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Blu-ray Review Spellbound Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Jan 27, 2012.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
    Reviewer

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    The subject of psychoanalysis didn’t become ready fodder for stage and screen treatments until the 1940s when theater pieces such as Lady in the Dark and movies like Spellbound came to use the science as a hook for their plots. The psychoanalytic themes used in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound may have constrained the filmmaker just a bit in molding the material to fit his very distinctive cinematic style, but the movie nevertheless manages to lure the viewer into its various mysteries and carry him along to their conclusions. Never as secure with murder mysteries as he was with pure suspense films, Hitchcock’s work in Spellbound  finds him toiling with an uneasy hybrid of the two genres, but the parts that work do so sensationally.



    Spellbound (Blu-ray)
    Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

    Studio: MGM
    Year: 1945
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1   1080p   AVC codec
    Running Time: 118 minutes
    Rating: NR
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono English
    Subtitles: SDH

    Region: A
    MSRP: $ 24.99


    Release Date: January 24, 2012

    Review Date: January 27, 2012




    The Film

    4/5


    With the imminent retirement of Dr. Murchison (Leo G. Carroll), head of the psychiatric facility of Green Manors in Vermont, Dr. Anthony Edwardes (Gregory Peck) arrives and makes quite an impression on young psychiatrist Dr. Constance Petersen (Ingrid Bergman). But Edwardes is showing signs of great strain and unsteadiness and when more closely examined by Constance, proves not to be Edwardes at all but an amnesiac with the initials J. B. who has quite unknowingly assumed Edwardes’ identity. But the key questions to be explored are who is this mentally unstable J.B. and where is the real Dr. Edwardes? To answer these questions, Constance and J.B. eventually find themselves at the home of her old mentor Dr. Alexander Brulov (Michael Chekhov) who sees that J. B. is dangerously ill and needs an experienced hand to help guide him through some analytic dreams to arrive at some answers about his identity and his connection to Edwardes.


    Ben Hecht’s screenplay used Francis Breeding’s The House of Dr. Edwardes as the starting point for the film story, but much new has been introduced. The film really offers a double-mystery: the search for the real identity of J.B. and then in the film’s last twenty minutes, the introduction of a murder mystery attempting to solve the killing of Dr. Edwardes. As he had little interest in murder mysteries, Hitchcock speeds through the final quarter of the film rather perfunctorily before wowing us with one of his trademark point of view shots as the killer is unmasked. It’s the film’s earlier three-quarters that seem to tweak his cinematic juices, however, as he offers many moments of startling suspense as bit-by-bit we uncover pieces of the J.B. identity puzzle. The Salvador Dali-designed dream sequence which becomes a key to the solution of both mysteries is certainly an eerie and unusual sequence even by today’s standards, but the film’s most tension-filled moments involve J.B.’s near psychotic break when, razor in hand, he begins a slow walk through Dr. Brulov’s house with two potential victims in easy reach of his blade. Hitchcock squeezes maximum excitement through a combination of point of view shots, ultra close-ups, and tracking shots. And the scene of Dr. Brulov sprawled in his chair at the climax of the sequence is one of those breath-catching moments one sometimes gets with Hitchcock when one hopes for the best but waits for the worst.


    Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck both received 1945 Oscar nominations, but neither of them earned them for this film (Bergman did win the New York Film Critics’ Best Actress prize for this movie and for The Bells of St. Mary’s). Bergman’s role offers a great challenge playing the rather cold-hearted therapist who gradually warms throughout the film through her love for J. B., and her warmth and open heartedness is as appealing as ever. Gregory Peck plays the mentally unstable “John Brown” with as few tics as possible but must resort to an unconscionable number of fainting spells for a major male star of the period. Michael Chekhov earned an Oscar nomination as the wise and cagey Dr. Brulov, a delightful scene stealing performance. Leo G. Carroll continued his memorable association with Hitchcock as the knowing Dr. Murchinson who keeps his cards close to his vest. Rhonda Fleming has an eye-opening cameo as the nymphomaniacal patient who loathes men (it was her first film role, but she’s very effective in setting a creepy tone early on in the film). John Emery as a psychiatrist who harbors a not-so-secretive lust for Dr. Petersen and Norman Lloyd as the suicidal Mr. Garmes also add flavor to the colorful cast of characters.



    Video Quality

    4.5/5


    The film has been presented in its theatrical 1.33:1 aspect ratio and is offered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Though diffusion is sometimes used for flattering movie star close-ups, the sharpness and clarity of the image is for the most part excellent. There are only slight, minor scratches which can be momentarily glimpsed or contrast which occasionally seems a bit milkier than in scenes before or after certain other ones. The grayscale offers good black levels and crisp, appealing whites. And the 1080p resolution beautifully resolves herringbone and tweed jackets without the slightest bit of flashing or moiré. The one burst of color is also retained in a memorable moment in the film. The movie has been divided into 28 chapters.



