Spellbound is seen by many critics as one of Alfred Hitchcock's lesser movies.
True, the plot is contrived, and features unbelievable psychiatric mumbo-jumbo from the days when American society believed that head-shrinking offered cures for everything.
The psychiatriac contrivances make the story creak audibly. But they cannot destroy the fact that there is real story-telling power at work here. We see one of the most potent screen combinations ever, in Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman. As such a potent team, they rival Ingrid's pairing, also for Hitchcock, with Cary Grant in Notorious.
The story, about the edge of insanity, forgotten and mistaken identities, is really only the staging point for one of Hitchcock's most overt love stories.
The sensuality of it (created for the most part by the loving cinematography of Ingrid Bergman) is accentuated by the creation by leading Hollywood composer Miklos Rozsa of probably his finest, and most haunting score - featuring the weirdly moving, atmospheric Theremin, an early electronic instrument of unearthly style.
The story begins when Dr. Anthony Edwardes (Gregory Peck) arrives at a mental institution to take over the reigns from its ruling head, Dr. Murchison (Leo G. Carroll). He is uncovered as an impostor. And he was the last person seen with the real Dr. Murchison just before Murchison was murdered. He can't remember who he really is. He can't remember what happened. All we know is that he is quite mad, and Ingrid, one of the Institution's doctors, has fallen in love with him.
These are the ingredients for a ride through suspense and romance which you'll want to take again and again. It may not be one of Hitchcock's very greatest, but it's one of my personal all-time favourites.
The transfer appears to have been made from the same excellent print from which the American Criterion edition was struck. In fact, because of the slight quality improvement possible with PAL, the image seems slightly superior to that Criterion edition. There is some film grain and the occasional understandable sign of wear, but the image is clear and sharp, and tones and contrasts in the black and white image are beautifully delineated.
And, just like in the Criterion edition, the sharp-eyed viewers will notice that for a split-second, at a crucial moment, the black-and-white image switches to a brilliant blood-drenched red. Watch for it...
The mono soundtrack preserves the full richness of the original dialogue and of Miklos Rozsa's wonderful score. There's no escaping the fact that this is a 1940s audio presentation, but this is as good as it's ever going to be heard.