For Saturday night’s viewing: Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945). I’m still trying to decide if he cheated.
Spellbound stars an astonishingly young (29 years old) Gregory Peck as an amnesia case who may or may not have committed a murder, and Ingrid Bergman as the hypotenuse a psychoanalytic ice maiden who is thawed by his boyish good looks and determined to establish his innocence.
This contains no spoilers as all of the above becomes clear very early on. Many of Hitchcock’s films have an innocent man, wrongly accused, trying to clear his name. This is a slight variation in that we don’t actually know the accused man is innocent – but if you have a reasonable grasp of movie conventions, and trust Ingrid Bergman’s ability to pick the right guy without hesitation, and cannot possibly conceive of Gregory Peck as a baddie (except in The Boys from Brazil, where he is brilliant as Josef Mengele) then you can take a fair stab in the dark.
The difference is that in films like The 39 Steps and the mighty North by Northwest the innocent man goes to a lot of time and effort to find out what is really happening. Spellbound is unusual in that the final revelation comes through a dream, to which Ingrid Hypotenuse applies her superior psychoanalytic skills to establish the truth.
Apparently Hitchcock was ordered by the studio head to make a film about psychoanalysis, and he duly complied. He wasn’t too fond of it himself and described it as “just another manhunt wrapped up in pseudo-psychoanalysis”.
But like all good Hitchcock, it’s still worth watching. You see little quirks and techniques that you barely notice nowadays, and realise he was the first to think of them. The background music is an orchestra complemented with a theremin; this is one of the films that pioneered electronic instruments to create atmosphere. The piece de resistance is the dream sequence itself, shot on a set designed by Salvador Dali.
So here it is.