Sunday, January 14, 2018

MY NEW WRITER'S WEBSITE


I am pleased and proud to be able to share with you my new writer's website. Like many things in life, it's a continuous work-in-progress that will further promote my film blog, my first book (COMING SOON) and future writing projects to come.

https://ericf567.wixsite.com/ericfriedmannwriter

Any and all inquiries regarding my writing can be emailed to ericfriedmannwriter@gmail.com.

Thank you all again for your continued enthusiasm, encouragement and support!

Warmest Regards,
Eric Friedmann, Writer

SPOTLIGHT


(November 2015, U.S.)

Despite the events of the film SPOTLIGHT having taken place only seventeen years ago, it practically feels ancient because one can't help but wonder what's happened to the hardcore investigative journalism of the press today. It almost seems as if the the pursuit of getting the story and discovering the truth on behalf of the American people is nearly dead because of everything that social media and smart phones are able to capture on their own. I mean, why waste time trying to discover what our own (bullshit) president has done or said when he's already proudly displaying it on his own Twitter account? Why dig around for the truth and its consequences when there don't seem to be any consequences any more? Gone, it seems, are the days of Watergate or the Iran-Contra Affair when we were still shocked and horrified to learn what our so-called "trusted" government was really up to behind the shadows and closed doors. Today, we find things out relatively quickly as soon as CNN reports it to us and we allow it to just pass through time until the next big "shocker" comes along.

Tom McCarthy's film takes place in 2001 during the months before 9/11. Again, it's not too long ago, but it's before social media and iPhones were running our lives and there's still something to be said for the Boston Globe's "Spotlight" team and their investigation into cases of widespread child sex abuse by numerous Roman Catholic priests throughout Massachusetts. Even in what's considered our modern day and age, Boston is a tightly-wound city in which Catholic faith and the desire to protect and cover-up sex crimes committed by the Boston Archdiocese are common ground. As the reputable newspaper digs, discovers and reveals, they're lined up against lawyers, politicians and the entire church body that will stand against them to protect what they consider to be an invaluable religious faith and the comfort it brings to their lives. In this world of sweeping the truth under the rug, no one in Boston wants to hear about crimes committed against innocent children by those in the church they've come to depend on. The film effectively explores the daily process of a team (comprising of talented folks like Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams) that have committed themselves to uncovering the truth (surely echoing the spirit and thrills of ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN) in the name of the innocent who have forever been damaged (even as adults) by those they thought they could believe in. Even when the Spotlight team is forced to de-prioritize their big story after the September 11th attacks occur, the film doesn't waste too much time deterring itself away from our main focus. Momentum is quickly regained and new truths are revealed when hardcore documents are finally made available to the public that confirm the Cardinal's knowledge of all criminal incidents within the church and his apparent decisions to ignore it. By early 2002, the story has gone to print, these twisted pedophiles priests have been exposed and the Spotlight team find themselves inundated with phone calls from more victims who have finally gained the courage to come forward and tell their stories.

Like many others, I became aware of the epidemic cases of pedophile priests throughout this country (and the world) shortly after 9/11, re-confirming that our new century was off to a very bad start. Like others, I'm sure, I had no idea that the problem stretched as far back in time as it did. SPOTLIGHT successfully brings the story into the light through its lurid and intricate detailing of the facts behind the story while providing just the right amount of drama behind its main characters within the newspaper, as well as its victims who must suffer through the pain of telling their stories. It reminds me of a time not too long ago when the power of the press still (seemingly) produced results and inevitably consequences for those who betrayed the law and our public trust. Today, we have sadly allowed ourselves to erode into a society where we not only know about the problem, but will (again, seemingly) do nothing about it. Why else would a piece of garbage like Donald Trump still be sitting in the White House? Where, oh where, are Woodward, Bernstein and "Deep Throat" when we really need them??

As a Jewish person, I also can't help but wonder why we've never really heard of pedophile Rabbis (at least, I haven't). Perhaps it's because they're not forced into a life of celibacy in the first place that may eventually turn their minds into a more dangerous and damaging direction? Just a thought.

SPOTLIGHT won the Oscar for Best Picture of 2015.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Walter Robinson: "We've got two stories here. We've got a story about degenerate clergy, and we've got a story about a bunch of lawyers turning child abuse into a cottage industry. Now, which story do you want us to write? Because we're writing one of them!"





















Friday, January 5, 2018

SPLASH



(March 1984, U.S.)

