Combining Hitch's fascination with Freudian symbolism, desire to work with Salvador Dali and writer Ben Hecht, "Spellbound" manages to be very entertaining even if it is a flawed Hitchcock classic. Compromise started with casting with Hitch forced to take Gregory Peck for the lead opposite his choice Ingrid Bergman. Peck does a nice job even if he is a bit stiff in the role of Dr. Edwardes--only he isn't Edwardes at all. It turns out that "John" suffers from amnesia and must rely on Dr. Constance Peterson (Berman) to discover who he is and what happened to the real Dr. Edwardes.
End of Spoilers
Blu-Ray Transfer: "Spellbound" will leave fans of the film, well, spellbound. The film receives a handsome transfer. How does this compare to the Criterion? "Spellbound" looks sleeker in a good way with nice, consistent grain (for the most part) with the only major flaw I could detect some over use of edge enhancement (resulting in some intrusive haloing). Could this look better? Probably--the use of edge enhancement was unnecessarily heavy handed but, on the whole, it bests just about every DVD presentation I've seen of the movie.
Bear in my that the bigger your screen, the higher resolution your monitor and the more noticeable the improved resolution/depth will be. It isn't a huge difference but it IS there (depth though is noticeable different on both small and large screens).
"Spellbound" had a very troubled production from conflicts between Hitchcock and Selznick's consultant on the film, to butting heads over the dream sequence (which uses a lot of Dali's concepts but was actually redesigned by William Cameron Menzies at Selznick's request)which was heavily edited for the film. Selznick had a heavier hand in this Hitchcock production compared to other films from the period (with the exception of "Rebecca" which Hitchcock always stated wasn't a "Hitchcock picture" and "The Paradine Case" about which star Gregory Peck responded he'd love to see burned when asked if he could pick one film to be destroyed from his extensive filmography).
As usual when Hitch had a conflict or couldn't quite find an angle to the material he focused his attention on certain sequences such as the last shot of the film (which briefly uses an innovative moment of color in an otherwise black and white film) and the sequence where Bergman experiences her sexual awakening.
That isn't to say that this set doesn't have some flaws. For example the lack of a main menu is a bit annoying although not a deal breaker.
The special features are solid throughout.
We get a really good commentary track featuring Thomas Schatz and Charles Ramirez Berg both film historians with some interesting observations about the movie, it's production history and the issue that Selnick had with the dream sequence (and had the bulk of it cut unfortunately).
We also get a featurette on Dali and Hitch's collaboration as well as Selznick's discomfort with the dream sequence.
"Guilt By Association: Psychoanalyzing Spellbound" is a solid featurette highlighting the narrative hook of psychoanalysis and dream interpretation. Hitch was primarily interested in Freud only as a means to tell a story.
We get a unique presentation--Hitchcock directing the radio play of "Spellbound" featuring Joseph Cotten subbing for Peck.
We also get one of Peter Bogdanovich's Hitchcock interviews.
There's also a good featurette on co-star Rhonda Fleming as well as the theatrical trailer in standard definition.
Although it isn't a flawless classic "Spellbound" has enough of Hitch's set pieces to make this interesting and Bergman is, as always, beautiful. Hitchcock's "Spellbound" receives a nice transfer to Blu-ray courtesy of MGM and, while this isn't one of Hitch's best films, it has enough moments to make it worthwhile for Hitchcock fans.
Is this the ultimate edition on Blu-ray? It's hard to tell because MGM and the company they've hired for the restoration done here has done a fine job on the film. It's possible that Criterion or another studio could do some additional work that might make this edition obsolete but, for now, THIS is the best showing of the film even with the occasional bit of noise, edge enhancement and other minor imperfections in the transfer.
Recommended for Hitchcock fans.
on October 12, 2002
The video quality of Criterion's DVD version of SPELLBOUND discs look a bit sharper, more detailed, but grainier than Anchor Bay's re-pressed version from 2000 (in which the flash-of-red color shot was restored). The audio quality of Criterion's 1.0 mono soundtrack is also a little more detailed and more distinct than Anchor Bay's 2.0 mono track. The Anchor Bay disc also sounds much louder, but there are audio distortions in a few places. The soundtrack of the Criterion disc (and many DVDs) was recorded at a much lower volume level, which is usually an effort to retain as much as possible the dynamic range of the source material. The Criterion DVD booklet says the film's original overture and exit music has been included on the disc for the first time. This is simply not true, for the re-pressed Anchor Bay disc also has the overture and exit music. The initial pressing of the Anchor Bay disc, in which the red-color shot is erroneously shown in B&W, does not have the overture and exit music, however.
