Classic Movie Review: Spellbound (1945)

Release Date: December 28, 1945
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Production Company: United Artists

I’m a fan of Alfred Hitchcock, Ingrid Bergman, and Gregory Peck, but this is not their best work.  The main setting of the film is a psychiatric hospital and the characters are psychiatrists, but the melodramatic and amateurish presentation of psychiatry hurts the film.  I don’t know, maybe this film appeared cutting edge to audiences in 1945.

Bergman plays Dr. Constance Petersen, a skilled and competent psychoanalyst who nevertheless is mocked and derided by her male colleagues (a realistic if frustrating portrayal).  Unfortunately, the story seems to buy into their sexism as Constance falls in love with a patient and rather unprofessionally goes on the run with him as she seeks to save him.  That patient is Peck’s character, initially thought to be the new hospital director, Dr. Anthony Edwardes, but soon revealed to be an impostor.  Peck’s character suffers from amnesia, a guilt complex, and a phobia of parallel lines on a white background.

Their romance and attempts to “cure” him don’t come off as particularly realistic, but I do like how Constance is able to piece together the mystery of what happened to the real Dr. Edwardes.  There’s also a great dream sequence designed by Salvador Dali which, although it is full of corny psychoanalytic symbols, is visually stunning.  This is not a great film, but an enjoyable enough mystery/thriller with two of the great actors of the time. Also, if you’re my children and you come into the movie with 15 minutes left, you will have a lot of questions.

Rating: ***