(Sir) Alfred Hitchcock JOHN McCARTEN - Essay

JOHN McCARTEN

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

As a study of psychoanalytic procedure, "Spellbound," the latest creation of Old Master Hitchcock, wouldn't merit a footnote in Freud. But when the film stops trying to be esoteric and abandons arcane mumbling for good, rousing melodrama, it moves along in the manner to which Hitchcock has accustomed us. I don't think anybody could take seriously the proposition, advanced in "Spellbound," that an amnesia victim could install himself with no trouble whatever as a substitute for the head of a high-class sanitarium…. (p. 69)

Few amnesia victims of our time have held on to anonymity quite as grimly as Mr. Peck, and since his tenacity is spread over almost two hours, the film needs plenty of Hitchcock prodding to keep it from bogging down into lethargy. Fortunately, the English expert hasn't forgotten any of his tricks. He still has a nice regard for supplementary characters, and he uses everything from eerie train whistles to grand orchestral crescendos to maintain excitement at a shrill pitch. He manages his camera, as usual, with vast dexterity, and unless you're emotionally gelid, I think a good many of the shots will have you twitching…. Mr. Hitchcock has also included some dream sequences confected by Salvador Dali which seem pretty similar to those dreams of yesterday that the Surrealist scattered around Bonwit Teller's windows. (pp. 69-70)

John McCarten, "Hitchcock, with Freud's Help," in The New Yorker (© 1945 by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.), Vol. XXI, No. 38, November 3, 1945, pp. 69-70.