6 days to go: Spellbound (April, 2)

Hitchcock has been a hit in this addendum. It is curious how works our moods, and mine has been asking for witty plots and masterful images. So, it is not surprising that  Alfred be a frequent presence here.

I must say, though, that I have contradictory feelings about Spellbound, a Hitchcock huge box office success, produced in a big style by David O. Selznick - it is rare to see the producer's "logo" before the opening titles in movies of the time. The choice for an overture and exit song was peculiar - I imagine the atmosphere it would create in a theater.

I was mistaken about Selznick's interference in here. I thought it was purely commercial, responsible for the least attractive features on it. Reading the trivia on imdb.com, I could see how deep his involvement was, at a point that Hitchcock himself reminded the producer that it was "just a movie". The best thing in Spellbound, the main attraction, is the psychoanalytic approach - there's an explanation about what it is in the beginning. Many Hitchcock's plots are so good exactly for approaching the hidden reasons on the characters psyche, or going deeper on the "reasons why" beyond their crimes. We see that specially in Psycho and Rope, as an example. Well, every respectable mystery story has this approach, going beyond the external reasons for committing a crime. And Hitchcock is a genius in both fronts: filming and story. There are incredibly creative shots in this movie and good views about psychoanalysis and some of its main features. At the beginning, a subtitle explains that: "The analyst seeks only to induce the patient to talk about his hidden problems to open the locked doors of his mind." The guilt complex and interpretation of dreams are big hits in this story.

The issue is taken so seriously, as always in Hitchcock's movies, that the dream scene was designed by Salvador Dali, the artist he considered a master in dream imaginary. This film brings so many imaginative elements, it was one of the first Hollywood productions to revolve around psychoanalysis. Even so, Hitchcock would refer to it as "just another manhunt wrapped up in pseudo-psychoanalysis". I think it is so much more, but who am I to disagree???

What really, really bothered me here were the horrible facial expressions conjured by Gregory Peck. He looked like an imbecile, not as a deeply disturbed man. Peck said that was impossible for him to make all the expressions required by Hitchcock. Well,I don't know what the director asked from him, but I'm not afraid to say that Peck didn't get even close to a resemblance of what was required of him. It is painful to say that, when we talking about Gregory Peck.

The dream sequence by Dali
It is amazing this take on interpreting dreams...

The over dramatic romance between the two main characters was a bit too much also. OK, there's here a good debate around the capability of a women to work on a mostly men's environment - Celeste is the sole psychoanalyst at the clinic where she works. The notion that a woman in love is weak is other misconception that Hitchcock attacks here, despite doing it among the sexist ideas of his time, from which he not always can let aside. But he tries, with strong, determined, wise women as protagonists. It was only a matter of casting a better counterpart (in this case, at least).

Anyway, this movie kept me in front of the TV until the end, despite the late hour and me being tired and sleepy. It is a favorable testimony to a mystery movie, I think (Peck's bad acting is still haunting me, though).

Spellbound. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Cast: Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck,
Michael Chekhov. Writers: Ben Hecht, sugested by the novel "The House of Dr.
Ewardes", by Frances Beeding, adapted by Angus MacPhail. USA, 1946, Mono,
Color/Black and White, 118 min.  

PS: Ben Hecht was the recipient of the Oscar for Best Original Story in the first Academy Awards in 1929 for Underwold.

PPS: Selznick International Pictures was an independent movie studio created by David O. Selznick. Despite its short existence, as put in Wikipedia, it was influential in producing many box office's hits as Spellbound and Gone With the Wind (How I cried when I saw this last one on TV for the first time at the age of 14... my whole family was laughing at me). I imagine it wasn't easy to be independent in the era of the big Hollywood studios, as MGM, that had a massive line of production.

PPPS: Pan, my beloved friend and sister, just told me that some of the pictures for the dream sequence are on the Museo del Prado (Madrid, Spain).


  1. Oh okay, so here I find myself, once again, hearing about another very intriguing Hitchcock film thanks to you. I guess I will put myself through possibly hating Gregory Peck's bad facial expressions only because this sounds like such an interesting flick, especially when you mention Dali's part-taking in it. Can't wait. It's going straight to the top few movies on my watch list :D

    [ j ]

    1. I'll wait for your thoughts on it! It is interesting for sure. I hope you like it and will be not to annoyed by Peck's lousy acting (in here, because he was great actually).