MGM’s disc offers a splendid image, in-keeping with the recent releases of Rebecca and Notorious.
The 1.33:1 AVC transfer has not been scrubbed to within an inch of its life. There is copious grain and the structure is authentic and provides the picture with convincing, film-like texture and depth. Where damage and other age-related issues of wear and tear make their presence felt, they do so without any untoward level of distraction. Ironically, there are instances of vertical lines appearing on the frame, conjuring-up thoughts of the effect seeing these would have upon Peck’s character if he caught sight of them. Other nicks and flecks appear too, but the image does maintain a good level of consistency with regards to the contrast values. There are naturally some small fluctuations, fades and waverings but these aren’t a problem.
We can also savour some pretty well-preserved blacks that add a fair amount to the more atmospheric moments when the noirish elements seep in to strangle the soporific tone with arresting imagery. Shadow-play is good and strong, and the contrast, greyscale and integrity of the black levels really help sell the Dali dream sequence and the creepy attack that Edwardes suffers in the doctor’s home. However, I found that the whites could not be completely eradicated of a slight blooming here and there. Facial highlights can, thus, look a touch too hot at times, intensifying and even blowing-out the texture. But this is just a very small and easily acceptable price to pay and may reflect more upon on the original source than the transfer.
Detail is actually very good. Patterns on fabric, clothing and furnishings come across well. Eyes and hair shine. Object delineation is fine and smooth, without any enhancement and visual depth is quite keen and the image rounded and dimensional.
Although a proudly black-and-white feature, there is, of course, that one brilliant flash of red/orange that engulfs the screen during that pivotal moment. This comes across brilliantly and accurately, and it is hard to imagine that anybody could ever have missed this – which, amazingly, they often did during its theatrical run.
Overall, this is a great transfer that fans of the film, devotees of the era and Hitch collectors will be extremely pleased with.
Spellbound now has a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono audio mix.
Well there isn’t a lot of detail that I can add about this. The track is crisp enough considering its vintage, with some elements of hiss and crackle that actually add to the classical old school ambience. Dialogue is certainly clear and unmuffled, so it hasn’t been swamped by the passage of so many decades. Several of the voices actually stand out with cleanly reproduced nuance – namely Bergman’s, which is a hypnotic element in its own right, and Michael Chekhov’s with that wise old Russian owl vernacular.
The score is where the track wins. Rozsa is the real star of the movie, and his music is lush and grand, swelling with passion and ripe old symphonics at every turn. He brings suspense where the film has little. He supplies the aura of romance where the two leads fail to ignite any. He brings a mesmerising quality of otherworldly mystery and eeriness to complement the surrealism of Dali’s imagery. The depth of the musical score isn’t profound, but the mix supplies plenty of instrumental detail, just the same.
Interestingly, this release contains the Overture and Exit Music for the film. Now Rozsa never actually composed these pieces of music, and many prints of the movie later omitted these elements. The studio themselves cobbled together these gorgeous extras from a suite of music that Rozsa composed as highlights from the score. Their return here is, of course, an added bonus.
A good, solid package from MGM gives us a Commentary Track from film professors Thomas Shatz and Charles Berg, which provides a decent enough discussion between guys both very keen to have their say upon what is clearly a cherished subject. Informative, yes, but also a little grating at times. They deliver the goods, though there are much more accessible and charismatic authorities of such vintage fare out there.
Dreaming with Scissors: Hitchcock, Surrealism and Salvador Dali is decent look at the life and outlook of the acclaimed artist, and how he and the master filmmaker came together for this unique project, and what their original intentions were.
An interesting feature called Guilt by Association: Psychoanalysing Spellbound brings together some experts in the field of mental therapy and discusses the backdrop of emotional and cultural turmoil that led to such a profession being needed in the first place. The returning troops, shell-shock, post-traumatic stress disorder, survivor-guilt and mental breakdown are the ingredients that we learn about and how they became the foundation for the story of Spellbound. I found myself spellbound by the amazing eyebrows on one of the contributors to this piece.
Early supporting actress in the film, Rhonda Fleming, who is seen briefly as one of Constance’s patients, gets to talk about her career in pictures and how she got started in the business in A Cinderella Story: Rhonda Fleming.
In a terrific touch that often accompanies these Golden Age pictures, the disc also lets us hear the 1948 Radio Play version of the story.
We also get a Hitchcock Audio Interview that is moderated by Peter Bogdanovitch, and the film’s Original Theatrical Trailer.
Quite a good selection, this.
As popular as Spellbound remains, I refuse to defend it simply because it has such tremendous names as Alfred Hitchcock, Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck attached to it. Don’t forget, folks, they made lavish turkeys back in the forties too … and I’m afraid this is one of them. Latching on to the trendy shirt-tails of the superstar psychoanalysts who were the new gurus on the anxiety-laden American streets during the post war period, David O Selznick brings to Hollywood the celebrated master of suspense and concocts a devious little tale that explores their incredible talents. This would have been fine, if some intelligence and excitement had been added to the pot, but what we get is a boring romance between two boring leads that over-simplifies practically everything the screenplay purports to promote. The final revelation is an eye-drooper rather than an eye-popper, and the whole enterprise a sanctimonious exercise in narrative tedium.
With modern films like Drive and The Grey being mismanaged in their marketing campaigns, it is easy to imagine how this would be camouflaged in a complete charade if it were to receive a trailer made today.
Nevertheless, the film has legions of fans, and MGM has done them proud with a terrific transfer that is detailed, film-like and authentic and a selection of supplements that provide a nice background to the production and the themes that it attempts to explore.
Hitchcock may throw in a moment or two of brilliance, but this is a turgid, slow-moving affair that is more apt to make you feel eggbound than Spellbound!
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