Sunday, June 29, 2008

This Month on TCM: "Spellbound" (1945)

Tomorrow, TCM will be showing Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound. Although not up to par with Hitchcock's greatest films, Spellbound nonetheless was nominated for more Oscars than any of his films outside of Rebecca— six in total, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won for Miklos Rozsa's score.

Spellbound concerns a woman psychiatrist's attempts to cure a potentially dangerous amnesiac for whom she has fallen in love. The emphasis is on psychoanalysis and as a result there is a lot of talk. Despite its talkiness and the fact that its often over-the-top, Spellbound is oddly watchable. In many ways, particularly with the knowledge of the Selznick publicity machine, its multiple Oscar nominations aren't that unfathomable.

The film is atypical Hitchcock, particularly for his later films, because the plot is mainly mystery-in-lieu-of-suspense. Basically, we're holding out until the end to find out what is causing Gregory Peck's John Ballantine to suffer so.

This is one of Gregory Peck's earliest roles and therefore falls within the period in which he was considered a stiff, uninteresting actor. Time and memories of Atticus Finch make his early parts more palatable. And in this one, his character is suffering from memory loss and dizzy spells, so anything works. Ingrid Bergman is at her most beautiful, but you can’t ignore that the love story is absurdly abrupt (unexcused by the acknowledgement of this fact in dialogue).

This is a lush, very “Hollywood” production, punctuated by a fascinating, if all-too-brief Salvador Dali dream sequence.

Spellbound (1945): Oddball Hitchcock film has a lot of talk but remains entertaining as Hollywood gloss, with a striking centerpiece of a Salvador Dali dream sequence.

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