When considering the life and career of Tom Hanks, one of our most gifted actors of today, it's hard to believe the man ever did anything silly. And yet, were I to travel back in time to his career prior to the early 1990's, it seems that just about everything he did on screen was silly. Back then, I never would have imagined that the star of BACHELOR PARTY (1984), VOLUNTEERS (1985) and DRAGNET (1987) would eventually blow our minds with the Oscar-winning performances two years in a row with PHILADELPHIA (1993) and FORREST GUMP (1994), as well as the unforgettable SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998). Still, in 1984, I was hot to see SPLASH! It seemingly had everything that was familiar to me at the time. It starred that really funny guy from ABC-TV's BOSOM BUDDIES, that hot blonde chick from BLADE RUNNER (1982) and was directed by Richie Cunningham himself. I'd already seen his previous comedy with the Fonz, NIGHT SHIFT (1982), so it seemed that he had a knack for good comedy.

The film begins twenty years-ago in 1964 with eight year-old Allen Bauer nearly drowning after inexplicably jumping in the ocean while on vacation in Cape Cod with his family. Well, maybe not so inexplicably. Seems there's a little, blonde girl down there that he feels instantly connected to. He's with her only for a moment before he's rescued and will (seemingly) never see her again. Still, even as a child, whatever he felt when holding that little girl's hands proved quite strong because as a grown man, Allen (played by Hanks) has had nothing but failed relationships with women, perhaps never getting over what he felt as a child.

(or perhaps I'm getting way too psychologically-deep about a movie like SPLASH!)

Twenty years later, Allen and his older brother Freddie (played by John Candy) run their late father's wholesale produce business in New York City. Allen is depressed over his latest failed relationship and decides to return to Cape Cod to heal himself. Want to take a guess who he bumps into? She's all grown up, beautiful, naked (and played by Daryl Hannah) and instantly attracted to Allen. She's also apparently mute and communicates best by taking Allen and passionately kissing him (the best way to start a new relationship!). As the audience, we know she's really a mermaid, but Allen can't tell because she has legs out of the water. In the water, she's a most endearing fish who uses Allen's dropped wallet and maps aboard a sunken ship to locate New York City. Meanwhile, not too far down the shore, the ever-eccentric Dr. Walter Kornbluth (played by the ever-eccentric Eugene Levy) has witnessed the mermaid and is now obsessed with finding her again in the name of scientific discovery.

Let's now go to the island of Manhattan, where a naked, blonde woman has just arrived at the shores of the Statue of Liberty. This is a most pivotal scene in the film because it's the one and only moment we get to witness Daryl Hannah's ass in a PG-rated "family" movie (or perhaps it's just her body double)...


Anyway, what's the difference? It was a nice moment for a sixteen year-old young man with raging hormones for the opposite sex! After she arrested for indecent exposure, she's soon reunited with Allen and just as horny for his body as she was back in Cape Cod. Now in his care, she quickly learns English from American television and decides that she likes the name Madison for herself. Deeper and deeper in passion and in love do Allen and Madison fall, but it won't be too long before he discovers the fishy truth behind the woman he loves. Upon discovering her outrageous secret when she's exposed in public by Dr. Kornbluth with a garden hose, Allen is shocked, repulsed and even more confused about his love life than ever before (understandable). Inevitably, Dr. Kornbluth regrets his actions and decides to help both Madison and Allen escape their confinement at the hands of other greedy scientists. The escape scene is particularly noteworthy because it's one of John Candy's funniest moments as he not only convinces the guards that he's Swedish, but uses what he considers a useful piece of knowledge regarding Swedish porn films and the size of his penis (like I said before, this is a "family film). This is also perhaps where director Ron Howard is taking inspiration from Spielberg's E.T., as it's now a race against time for those who care about Madison to get her away from our big, bad, ol' government boys and get her back home where she belongs. So, steal the mermaid, steal a car, outrace the government and military forces through the crowded streets of Manhattan and we're eventually at the docks of New York harbor. Madison can go home now, but she can never return. Allen can go with her, and would survive under the water as long as he's with her, but he can never return. Just when we think that true love will not survive between man and fish, Allen jumps into the water and it's all happily ever-after as the two of them swim toward what appears to be an undiscovered underwater kingdom.

It's easy for me to criticize Tom Hanks as being nothing more than silly during the early part of his career. But even that silliness was always accompanied with true heart in every performance. One can be merely a clown on screen, or one can be a clown with promise and potential. Allen Bauer represents what is, perhaps, most positive in human nature's ability to believe in love and the prices one must pay in order to keep it. Even his idiotic older brother, with all his womanizing, perversions and letters to Penthouse magazine, believes in the power of love for those other than himself (at least the guy is honest). SPLASH, if nothing else, is fun and romantic, with just the right humor to support an actor who would one day go on to much bigger and better things.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Freddie Bauer: "So, how is she?"
Allen Bauer: "How is she? She's...a mermaid. I don't understand. All my life I've been waiting for someone and when I find her, she's...she's a fish."
Freddie: "Nobody said love's perfect."
Allen: "Oh, Freddie, I don't expect it to be perfect! But for god's sake, it's usually human!"




















