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Updated: Feb 28

Alfred Hitchcock's 1945 mystery SPELLBOUND was a major box office hit at the time and was nominated for 6 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Director.

Later in life, most famously in his long interviews with Francois Truffaut, Hitch dismissed the film as an "overly complicated whodunit with far too many 11th hour explanations".

Watching it nearly 80 years after its release, I have to say that he's spot on with his criticism.

The reliably stunning Ingrid Bergman (Casablanca, Gaslight) stars as Dr. Constance Petersen, a psychiatrist at Green Manors mental asylum. She is on the forefront of psychoanalysis, which was so new in the 40's for the masses that the film starts with a minute of titles explaining its practicality. Of course, words like "asylum" have been long replaced by words like "clinic".

The facility's current director, Dr. Murchison (Leo G. Carroll from "The Man From Uncle") is being forced out for a new, younger head doctor, Anthony Edwardes, famed for his new breakthroughs of the mind.

When that doctor arrives in the persona of a very young Gregory Peck (The Omen, The Guns of Navarone), he just seems a little bit off. When his signature doesn't seem to match other documents and he succumbs to fainting spells, it's quickly revealed that he isn't the new doctor at all.

But that early reveal happens after he and Constance seem to fall in love faster than a couple in a modern reality dating show. He confides in her that he can't remember who he is.

John (Peck) is off to New York City and Constance follows him. But can she discover who he really is before the police catch up to them? And what happened to the real doctor, did John kill him?

The film has some fun moments and some visually compelling ones as well. Hitchcock stages John's memories in a wild dream sequence designed by famed artist Salvidor Dali. As a huge fan of the artist, Hitchcock felt that no one could create sets that communicate dreams better than Dali. They are, without a doubt, very cool. The Dali dream sequence was shot originally to run twenty minutes!!! It's only two minutes long in the final film.

This was Peck's fourth film and he definitely improved as an actor as he aged. He seems a bit forced here. Every emotion is BIG and he seems botoxed into one expression. I would say that was typical of the films of the 1940's, but Bergman's performance against him is much more realistic. Their romance happens so fast it's kind of startling. I guess with Miklos Rozsa's score featuring countless violins soaring every time they're on screen together, they didnt have a choice. He also uses a theremin for one of the first times in a film score, casting an otherwordly quality to the sound every time John slips into a dream. Rozsa (Time After Time, Eye of the Needle, Ben Hur) won an Oscar for his music.

Even Hitchcock that hasn't aged well is better than the majority of films of any era, so SPELLBOUND still gets diagnosed with a B- out of respect, but for me, it pales compared to the Master of Suspense's many legendary films.

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