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Of Alfred Hitchcock's earliest American films, I've always found SPELLBOUND ($25) to be one of the most visually interesting because of his decision to create the film's dream sequence based upon the imagery created by artist Salvador Dali. This sequence is certainly atypical for a David O. Selznick production, showing that the future "Master of Suspense" was well on his way to placing his own personal stamp on his movies.

The plot of SPELLBOUND is entrenched in the world of psychoanalyses, opening at the Green Manors Mental Asylum, just as the facility is about to undergo a change in leadership. Because of his own mental collapse, Dr. Murchison (Leo G. Carroll) is forced into retirement and is to be replaced by Dr. Edwards (Gregory Peck), a newcomer to the facility. Ingrid Bergman portrays the supposedly cold and unapproachable Dr. Constance Peterson, who is immediately taken with the new head of Green Manors. As Constance gets closer Dr. Edwards, she quickly becomes certain that the new chief doctor isn't the man he claims to be. Through a bit of prodding, Constance uncovers that the imposter is a victim of amnesia who took on the identity of Dr. Edwards because of a psychological trauma. Constance then takes it upon herself to cure the man she has fallen in love with, so that she can find out what happed to the real Dr. Edwards. The cast of SPELLBOUND also features Michael Chekhov, Rhonda Fleming, John Emery, Norman Lloyd, Bill Goodwin, Steven Geray, Donald Curtis, Wallace Ford, Art Baker, Regis Toomey and Paul Harvey.

Anchor Bay Entertainment has done a very good job transcribing SPELLBOUND to DVD, although I have uncovered one flaw in the beautiful black and white transfer that is certain to perturb Hitchcock fans. It seems that the red Technicolor flash that occurs at a critical moment in the final reel has been transferred to DVD in black and white. This, of course, ruins the effect that Hitchcock was striving for in the film's original 1945 theatrical release. How effective the red flash is on video is still somewhat debatable, but it should have been present in this release. Despite the flaw, SPELLBOUND looks quite good on DVD. The full frame image is sharp and offers good detail. Noticeable film grain is a minor concern in several places throughout the presentation, but the grain is part of the original photography and not a flaw in the transfer. Blacks are faithfully reproduced and the strong contrast highlights the slightly gauzy quality of George Barnes' romanticized cinematography. Digital compression artifacts are tamed by competent DVD authoring.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is clean sounding and well worth amplifying for Miklós Rózsa's Academy Award winning score. The interactive menus are very basic, providing only the standard scene selection feature.

Without a doubt, SPELLBOUND is a Hitchcock classic that his fans will want to own on DVD. This release, while competent, can be viewed as something of a missed opportunity. The fact that the flash of color is absent at a critical moment is certain to irk Hitchcock fans. Additionally, the total lack of supplements on a Hitchcock movie is something I find unfathomable.





DVD reviews are Copyright © 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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