Monday, June 7, 2010

Hitchcock Day 7 - Spellbound (1945)

Spellbound - 1945
Gregory Peck, Ingmar Bergman

I don't think I had ever seen a movie with so young a Gregory Peck, and he does an excellent job as an amnesiac struggling to discover his past and the truth about the death of a doctor he may or may not have murdered. One scene in particular, where he struggles to remember in the train station what had happened in his past is the perfect example, his face contorting in confusion and panic as he feels his memories just beyond his grasp. For as great as Gregory Peck is, I was pretty unimpressed with Bergman. She looks good and all, but with Peck's stunning performance, she seems to come up a little short. She comes close to redeeming herself toward the end, but still, she pales in comparison to her co-star.

As a tangent, you've probably heard a Theremin, even if you don't know it. It was used most often as a means to score sci-fi B-movies of the 1950's, but it is a fascinating instrument and when used properly, it works marvels, as in "Spellbound" and "The Lost Weekend," both composed by Milos Rosza. Both were nominated for Oscars in the same year, with the "Spellbound" soundtrack winning out. 

It's very ethereal, and works well in psychological films, especially in moderation, as with the alcohlic breakdown of Ray Milland in "The Lost Weekend" (hallucinating things crawling in the wall and bats flaping at his window) or the psychological breaks and memory flashes of Gregory Peck in "Spellbound." It's an amazing instrument, given that it is played without even touching it. Here is an example...

(If I knew how to embed videos on Blogger, I would, but trust me, it's cool...)

It's also interesting Hitchcock's choice of profession for his characters - psychoanalysts. It plays a heavy role in the film, so much so that AH begins with a title defining the term.

The so-called "Dream Sequence" by none other than Salvador Dali is something you just have to see. Gregory Peck running through a Dali painting. Just amazing. 

The only criticism I have is Peck's propenisty to faint when his struggle to remember becomes too intense. That, and there is a scene where Peck and Bergman go downhill skiing, and for all of the dramatic music and shocking twist, it doesn't make up for the fact that it plays like that cheesy skit ont "The Jimmy Fallon Show." 

Up next... Notorious... (But only if Machete is paying attention)...

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