Although SPELLBOUND helped solidify Hitchcock's position in Hollywood, it isn't one of his best films. But Marian Keane's remarkable analytical audio commentary on the Criterion disc should heighten your appreciation of the film. Keane juxtaposes the themes in the film against the manner in which Hitchcock made his films and the manner in which we, the viewers, watch them, and suggests that they are somehow interrated. She points out that many Hitchcock films (including SPELLBOUND) are about people who take pleasure in watching and analyzing other people, which is also the very thing that we, the viewers, do when we watch such films. As in her commentary for the NOTORIOUS DVD, she injects an extra layer of significance within the film by refering to certain elements in the film as "surrogate authors," "scriptwriting sessions," and "director's assertion of his authorship." Keane single-mindedly concentrates on the interpretation, deconstruction, and theorization on the subject of Hitchcock, and the result is one of the most remarkable dissertations ever recorded on DVD. I give 4 stars to the film itself, but 5 to Keane.
I give 5 stars to the supplements on the Criterion disc as well, like I routinely do. There is a wonderful, rather detailed photo-essay segment on the making of the Dali sequence. Two film clips of the surrealist film UN CHIEN ANDALOU is included ! to show some earlier inspirations for the SPELLBOUND dream sequence. Memos from the filmmakers and production photos show how the dream sequence was re-shot several times due to logistic difficulties and artistic differences. There are also production photos of the deleted "ballroom" sub-sequence, in which Ingrid Bergman plays a statuesque figure bewildering Gregory Peck.
Other extras include about 150 production and publicity photos, a half-hour audio interview of the film's composer, a 7-minute radio program on the subject of theramin, a 1-hour radioplay version of SPELLBOUND, "story treatments" that show how the original novel was loosely adapted into a filmmable story, and other correspondences from psychoanalysts and Production Code officials who offered advices to the filmmakers. The booklet contains two very good essays; one is about the making of the film, while the other offers some artistic analyses (some of which echo Keane's comments).
on April 17, 2003
SPELLBOUND was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and produced by David O. Selznick in 1945. As the story unravels it is essentially a murder plot interwoven around psychiatrists and psychoanalysis. It is actually Alfred Hitchcock's approach to the story and his collaborations with composer Miklos Rozsa and surrealist artist Salvador Dali that highlights this film. Gregory Peck plays John "J.B." Ballantine who poses as a psychiatrist while in a state of amnesia. Uncovered by Dr. Constance Peterson played by Ingrid Bergman, Ballantine must find out if he is responsible for the death of the missing psychiatrist that he posed as and simultaneously discover his own identity. Miklos Rozsa's score is both romantic yet eerie as Ballantine tries to remember what happened through analysis of his dreams. Alfred Hitchcock hired Salvador Dali to design illustrations and paintings in order to construct a crisp and vivid rendering of these dreams. Hitchcock did not want to use conventional techniques such as blurred camera shots to recreate the dreams. He wanted them to be as clear and even sharper than the rest of the film. He wanted Dali's style of using shadows, lines of convergence and the idea of infinite distance incorporated into the dream sequences. In the dream sequence we see a black stage highlighted with people at gambling tables with huge mysterious looking eyes peering over them. A man cuts away at the fabric of one eye with a giant scissors revealing another eye. In another part of the dream we see a man standing on a roof behind a chimney that has sprouted roots. The hooded man holds what looks like a deformed or eccentric wagon wheel in his hand. In the distance there is a formation of rocks and boulders, which look like they are sprouting into the shape of a man's head. Another part of the dream shows a man running down a pitched geometric plane as the shadow of a bird follows him. In the background there are geometric shapes and lines that go off into infinity. All these images must be interpreted into experiences from reality. Dali's images are unsettling and thought provoking. Eventually, the eccentric wagon wheel turns out to represent the chambers of a revolver pistol and reveals the true identity of the murderer. A surrealistic painting brings to the canvas an image from reality but puts it into a context of the unreal. I think Dali was successful in translating the realistic elements from the plot into a vision of incomprehensibility of the conscious human mind. Hitchcock and the scriptwriter Ben Hecht then had their characters translate Dali's images back into plausible reality. This is brilliant filmmaking years ahead of its time.
on February 13, 2012
Another reviewer described this Blu-ray as "Terrible"; in all fairness, it is not, it's just that it is no better than my Criterion Collection DVD release. I watched about 40 minutes of the Blu-ray and decided to switch to my DVD for comparison. I watched the DVD from beginning to end (without any up-scaling) and was astounded to find that the 720 x 480i DVD picture was as good as the 1080p Blu-ray.
