The head of the Green Manors mental asylum Dr. Murchison is retiring to be replaced by Dr. Edwardes, a famous psychiatrist. Edwardes arrives and is immediately attracted to the beautiful but cold Dr. Constance Petersen. However, it soon becomes apparent that Dr. Edwardes is in fact a paranoid amnesiac impostor. He goes on the run with Constance who tries to help his condition and solve the mystery of what happened to the real Dr. Edwardes. Written by
Col Needham <email@example.com>
The ease of the analysis is hard to swallow but the tension is well maintained
The head of the famous Green Manors mental asylum is being replaced by a younger psychiatrist, Dr Edwards. When Edwards arrives he falls for Dr Petersen and she for him. However, after exhibiting some very strange reactions, Edwards is exposed as a fraud - an amnesiac who has deep issues and may or may not have killed the real Edwards prior to taking up his job. Blinded by her love for him, Petersen flees the police with him and protects him as she tries to uncover the truth locked deep within his mind.
As someone who watches way too many films for my own good I probably should have seen Spellbound many years ago. Making up for lost time I watched it recently unsure of even the basic plot. I was surprised by the twist (which I guess for 99% of those watching this, won't be a twist) that Edwards was not who he claimed (thought) to be. The psychoanalysis against the clock scenario was a bit too tidy, but it does work well. I'm not a big believer of this world of therapy so some of the scenes stuck in my throat but it was proof of Hitchcock's ability that he managed to make them tense.
The example that came to my mind was the film Blackjack by John Woo in which Dolph Lungren is scared of the colour white! In that movie I was almost in fits of laughter when Lungren is stopped in his tracks by the bad guys spilling lots of milk everywhere! Here there was no such reaction to Edwards' similar fear. The director really manages to bring out tension and paranoia in every scene there was nary a moment where I wasn't involved in the film, it was hard to know whether Edwards was a killer, a nut or what! Some of the imagry is a little obvious (doors opening) but most is good and the Dali dream sequences are pretty cool.
Of course part of this is down to Peck playing just perfect. Some of his bug eyed reactions to lines etc would have been comical had he not been able to follow through, but he did. It is to his credit that I was kept guessing as to his intentions right through the film. Bergman is also good but has to carry lines such as `I believe him because I could never feel this way for a man with badness in him' (I'm paraphrasing), the romantic side of the film is harder to carry but she does it well. Support is good, but Leo G Carroll looks very young indeed and took me by surprise when I saw him!
Overall I enjoyed this film even though there was so much that could have been a mess. It is to Hitchcock's credit that he cranks the tension up well and never lets it get silly (as it could easily have been in lesser hands). Some of it is a little too easy (isn't this deep seated stuff meant to take years rather than days?) but this aside it moves swiftly along and is a very interesting way to make a thriller.
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