Is it still spellbinding?
Solid actors, great director, some behind the camera romantic hijinks and a musical score that is perhaps the film’s most most memorable element. All this plus the spectacle of Alfred Hitchcock, in his customary cameo in each of his pictures, walking out of a hotel elevator smoking a cigarette and toting an violin.
Released in 1945, Spellbound has survived nicely as one of Hitchcock’s very good but not necessarily top-flight movies. It was a tough one for the director to make since he clashed early and often with his producer, the formidable David O. Selznick, who had Hitchcock under contract since 1939.
Selznick had a flirtation with psychoanalysis, and even put his personal therapist on the payroll as an advisor. Hitchcock was infuriated by the move, and clashed with his producer about the use of Salvador Dali material to visually spice up the movie’s key dream sequences.
Spellbound tells the tale of a psychoanalyst (Ingrid Bergman) at a mental institution in Vermont, whose new boss (Gregory Peck) turns out to be younger and more appealing than she bargained for. In fact, the two stars carried their romantic inclinations offscreen via a torrid affair, despite their respective marriages to others.
In any event, the plot essentially puts Bergman’s character in the role of detective trying to unravel a jumbled series of dreams that leave the new boss with the belief he murdered another man and has taken over his identity.
In this regard, keep an eye on Leo G. Carroll, who plays the head of the mental institution.
Listening to our favorite classical music station, we were pleased to hear the other day a full-orchestra “concerto” version of Hungarian-born composer Miklos Rozsa’s score for Spellbound. (The movie’s tag line asks the question: “Will he Kiss me or Kill me?”) Rozsa’s score is excellent, holding up remarkably well today no matter the musical format.
To create that dizzying sound you hear, Rozsa employed the use of a theremin, an electronic instrument named after its inventor (Leon Theremin) now commonly used in horror films. Rozsa won an Oscar for his Spellbound score, and the disapprobation of Hitchcock.