Spellbound (1945)

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Released 11-Feb-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Mystery Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Animation
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Gallery-Photo-15
Music Highlights-Original Orchestral Themes, With Notes
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Notorious, Rebecca
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1945
Running Time 106:34
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Alfred Hitchcock
Studio
Distributor
Selznick Intrnationl
MRA Entertainment
Starring Ingrid Bergman
Gregory Peck
Michael Chekhov
Leo G. Carroll
Rhonda Fleming
John Emery
Norman Lloyd
Bill Goodwin
Steven Geray
Donald Curtis
Wallace Ford
Art Baker
Regis Toomey
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Miklós Rózsa


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, All the doctors !
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    OK, honesty in advertising time. I am a keen fan of just about any film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. If you don't share my passion, go straight to the end of this review and deduct half a star from my rating, as I added that amount to my Overall Rating to account for the flamboyant touches Hitchcock has added to Spellbound. Some of these include the two or three frames of colour added to the black & white film at 105:53; and the way in which Hitch manages to make Gregory Peck look menacing when he is standing still with a razor in his hand, doing nothing, but the angle, lighting and music make it seem he could do anything.

    As a Hitchcock fan I have of course seen this film a number of times before. I also like Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck, and they are both in fine form here, so that my experience of this film is something akin to revisiting an old friend. This is not one of the best films in the Hitchcock canon, but it clings firmly to the rung below them on the ladder, striving for greatness but just missing the mark. The only aspect of the film which disappoints is that the script is too melodramatic at times, which is a little surprising as it is by Ben Hecht who has a string of classic films in his resume, including The Front Page as well as Hitchcock's Notorious (again with Bergman), which I will be reviewing shortly.

    I am only going to give you a brief plot synopsis, as the film has a thrilling plot which should hold you, well, spellbound, if you are watching it for the first time. The film begins with some text outlining the basics of psychoanalysis, which is supposedly what the film is about (what the film is actually about is using psychological mumbo jumbo to frame the brilliant manipulation of the nerves of the audience which is about to commence). We are first introduced to Bergman, playing the role of Dr Constance Petersen, as she treats a patient with "love difficulties". It is fairly obvious by her rejection of one of her male colleagues that she is considered a bit of an ice queen. However, as soon as she sets eyes on the new head of the clinic, Dr Anthony Edwardes (Peck, at 10:30) it is apparent that the thaw has set in.

    Fairly shortly we begin to see Edwardes acting rather strangely (what is it about the napkin at 11:22 that unsettles him?). As a quick romance begins between the leads we start to see some amazing cinematic pyrotechnics from Hitchcock (check out the sequence between 23:39 and 24:29) which eventually leads to the famous Salvador Dali dream sequence at 79:18. I won't give away any more of the story, but if you have seen 1941's Suspicion you will notice some similarities, as we start to wonder whether the charming star of the show is as pleasant as he first seems.

    I must say I thoroughly enjoyed seeing this film again. I have only ever seen it on the 'small screen', and viewing it on my projector was something akin to a first cinema experience of the film, and the impact was dramatically enhanced. Ingrid Bergman just glows throughout (check out her close-up at 23:19), and Peck is impressively versatile in one of his first starring roles, managing to be both broodingly masculine and vulnerable in quick succession. My better half had not seen the film before and was on the edge of her seat for much of the running time. We both managed to miss the signature Hitchcock cameo, but caught it at 37:17 (coming out of the lift) on a second run through.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    For a film which is now close to 60 years old, this is looking rather good. I'm not sure if this comes from a restored print or a good master but I suspect at least some restoration work has been done.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, non 16x9 enhanced, which is just about the 1.37:1 Academy Ratio at which it would have been filmed.

    The picture is reasonably sharp for the most part, though at times the focus was a little soft for my liking (see 33:34 for one example where it is a little too soft and fuzzy). Shadow detail is generally good, as in the darkened rooms at 18:46 and 31:48. Overall picture brightness is fine, though there are times when it shifts rapidly (as at 15:22 and 42:54). There is no significant low level noise.

    The film is in Black & White (except for the fraction of a second of colour mentioned earlier). The tonal range is generally adequate, though there seems to be some difference in the black level between reels (with the picture looking particularly harsh around 60:05).

