Hitchcock Takes on Psychoanalysis: “Spellbound” (1945) starring Ingrid Bergman & Gregory Peck

Title Card: The fault… is not in our stars, but in ourselves… – Shakespeare

Dr. Constance Petersen (Ingrid Bergman) is a young psychiatrist who has been working for 6 mos. at Green Manors mental institute in Vermont. In between dealing w/ her patients and reading the latest theories, she has to deal w/ a doctor incessantly hitting on her. The director of Green Manors, Dr. Murchison (Leo G. Carroll), has just been replaced; his replacement is the young Dr. Anthony Edwardes (Gregory Peck), who has published several books (incl. one focused on “the guilt complex”). Romance quickly develops between Dr. Petersen and Dr. Edwardes, but then he starts to show strange aversions and personality traits. It turns out that he has amnesia! Could he be guilty of a crime, or is it all in his head? What happened to the real Dr. Edwardes?

Dr. Petersen: I think the greatest harm done the human race has been done by the poets. …They keep filling people’s heads with delusions about love… writing about it as if it were a symphony orchestra or a flight of angels.

Suspicion was of the first Hollywood films to deal w/ the (then popular) subject of psychoanalysis; screenwriter Ben Hecht consulted w/ several psychoanalysts of that time. Producer David O. Selznick wanted the movie to be based on his experiences, even bringing in his psychotherapist as a technical advisor. When she argued w/ Sir Alfred Hitchcock on the set, the director replied, “My dear, it’s only a movie.” Later, Hitch summed up the movie as “just another manhunt wrapped up in pseudo-psychoanalysis.” If the psychology angle doesn’t interest you, the love story certainly will! Bergman and Peck have terrific chemistry; as a kid, I wondered if they really were in love. In 1987 (5 yrs after she died), Peck revealed to People magazine that he “had a great love for Bergman.” They had an affair for a few weeks during filming (though both were married)!

Dr. Alex Brulov: Apparently the mind is never too sick to make jokes about psychoanalysis.

The much-discussed dream sequence (designed by painter Salvador Dali) was originally 20 mins long, but ended up being 2 mins. Hitch handed over that segment to director William Cameron Menzies, who is not credited (as he didn’t like the final edit). The music (composed by Miklos Rozsa) is also a prominent aspect enhancing the story. Jerry Goldsmith said he loved the score; it inspired his own music. Some Star Wars fans have pointed out the Anakin and Padme’s love theme (composed by John Williams) sounds similar to the love theme here!

I couldn’t produce the facial expressions that Hitch wanted turned on. I didn’t have that facility. He already had a preconception of what the expression ought to be on your face, he planned that as carefully as the camera angles. Hitchcock was an outside fellow, and I had the Stanislavski training from the Neighborhood Playhouse, which means you work from the inside. –Gregory Peck

[1] Now the best thing about ‘Spellbound’ and what really makes it into a wonderfully entertaining mystery/romance is Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck. These two Golden Age superstars are both absolutely wonderful individually, but together they are magical

[2] The scenes with Bergman, Peck and Chekhov are the highlight of the film, and I have to admit that I’m even kind of fond of the hotel lobby scene, with the appealingly breezy Bill Goodwin (of “Burns and Allen” radio fame) as the house detective. Peck has never been more handsome, in a strangely fragile way.

[3] Most of the picture is thrown Bergman’s way and she is such an accomplished actress and lights up the screen with such a charismatic inner radiance

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

“Kiss Me Deadly” (1955)

Christina: You have only one real lasting love.

Mike: Now who could that be?

Christina: You. You’re one of those self-indulgent males who thinks about nothing but his clothes, his car, himself. Bet you do push-ups every morning just to keep your belly hard.

A scared young woman in a raincoat is running barefoot on the highway, trying to flag down a car. After some cars pass her by, the woman sees a fancy sports car approaching and stands directly in its path! PI Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) is behind the wheel, and after almost hitting the woman, he tells her to get in. The woman’s name is Christina Bailey (Cloris Leachman in her first movie role); she’s on the run from a mental institution (“laughing house”). Whoever was after her eventually catches up w/ them! Christina dies while being questioned under some sort of torture. The killers fake an accident by pushing Hammer’s car off the road; he survives and wakes up in hospital. Mike starts to investigate Christina’s death, even after told by the police (and FBI) to stay out of it.

In the hands of the director Robert Aldrich, the film becomes a starting point for a delirious expression of 1950s anxiety and paranoia, starting with opening credits that run backwards…

Noir b&w has never been photographed (Earnest Laszlo) more effectively than some of those night scenes… plus the long, dark hallways and staircases that suggest an enclosed world without redemption.

Right from the electric opening scene and the audacious opening credit sequence, the audience is drawn into Hammer’s seedy world, where morality is suspended, and the credo of the end justifying the means dominates Hammer’s actions.

 The “great whatsit” which Hammer searches for is one of the great movie gimmicks…

-Excerpts from IMDB movies

Based on Mickey Spillane’s novel and adapted by Al Bezzerides, the movie has an unique style and it’s recommended for fans of film noir. The story is transported from NYC to LA; the suitcase filled w/ drugs (too controversial) becomes something more dangerous.This is one of the first instances where a car in traffic looks realistic. Aldrich strapped a camera to the back of Hammer’s car. Martin Scorcese and Quentin Tarantino were influenced by this B movie.

Velda: Do me a favor, will you? Keep away from the windows. Somebody might… blow you a kiss.

It’s implied the characters have a sex life. Some of the camera angles are modern and unusual. The supporting characters are diverse; we see Greek and Italian immigrants, a black boxing coach (Juano Hernandez from The Breaking Point), and a nightclub singer and bartender (who are also black). The acting is a mixed bag, but Meeker does a fine job as the tough, unflinching protagonist; he was a theater actor. We hear a song by Nat King Cole in the opening (“I’d Rather Have the Blues”). You can watch the movie on YouTube (for free)!