The main difference in the picture quality is the addition of grain on the Blu-ray; a so-called feature of digital enhancement manipulation that I really do not like.
MGM are not renowned for restoring or re-mastering old films and I expect they just did a straight transfer (with digital enhancement) from a reasonably good source. The Criterion DVD release was a full digital transfer with film and sound restoration.
The blu-ray has Mono DTS-HD Master Audio; the Criterion DVD has Mono Dolby Digital audio. My ears couldn't tell the difference.
The only thing in the Blu-ray's favour is that it is less than half the price of the Criterion DVD. So if you own one of the many inferior DVD releases I would definitely recommend the upgrade.
Also, the extras differ from the Criterion DVD, so my purchase of the Blu-ray was not a total waste of money.
The Criterion Collection Extras:
Spectacular new digital transfer with film and sound restoration, including rare theater entrance and exit music cues by composer Miklos Rozsa
Commentary by Hitchcock scholar Marian Keane
Definitive, illustrated essay on the Salvador Dali dream sequence by James Bigwood
Complete 1948 Lux Radio Theatre adaption starring Joseph Cotten and Alida Valli
Essays by noted Hitchcock scholars
Excerpts from 1973 interview with composer Miklos Rozsa
Hundreds of behind-the-scenes photos and documents chronicling the film's production
The Fisko Files: A WNYC/New York public radio piece on the Theremin.
The Blu-ray Extras:
Commentary with Author and Film Professor Thomas Schatz & Film Professor Charles Ramirez Berg
Dreaming with Scissors: Hitchcock, Surrealism and Salvador Dalí
Guilt by Association: Psychoanalyzing Spellbound
A Cinderella Story: Rhonda Fleming
1948 Radio Play
Hitchcock Audio Interview
Original Theatrical Trailer
If you already own the Criterion Collection DVD, I cannot see the value of upgrading to this Blu-ray. Unless you have a very large screen and/or own a player with inferior up-scaling capabilities.
on August 4, 2002
This movie has several flaws, but the great performances of its stars and Hitchcock's clever direction make it a classic, and great fun, anyway! First off - even though most of Hitchcock's films have aged well, this one hasn't. Its biggest problem is that the silly psychology reminds you constantly when the movie was made. Additionally, if you are a big Hitchcock fan, be forewarned that this is not as thrilling as some of his other films. Instead, it is more oriented towards romance and bad ideas about psychology.
Pretty much, Spellbound is about a icy, analytical psychologist (Ingrid Bergman) who runs off with a patient who was posing as the new director of the mental institute (Gregory Peck). As they attempt to keep away from the police, who want to arrest Peck, Bergman tries to "cure" him using psychoanalysis (it's tough not to laugh during these scenes).
Anyhow, all in all, this is great entertainment. The Salvador Dali dream sequence, which is famous, is rightly so - and the music, acting, and cinematography combine to make a great atmosphere. The movie is still pretty exciting and Bergman and Peck give great performances and make a nice couple. Even though this is not Hitchcock at his typical best, it's a good movie and deserves a viewing regardless of its silly ideas.
on November 28, 2013
This 2008 MGM release of Spellbound (Premiere Collection) is not only a very high quality remaster, but it includes some excellent Special Features not specified in the Amazon description. This DVD's Special Features include a film commentary with Thomas Schatz and Charles Berg, a feature "Dreaming with Scissors: Hitchcock, Surrealism and Salvador Dali" and a featurette called "Guilt by Association: Psychoanalyzing Spellbound. There are additional features including one on Rhonda Fleming, a radio play and Bogdanovich's interview with Hitchcock.
on January 28, 2014
Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck are excellent in this mystery/psychological thriller. It's a real classic film and worth watching to the end. I use this film in my classic film class at school to illustrate the development of the plot, with quality acting and a story that has a twist at the end. My copy was in black in white, which also gives a certain mystique to the whole film. It moves a little slow in the beginning but as with all good films, and acting, the development of character and setting the stage for the end needs time to give justice to the rest of the plot.
on October 7, 1999
If you're a serious fan of the film "Spellbound" you know of the three frames that where hand tinted red in the original release prints. The frames aren't tinted red in this DVD release. You're better off waiting till someone actually familiar with the film makes an authoritative transfer.