    There is some damage present on the print, though it is not significant. I could give you examples of minor artefacts, brief aliasing, or occasional vertical black lines, but this would make the damage seem worse than it is. What we actually have on offer here is a pretty good example of how nice an old Black & White film can look if the damage is minimal (contrast the picture on offer here with some of the Trailers to see how bad it could have been). The most significant damage you will notice is at 62:05 where there appears to be a frame or two missing from the print. There is also some noticeable grain at times.

    There are no subtitles (Shame!).

    The layer change is at 63:36 during a picture fade - there is a short interruption of the music at this point.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer is not quite as good as the video transfer, but is possibly fairly close to the original sound, which will no doubt please the purists.

    There is only one audio track. It is supposedly an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track encoded at a high bitrate of 448 Kb/s. I say supposedly because my amplifier refused to use anything but the front centre speaker (it apparently felt it was receiving a Dolby Digital 1.0 signal). In this mode the sound is thin, with a very low volume level. Switching to ProLogic mode made the sound a little fuller, but did not engage any more of the speakers.

    The dialogue was clear at all times, with good audio sync. Audio hiss was minimal, which is impressive given the age of the original.

    The music in this film is brilliant, deservedly giving Miklos Rozsa the first of his three Oscars. It matches the visual pyrotechnics of the film perfectly, being lush and romantic at times, frenetic and dizzying at others. The level of sound also varies dramatically in keeping with the on-screen action - it is very well balanced in this transfer. The film also makes effective use of silence to add an eerie element to proceedings at times.

    There is little in the way of surround presence or activity to comment on, and the subwoofer had the evening off (it was hiding scared behind the sofa anyway).

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There is an odd little collection of Extras on this disc - at least some effort has been made.

Menu

    The menu is animated with audio. The Chapter Selection menu also has animation. You can choose from 14 scenes.

Filmographies (Talent Profiles)

    These are mostly 2-4 page film lists for Bergman, Peck, Hitchcock and noted producer David O. Selznick (yes, the Gone With The Wind guy, did I forget to mention he produced this little film as well?). These are supplemented by short bios for the director and producer.

Gallery

    A smallish (15 pictures) set of pictures that you can view individually or in sequence. They are nice quality shots from the film and its production (it is interesting to see Hitchcock looking so young, which is why we missed his cameo appearance the first time around).

Music Highlights

    This one is an interesting little addition. It allows you to listen to the music which was used as Entrance and Exit music in the cinema. Each excerpt runs around 3-4 minutes, and none of it is as memorable as the in-film music (which sounds a whole lot better accompanying the action on the screen).

Trailers

    On offer here are the Theatrical Trailer for Spellbound, and also those for two other Hitchcock films from the same local distributor, Rebecca and Notorious. They show a lot of damage, and none are too thrilling, but I like to watch these things anyway.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This film is available in two main incarnations in Region 1. The first is a Criterion Collector's Edition, which blows the local release away for features, and is the preferred version for fans (though costly). The cheaper alternative is a release from Anchor Bay which only comes with a film lobby card, which suggests that the version of choice for most viewers will be the Region 4.

Summary

    I must admit that I was a little apprehensive about reviewing this disc, as I had not heard of the distributor, and was worried it might be one of those cheap and nasty DVDs you find on sale at the local remnants store. Luckily it comes to DVD with a pretty good video transfer, reasonable audio, and a selection of Extras which is not brilliant, but at least they are there. While this is not Alfred Hitchcock at his very best, it is pretty close to being Hitchcock at his most flamboyant, and is well worth viewing to see the master director using most of the tricks of the trade, especially at the reasonable asking price.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Robert Davison (read my bio)
Monday, March 01, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-K350, using Component output
DisplaySONY VPL-HS10 LCD projector, ABI 280cm 16x9 screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderKenwood. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationKenwood
SpeakersKenwood

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Anthony Clarke

Comments (Add)
Spellbound - Anchor Bay & Criterion Versions were deleted in January - NewcastleBoy (read my bio)
Criterion Spellbound is still available at Amazon -
A Documentary is what makes a decent extras package -
Acc ent Films Entertainment (Was Lack of Spellbound Documentary) - NewcastleBoy (read my bio)
Accent Films - garumph (read my bio)
Finally...in colour! - Brent R (bio-zet is especially formulated for front loading machines)