“Summer of Film #22 of 100”:http://www.devanshanu.com/things/2005/06/12/2005-summer-of-film/
Alfred Hitchcock, like Spielberg in modern times, had the ability to take any material and change it into a ‘Hitchcock-movie’ with his craft. Many times the material was mediocre- where the movie was the “MacGuffin”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macguffin – but he would dazzle you with his craft so that if you weren’t paying attention you would think the craft was the movie.
Many directors (Michael Bay comes to mind) do this through action- through virtuoso chase scenes and spectacular explosions- they pull off magic through distraction. Keep in mind, these are great directors- I’m only talking about what they do when the material is mediocre.
Spellbound is from Hitchcock’s MacGuffin school of film with Hitchcock as the ultimate salesman with the inate belief that he can sell us anything with enough subterfuge. Spielberg’s The War of the Worlds is also based on the same belief structure and while these films make for a great time at the movies, you know they could have been great films.
The film has Gregory Peck arrive at a mental institution as a doctor. This is the Green Manors institution which is apparently at the fore-front of psychoanalysis in its time; and one of its top doctors is the stunning Ingrid Bergman as Constance Peterson. It is immediately evident that Peck is not who he claims to be- but does even he know who he is? Ingrid Bergman attempts to psychoanalyze Peck as they are on the run for crimes he may or may not have commited. Of course, all of this is just for show- the real movie is in how Hitchcock builds suspense out of thin air as only few can.
Note: One interesting point- the initials found on Peck that are his only clue to his true identity are J.B. Sound familiar? There’s another film based on a book that has a similar man-with-amnesia-on-the-run plot with a certain J.B. That would be Jason Bourne- and even there, the only clue he has is his name. A coincidence? I think not.