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The Criterion Collection presents
Spellbound (1945)

"We both know that the mind of a woman in love is operating at the lowest levels of the intellect."
- Dr. Alex Brulov (Michael Chekhov)

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: September 29, 2002

Stars: Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Michael Chekhov, Leo G. Carroll
Other Stars: Rhonda Fleming, John Emery, Norman Lloyd, Bill Goodwin, Steven Geray, Donald Curtis, Wallace Ford, Art Baker, Regis Toomey, Paul Harvey
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Manufacturer: American Zoetrope
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, disturbing imagery)
Run Time: 01h:58m:10s
Release Date: September 24, 2002
UPC: 715515012621
Genre: suspense thriller


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ A-A+A- A+

DVD Review

Several of Hitchcock's thrillers use psychoanalysis as a springboard for the story, such as Marnie. This fascination seems to be traceable to Spellbound, where producer David O. Selznick suggested doing a picture on analysis, after a year of Freudian therapy helped him out of creative doldrums. Hitchcock was never one to do things halfway, and the resultant picture not only uses the couch as its basis but gives it a few gentle jabs to boot, insinuating that whatever merit there may be in psychanalysis, there is much about the psyche that isn't covered by Freud.

Constance Petersen (Ingrid Bergman) is a psychiatrist at Green Manors, a mental institution. The new director, Dr. Edwardes (Gregory Peck), author of Labyrinth of the Guilt Complex, arrives, and soon the two of them fall in love. But before long, Dr. Petersen sees some disturbing hints that this may not actually be Dr. Edwardes at all....and if he isn't, where is Dr. Edwardes, and who exactly is this?

Bergman's Petersen is a bookish, inexperienced doctor first, and a woman last. However, Peck (looking for all the world like Norman Bates) quickly melts that façade. She soon turns to desperation as her beloved finds himself the focus of a manhunt; this doesn't seem to affect her devotion at all, and she takes a number of steps that most would consider dubious. However, with her dramatic passion Bergman manages to smooth over a number of major questions with the plot. She's aided by a lushly romantic score by Miklos Rosza that pulls one in despite eye-rolling at the hokum (recurrent door-opening imagery being the most prominent). Peck is quite stiff as the amnesiac, and really doesn't distinguish himself, despite having opportunities to do so with the guilt complex theme. Somehow he just doesn't come off credibly wracked with guilt here. Leo G. Carroll, as the outgoing institution head, is delightfully arch and seizes the screen whenever he's on it.

Hitchcock is in fine form here, with several extended suspense sequences that are unnerving, with vivid use of the camera to direct the viewer and manipulate the emotions. Particularly notable is the focus of the camera on a note Peck has slipped under Dr. Petersen's door, as it's stepped on and kicked about by the investigating police, oblivious to its presence.

The picture is perhaps best known for the participation of Salvador Dali in a weird dream sequence. A number of trademark Dali touches are evident (tables with human legs, melting wheels), although it passes almost too quickly. In true Freudian fashion, the dream contains a multitude of clues to what's going on, and is ultimately the key to the mystery. Yet there are quite a few moments and actions (believable or not) that are inexplicable in Freudian terms; as Peck's character observes, sometimes Freud is "hooey." That may be, but Hitchcock uses it as a convenient hook to take us on an entertaining ride.

We understand that certain Toshiba players are having difficulty with this disc; that's a shame but hopefully a workaround or a corrected disc will soon be available.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The full-frame picture looks simply marvelous. Blacks are rich, there is a wealth of grayscale, fine detail is superb and I observed no artifacting whatsoever. The print has been cleaned up to the point where there's hardly a speckle remaining; there's absolutely no significant frame damage visible. Yet unlike many digital restorations, this transfer preserves the grain structure and the filmlike appearance of the picture. This is absolutely first-rate all the way. The red frames in the climax (missing from the first pressing of Anchor Bay's version of the film) are intact here.

Image Transfer Grade: A+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes
DS 2.0no


Audio Transfer Review: The original mono is presented in 1.0. Dialogue has a slightly distorted sound, which appears to be an artifact of the original audio track; it has a slight tinniness to it that probably is unavoidable. However, hiss and noise are practically nonexistent. The music has decent range and fullness, with a bit of brightness in the strings. There's really little to complain about, however, since it's unlikely that this could ever sound better. The transfer gets extra points for restoring the Overture and Exit Music, which were used only at a few performances and have never before appeared on home video.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Hitchcock scholar Marian Keane
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:42m:43s

Extra Extras:
  1. Audio interview with Miklos Rosza
  2. 1948 Lux Radio Theatre adaptation
  3. Radio piece on the theremin
  4. Production correspondence library
  5. Still gallery
Extras Review: This is one incredibly loaded disc. We start off with a well-illustrated booklet that contains two substantial text essays by Hitchcock scholars. A full-length commentary by Marian Keane (which runs for the full duration of the overture and exit music as well as the feature) is crammed with an incredible amount of information, as she dissects Hitchcock's framing and camera work shot by shot, while still filling in the troubled history of the production. The only shortcoming is that Keane's delivery is a bit monotonous, as if she's reading, and the end result can be a bit overpowering.

A lengthy video-text-still essay discusses the dream sequence in detail, with Dali's sketches and paintings included amongst discussion of exactly how certain effects were achieved. This documentary is extremely well done and a highlight of the disc. A first-rate still gallery with hundreds of shots, all properly identified and windowboxed, provides a look behind the scenes. Text supplements feature a comparison of the original novel and the many versions of the script; amazingly enough the original included black magic and human sacrifice, nothing of which survives in the picture!

A 28m:22s audio interview with Miklos Rosza touches on how he was retained to produce the score and what it was like working with Hitchcock and Selznick. He also discusses the heavy and influential use of the theremin. An NPR program on the theremin supplements this further, and a list of books and websites with further information on this amazing instrument are provided for those interested in more.

As if that's not enough, there's a 1948 Lux Radio Theatre broadcast version of the film, starring Alida Valli in the Bergman role and Joseph Cotten taking Peck's part. This is a briskly paced little affair that manages to capture the flavor of the original in less than half the time, complete with entertaining commercials for Universal films and of course, Lux dish soap. Finally, a trailer, which appears to be from the original release, is included. What more could be stuffed onto a single disc, I can't imagine.

Extras Grade: A+

 

Final Comments

A classic from the Master of Suspense, in a beautiful transfer and with a ton of extras to boot. An amazing disc that belongs in every collection.

 


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