Cinerama: Spellbound

Posted: September 12, 2009 in Cinerama


By Mike Derderian

If you are thinking that the road ahead is too long and the place you want to reach is too far, take a cab. If you cannot find a cab board a bus and if you cannot find a bus simply walk, but don’t just stand there spellbound!

William Blake knowingly once wrote, “Since all the riches of this world, May be gifts from the Devil and earthly kings, I should suspect that I worshipped the Devil, If I thanked my God for worldly things.”

For a person who has grown attached to the riches of this world I wake up more than often thinking to myself: What is the purpose of this life I’m leading and all the things I’m buying and stacking in piles? I write and I write. I work, work and work more to earn money. I read, I watch, I listen then I read again before I go to sleep. Is this type of living considered deep?

Sometimes I even try to scour my inner soul, where the darkest of my secrets lies hidden away from prying eyes save the all Seeing Eye, hoping to find an answer. Why am I so spellbound by this ephemeral life? I Wish I could wake up and discover that all this was but a beautiful dream, and that we all have been merrily roaming the evergreen gardens of Eden, and that the apple never fell to the ground.

If it were not for this little corner in the world I would have dropped the wooden ladder and gone with the flow and eventually sunk in a sea of mass oblivion. I would also be lying in some hospital bed suffering from a guilt complex, amnesia and insomnia after being treated by a psychiatrist, who is in actuality an Oscar Award winning Swedish actress?

Yes, I’m talking about Ingred Bergman, the Hollywood diva, who portrayed Dr. Constance Petersen, in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1945 sweat breaker Spellbound. In addition to being a four time Oscar Award nominee Bergman won three Oscars. The first was in 1944 for Caslight; the second in 1957 for Anastasia; and the third in 1975 for Murder on the Orient Express.

If you are patient enough to go through the slow unraveling of a Hitchcockian plot then you are patient enough to go through anything. Most of the people I know cannot go through one of Hitchcock’s movies without yawing once or twice—I really pity them. For me sitting on a couch for an hour or two watching a Hitchcock thriller—and I have seen far too many—is spellbinding with every meaning of the word.

Based on a novel entitled The House of Dr. Edwardes by Hilary Saint George Sanders, Spellbound is 111 minutes of amnesia, psychoanalysis, mystery-prognosis and premeditated murder starring Michael Chekhov, Leo G. Carroll, Rhonda Fleming and Gregory Peck as the lanky and hazy minded Dr. Anthony Edwardes. “Will he kiss me or kill me?” with a tagline as such can you dare miss out on the opportunity to watch it! I certainly did not.

It all started the day when Dr. Edwards arrived to a renowned mental asylum, Green Manors, to replace acting director Dr. Murchison (Carroll). There he also met Dr. Petersen (Bergman), who is known among her colleagues as the ice queen despite of her ravishing features. If you had to chance to see Bergman on screen in movies like Casablanca (1942) and Notorious (1946), which is a personal favorite, you will be entranced be the intensity of her expressive eyes and mild smile.

Edwards begins to show bizarre symptoms whenever he is around people, like memory lapses accompanied with a hazy sense of vision and incoherency.

It is as if childhood memories and past life experiences are haunting him. His colleagues soon begin to doubt that he suffers from psychosis; however, the lovelorn psychiatrist believes otherwise. Peterson, who develops a strange liking to the enigmatic man, decides to go into his head to unravel the mystery by relying on evidence that are deeply embedded in his sub conscious mind. By now everyone at the hospital believes he is an imposter, who killed the real Edwards and impersonated him.

A body of a man is found and after a police communiqué describing the killer, Peterson and Edwards end up on the run. This is where viewers will sink their teeth in a riddle solving psychoanalysis that will unravel a shocking finale.

The black and white ambience in Spellbound projects an uneasiness that can only be found in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Hitchcock as always relies on subliminal messages broadcast artistically on screen and with the character play of accomplished actors the likes of Peck, Bergman and Chekhov the combination this time was simply irresistible.

Must-see-scenes: Edward’s eerie dream sequences that were created by Salvador Dali himself; the psychoanalysis of Edwards by Peterson and her friend Dr. Alexander Brulov (Chekhov) at the latter’s mountain cottage; Edward’s cataclysmic memory lapses and state of consciousness—the scene in which he approaches Bergman holding a razor is one of the best, even though it reminded me of the Got Milk ad.


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