UPDATE: I wrote this review a very long time ago about a very old version of the DVD. The current release may or may not have the three hand tinted frames. I'm leaving the review here so everyone will know the hand tinted frames are suppose to be there and will be able to complain if they are not.
With the success of "Rebecca", British filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock would once again return to making a film in America under his contract with producer David O. Selznick.
But because of "Rebecca" and Selznick's tight control of being 100% faithful to the book and Hitchcock known to be creative and do things his own way, needless to say, the relationship between both men had soured. But under his seven-year contractual obligation which Hitchcock signed with Selznick, another movie had to be made and this time, Selznick wanted to pursue a film about his positive experience with psychoanalysis. A film that would be known as "Spellbound".
With Selznick, this would be a personal film because psychoanalysis helped him deal with his brother, Myron's death (his brother was an extreme alcoholic in which Selznick tried to help him). The death of Myron would also impact his mother and thus, Selznick was suffering from deep depression because of it and thus psychoanalysis was important in David's recuperation.
But for Alfred Hitchcock, the book that was to receive a film adaptation was Hilary Saint George Saunders and John Palmer's 1927 novel "The House of Dr. Edwardes". A film that was adapted by Angus MacPhail and Ben Hecht, but also a film that would lead to Hitchcock and Ben Hecht to work personally together, especially during the research process of psychoanalysis for "Spellbound".
And while Selznick was always adamant towards 100% faithfulness to the novel, because of his current situation, despite Ben Hecht being a writer and somewhat of a watchdog for Selznick, the working relationship between Hecht and Hitchcock would be positive especially with no supervision. But eventually, Selznick known to interfere did so in the end and thus, "Spellbound" although directed by Alfred Hitchock, would once again be a Selznick film.
In the original novel, the concept of "The House of Dr. Edwardes" was about a madman taking over an insane asylum, but Hitchock wanted to add suspense and Hecht would humanize the characters and build a love story around two doctors. The film would also bring in surrealist artist Salvador Dali to help conceive the scenes with mental delusion and also Mikloz Rivera (who is known for pioneering the use of the theremin) for the orchestral score.
The film would star Ingrid Bergman ("Casablanca", "Notorious", "Autumn Sonata") and Gregory Peck ("Roman Holiday", "The Guns of Navarone", "To Kill a Mockingbird") and would be nominated for six Academy Awards and would win an award for "Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture".
"Spellbound" is presented in 1080p High Definition (full screen 1:33:1, black and white). It's important to note that "Spellbound" was intentionally shot to be a little soft, but still the Blu-ray release of "Spellbound" looks very good when it comes to detail and clarity. Sure, the Criterion Collection release was definitely a much older release with stronger black levels and more grain, but there is still a fine layer of grain presented in this film. The patterns on Dr. Edwardes suit can be seen quite clearly.
There are a few scratches but for the most part, for those who wonder if there is a big difference between the Criterion Collection release and this Blu-ray release, I will say this. A lot of the films that were released by Criterion Collection in 1999 and 2000 were redone. The digital transfer back then was inferior as it is compared to the hardware used now, so comparing the two...sure there are going to be differences. While Blu-ray version is much better and in HD, those who owned the original release will still want to hang onto those as they are among the few Criterion Collection titles that are being sought by collectors.
But as for fans of "Spellbound", there is no denying that the film looks very good on Blu-ray. It looks much cleaner and has much better clarity and detail. The contrast is also well-done and while a bit soft, once again, that was intentional (even producer David O. Selznick had choice words towards the films overall look).
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
"Spellbound" is presented in English monaural DTS-HD Master Audio (via a 2.0 mix). The dialogue and music is crystal clear but compared to "Rebecca" and "Notorious" which didn't suffer from any audio issues, there is some hiss that can be heard for a very short time. But aside from that moment at the beginning of the overture, I didn't hear any clicks, hiss or pops during my viewing of the film.
Subtitles are presented in English SDH.
"Spellbound" comes with the following special features:
Audio Commentary by Thomas Schatz and Charles Ramirez Berg - Film historians Thomas Schatz and Charles Ramirez Berg discuss "Spellbound".
Running with Scissors: Hitchcock, Surrealism and Salvador Dali - (21:25) A featurette looking at the pairing of Hitchcock and surrealist Salvador Dali and the challenges that came to be, due to the rising costs and how long Dali's scene was going to be. But also focusing on how Dali wanted to make it in Hollywood.
