Spellbound (1945)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Spellbound</strong> (1945)

(Youtube Streaming, November 2018) Lost among the moniker “master of suspense” is the stone-cold fact that Alfred Hitchcock could be downright weird when it suited his purpose. In his quest for unpredictable thrills, Hitchcock’s career is crammed with ludicrous plot devices, unbelievable psychological quirks, formal experimentation and frequent return to basics. Some of his best and worst films are far away from reality, meaning that there’s little relationship between their eccentricity and their success. Sandwiched between the far more prosaic Lifeboat (1944) and Notorious (1946), Spellbound shows Hitchcock diving deep into psychoanalytical plot devices (something that would come up again later in his career) and coming up with surreal results. Literal surrealism, in fact, since there’s a dream sequence midway through the film that was designed by none other than Salvador Dali. The man-on-the-run plot feels familiar to Hitchcock fans (echoed in, say, North by Northwest), but it allows stars Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman to develop some pressurized chemistry. The details of the plot are less important than the meticulous details of its execution, and the way the film becomes just a bit more straightforward in time for its conclusion. There’s a memorable moment near the end that still jolts viewers through a combination of an obvious practical effect and a flash of colour. This isn’t one of Hitchcock’s finest films, but it’s nowhere near the bottom either—although it’s perhaps more fascinating as a prototype of later Hitchcock movies and a reunion of some very different artists than a wholly pleasing thriller in its own right.

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