Review of Criterion's Spellbound DVD
keviny01 | 10/12/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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)."
Dreams of Morality Perversion and Exposed Evil
gobirds2 | New England | 04/18/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Three Hand Tinted Frames Aren't Tinted
M. Edwards | 10/07/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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 athoritative transfer."
Flawed but still a classic...
ehakus | New York, NY United States | 08/04/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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."