    Audio Quality

    4/5


    The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix presents the original soundtrack as clearly and cleanly as possible. Contest entry word: patient. You may hear slight, low hiss in some quiet moments of the movie, but otherwise the audio track is free from artifacts and presents the dialogue, Miklos Rozsa’s most effective Oscar-winning score, and the sound effects with deftness and surety. Both Overture and Exit Music is presented with this transfer.



    Special Features

    4/5


    The audio commentary is by film professors Thomas Schatz and Charles Berg. They occasionally talk over one another and don’t offer quite the expert historical treatise on the film that Marian Keene offered on the Criterion DVD, more concerned are they with describing the scenes we’re seeing and not giving out much cinematic information about the actors and behind-the-scenes personnel.


    All of the video featurettes are presented in 480i.


    “Dreaming with Scissors: Hitchcock, Surrealism, and Salvador Dali” is a 20 ¼-minute featurette offering a brief summary of Dali’s life and career, some information about the surrealist art movement, and Hitchcock’s embracing of it for the movie. Art critics and cinematic historians combine to add their opinions in this vignette.


    “Guilt by Association: Psychoanalyzing Spellbound is a 19 ¾-minute piece on the early efforts of psychiatry to delve into problems of PSD and survivor guilt which were incorporated into the film. Leading medical experts give opinions about how well Spellbound handled its elementary psychiatric elements.


    “A Cinderella Story: Rhonda Fleming” is a 10 ¼-minute interview with the actress who discusses her discovery by Henry Willson and subsequent signing by David Selznick along with her memories of working with Hitchcock and Ingrid Bergman and updates on her work now for charities for the poor and homeless.


    The 1948 radio version of Spellbound is presented in its 59 ¾-minute entirety starring Joseph Cotten and Alida Valli.


    An excerpt from an interview with Alfred Hitchcock conducted by Peter Bogdanovich runs 15 ¼ minutes and touches on Spellbound, Torn Curtain, and Frenzy.


    The theatrical trailer runs 2 ¼ minutes.



    In Conclusion

    4/5 (not an average)


    It may not be top-notch Hitchcock, but Spellbound can still cast something of a spell even if the writing isn’t quite as tight or the suspense quite as consistent as it is in some of the master’s more celebrated works (the film nevertheless earned six Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Hitchcock’s third nod as Best Director). The Blu-ray release looks and sounds splendid, and the bonus features have been carried over from the last MGM DVD release making this a package that earns a firm recommendation.




    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC

     
  2. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    This has always been a favorite. I agree with Matt - a glorious transfer.
     
  3. benbess

    benbess Producer

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    Excellent review. PQ is indeed very good. For flat out entertainment I'd rate this a 4.5/5. It was a smash hit in 1945, Hitchcock's biggest since Rebecca...
     
  4. Robin9

    Robin9 Producer

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    I'd buy this BRD anyway because I like the movie, but with that Rhonda Fleming "extra" it now becomes an essential purchase! (I'm a great admirer of Rhonda Fleming, not of just her looks and her movie career but also of her long involvement with charity work)
     
  5. Doug Otte

    Doug Otte Supporting Actor

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    I watched it Saturday night and loved it. The video and audio were outstanding. I had the Criterion DVD, and had watched it twice a few years ago. Although this is far from top tier Hitchcock, I enjoyed it. Has anyone ever noticed how much louder the Overture is than the audio on the rest of the movie? It was that way on the DVD, and I noticed it again on the BD. I bought all 3 of these releases from Amazon for $16.99 each. On Saturday, my daughter went to Costco and I asked her to check on them, as Rebecca and Notorious hadn't shipped yet. Our local Costco didn't have them. $16.99 each is still a great price for these classics. Amazon must have known I was trying to be unfaithful, because they finally shipped the other two after my daughter called! Doug
     
  6. Adam Gregorich

    Owner

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    We have one copy of Spellbound to give away to a lucky HTF member. To enter send an email to contest 'at' hometheaterforum.com with the code word in the subject line, and you user name, full name and address in the body of the email. The word can be found hidden in Matt's official HTF review above. Winners must have a US or Canadian shipping address, be over 18 and a member of HTF. The winner will be drawn at random from all emails received with the correct code word in the subject line. Contest runs through Sunday 2/5/12. Good luck!
     
  7. Essanay Paul

    Essanay Paul Stunt Coordinator

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    All 4 of my local Costcos have them and the price is only $9.99 each! I did have some issues with the over-use of noise reduction on the soundtrack. The dialogue is fine and clear, but the music sounds like it is fighting to break through at times. The softer passages in the music seem to be muted by the noise reduction. I would have preferred a little hiss over muting some of the music.
     

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