Guilt by Association: Psychoanalyzing Spellbound - (19:39) A featurette that is about how "Spellbound" was the first film to deal with psychoanalysis. A very in-depth featurette.
A Cinderella Story: Rhonda Fleming - (10:10) A short featurette on Rhonda Fleming (known as the "Queen of Technicolor"), who made her film debut in "Spellbound".
1948 Radio Play of "Spellbound" Directed by Alfred Hitchcock - (59:47) A radio play starring Joseph Cotton and Valli.
Hitchcock Audio Interviews - Featuring audio interviews with Alfred Hitchcock by Peter Bogdanovich (15:22).
Theatrical Trailer - (2:07) The original theatrical trailer for "Spellbound".
"Spellbound" was the first film to feature psychoanalysis, it was also known as the film to give Alfred Hitchcock a little more freedom from his producer David O. Selznick.
The film was indeed groundbreaking for its time because of the news in America of how psychoanalysis was helping soldiers who had suffered from the trauma and oversensitivity of battle during World War II. And while, "Spellbound" is not my favorite Hitchcock film, what I enjoyed about the film is how it managed to incorporate mystery and suspense, a romantic drama, surrealism through dreamlike sequences and also the cat and mouse storyline as the two doctors try to elude authorities.
There are so many plot elements introduced in "Spellbound", that one really can't get bored with it. Sure, some may feel the "psychoanalysis" techniques are outdated but I have always looked at this film as being unique because it utilized psychoanalysis to pry deep into his consciousness slowly throughout the film until that big reveal of why Dr. Edwardes/John Ballantyne had a problem with parallel lines. But most importantly, I would assume that the conversations about the film help increase public awareness towards psychoanalysis and I'm sure for producer David O. Selznick, who praised psychoanalysis for helping him deal with the death of his brother, that he was pleased by the overall result.
For me, what also made me enjoy the film is the performances. The casting of Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck were well-done. The chemistry between both talents was strong, and there is also third person that also gave a great performance and that was actor Michael Chekhov who played Dr. Alexander Brulov, the teacher of Dr. Petersen. "Spellbound" would also feature the debut of actress Rhonda Fleming, who would later become known as the "Queen of Technicolor".
As for the Blu-ray release, similar to the other two Alfred Hitchcock Blu-ray releases ("Rebecca" and "Notorious"), MGM gives viewers a lot of special features. Commentaries, featurettes and as mentioned, "Spellbound" looks very good on Blu-ray considering that the film was intentionally made to look soft. But still, it is definitely worth the upgrade for those who owned the previous DVD release of "Spellbound" as the clarity and detail of this film on Blu-ray is quite evident.
Overall, "Spellbound" is an Alfred Hitchcock film that I enjoyed, but it's clearly another film in which Hitchcock was able to get away with a more creative choices compared to "Rebecca" but it was nonetheless, a David O. Selznick film. The relationship between producer and director was almost to the point of mistrust and while this film was enjoyable, until Hitchcock was free from Selznick, then we started to see his creativity at 100% and we saw how much more evident that would be in his upcoming film "Notorious".
But still, I found "Spellbound" to be a psychological mystery film, but also a romance film featuring a unique kind of love story not seen in cinema today.
"Spellbound" is recommended!
on January 11, 2012
This is a story of love between a female psychologist and an amnesiac who is suspect of murdering his doctor; and who also needs to discover the causes of his guilt complex. Early in the film, the couple is on the run, avoiding the police, moving from hotel to train, straight to the house of Dr. Burlov (Dr. Constance's father figure), and finally, to a ski resort in Gabriel Valley where the murder took place. Believing that her patient is innocent, and loving him at the same time, Dr. Constance Peterson gives him therapeutic sessions during their escape route, discovering bits and pieces of the mystery. The tension is heightened by the fact that doctor and patient love each other while audiences don't know yet whether the patient is a real murderer or not. The roles of doctor and patient are skillfully handled by Bergman and Peck. The film intertwines "thriller," "romance," and surrealism quite effectively. This is also a film which uses Salvador Dali's artistic genius to illustrate surrealistic dream sequences. Albeit this film does not carry the prestige of Hitchcock's later films during the fifties, its use of psychology, surrealism, and strong-headed heroine makes it a modern story that may still gather attention from modern audiences and serves as a predecessor to his other great psychological thrillers: Vertigo and Psycho. Great film, in my opinion.