angus MacPhail... My credits also go to the charming as well as acting performance of a Swedish Ingrid Bergman... Rated 5 out of 5 stars 03/01/23 Full Review georgan g Great fun to figure out whodunit! While unbelievable that the mystery could be solved the way it was, the actors/stars make it work. Hitchcock film angles add to the fascination of this work. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Ed M Ingrid Bergman is awesome but this movie isn't great. Overwrought, melodramatic. Not Hitchcock's best. Rated 2 out of 5 stars 11/11/21 Full Review Audience Member In the amazing list "Hollywood Giallo (+ its others)," IMDB user Schwenkstar says of this movie, "The razor blade, the repressed memories, the amnesia, the mistaken identities, the Freudian subtext, the surreal dream sequences, the fixation on eyes and the hooded figure all prefigure giallo films." Based on The House of Dr. Edwardes by Hilary Saint George Saunders and John Palmer, Spellbound finds Dr. Constance Peterse (Ingrid Bergman) working as a psychoanalyst at Green Manors, a mental health facility in Vermont. The rest of the staff whisper that she's an ice queen, but she's instantly all hot and bothered by the arrival of the new director Dr. Anthony Edwardes (Gregory Peck). Yet all is not well. Edwardes has a strange fear of parallel lines against a white background and his signature doesn't match up to his published books. He confides in her that he's killed Edwardes and has taken over his identity; she doesn't believe him and works to save him. Man, women were seeing unredeemable men as projects as far back as 1945. The rest of the world believes Edwardes/John Ballantyne to be a murderer, but Dr. Peterse keeps believing in her man, even when he's arrested, tried and convicted of murder. Do memories lie? Can they be implanted? And can Gregory Peck really be a murderer? Director Alfred Hitchcock made this movie for producer David O. Selznick, one of three films he made for him before creative conflicts got in the way (the other two are Rebecca and The Paradine Case. Selznick asked Hitchcock to make a film based upon his positive experience with psychoanalysis and that inspired the movie Selznick brought in his own therapist, May Romm, MD, to serve as the technical advisor on the production, which basically meant arguing with Hitchcock. What led to even further fights between director and producer was the dream sequence. Hitchcock had hired Salvador Dalí to conceive and design that segment, but it was too long — twenty minutes! — for Selznick and only two minutes — which were directed by William Cameron Menzies — are in the movie. Whatever ended up on the cutting room floor is lost forever. Hitchcock explained to François Truffaut, "Dalí had some strange ideas; he wanted a statue to crack like a shell falling apart, with ants crawling all over it, and underneath, there would be Ingrid Bergman, covered by the ants! It just wasn't possible." However, he did add that only Dali could make a true dream sequence possible: "What I was after was the vividness of dreams. As you know, all Dalí's work is very solid, very sharp, with very long perspectives, black shadows. This was again the avoidance of the cliché: all dreams in movies are blurred. It isn't true—Dalí was the best man to do the dreams because that's what dreams should be." Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 02/06/23 Full Review Read all reviews
Spellbound

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Movie Info

Synopsis When Dr. Anthony Edwardes (Gregory Peck) arrives at a Vermont mental hospital to replace the outgoing hospital director, Dr. Constance Peterson (Ingrid Bergman), a psychoanalyst, discovers Edwardes is actually an impostor. The man confesses that the real Dr. Edwardes is dead and fears he may have killed him, but cannot recall anything. Dr. Peterson, however is convinced his impostor is innocent of the man's murder, and joins him on a quest to unravel his amnesia through psychoanalysis.
Director
Alfred Hitchcock
Producer
David O. Selznick
Screenwriter
Frances Beeding, Angus MacPhail, Ben Hecht
Distributor
United Artists, Criterion Collection
Production Co
Selznick International Pictures, Vanguard Films Production
Genre
Mystery & Thriller
Original Language
English
Release Date (Theaters)
Oct 31, 1945, Original
Release Date (DVD)
Aug 3, 2004
Runtime
1h 51m
Sound Mix
Mono
Aspect Ratio
Flat (1.37:1), 35mm