Sunday, December 31, 2017

SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS, THE



(April 1957, U.S.)

Those of my generation may only be aware of Charles Lindbergh for two reasons. The first would be the infamous kidnapping and murder of his infant son Charles. Jr. in 1932, which at that time, was dubbed by the American media as the "Crime of the Century" (we in the 1990s would have bestowed that honor to the O.J. Simpson murders). Some of us may even recall the crime slightly fictionalized in Sidney Lumet's 1974 film version of Agatha Christie's MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. The second would be James Stewart's performance as "Lindy" or "Slim" in Billy Wilder's THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS, based on Lindbergh's autobiographical account of his 1927, thirty-three hour solo trans-Atlantic flight in a custom-built, single engine, single seat monoplane called "Spirit of St. Louis" from Roosevelt Field, Long Island across the Atlantic Ocean to Le Bourget Field in Paris, France; a flight that made aviation history.

Told in a rather non-linear format, the film not only chronicles the flight itself, but flashbacks and reminisces Lindbergh's early days in aviation, including his days as an airmail pilot, a flight instructor, a barnstorming pilot and a flying circus pilot. For the legendary flight itself, we see from its inception that it's an American undertaking that not only requires high finance, but also the necessary spirit that supports such historical undertakings. One cannot help but recall the 1983 film THE RIGHT STUFF, which chronicled the American spirit behind the space race of the 1960s. Unlike that film, though, Charles Lindbergh is alone on his journey and consequently, will die alone if the plane fails to reach its destiny. We're not just watching a pilot take command of a plane that he's come to know very well through design and weight calculations, but a man who's not slept in three days and struggles to maintain control over his fate, as well as his sanity. Even as he appears to be making social pleasantries with a fly that's determined to stay inside his plane for a while, we can surely appreciate the madness one must be facing traveling alone over the middle of the uncharted ocean and the subsequent need to talk to someone or something like a fly, or even himself.

As we travel alongside Lindbergh, it's easy to be overcome with feelings of not only dread for the inevitable dangers that face the place, but also the joys in realizing one's ultimate dream. From the moment he witness a flying seagull, we realize that land is close. From the moment he tries to hail fisherman below him to ask if the country of Ireland is nearby, we appreciate the humor as lighthearted measures in asking for directions. When he finally succumbs to sleepiness and conks out, we shudder at the sight of the plane flying off course and out of control, and then immediately breathe a sigh of relief when he regains his consciousness and perspective. The overhead shots of the lights of Paris are the physical signs of victory for not only Charles Lindbergh, but for the two hundred thousand French people who cheer his successful arrival and for the four million people of New York City who will honor him as a national hero with a ticker tape parade.

While not received too well in 1957, it impossible not to recognize now that THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS deserves praise for not only a solid performance by a legendary actor like James Stewart (my favorite classic actor, by the way), but for Billy Wilder's ability to create a sense of suspense, tension, adventure and excitement in one man's spiritual determination to make history at a time when the 20th Century was still relatively new and the possibilities for man's historic achievements were still limitless. In fact, when I watch a film like this (or THE RIGHT STUFF, too, for that matter), I cannot help but become very cynical in my attitude toward human achievement in the 21st Century. What have we done? Where have we gone? What are we likely to do in the near future? If the answer to these important questions is merely the latest and greatest versions of the Apple iPhone and the money that phone addicts are willing to spend on it, then I fear we have no real future to look forward to. Sad!

Favorite line or dialogue:

Charles Lindbergh: "Did you wait in the rain all night?"
Girl: "Yes."
Charles: "Are you from New York?"
Girl: "No."
Charles: "Long Island?"
Girl: "No. I'm from Philadelphia."
Charles: "You came all the way from Philadelphia?"
Girl: "I had to. You needed my mirror."















Thursday, December 21, 2017

SPIDER-MAN



(May 2002, U.S.)

Fifteen years - six Spider-Man movies. To those die hard fans who crave this stuff crammed down their throat every summer and holiday season, it may not seem like a lot. For me, the less-than-average fan of comic book heroes, Sam Raimi's original film that kicked it all off has been more than enough. It's not just because it's the best of the lot, in my opinion, but it's also timing and history that places the film in a high position of significance. SPIDER-MAN was the first comic book hero film to be released in movie theaters following the horrific events of September 11th just seven and a half months prior. It is virtually impossible for me to watch this film without deep reflection of not only New York City at that time, but my own feelings and memories as a city resident at that time. Hence, my post today of SPIDER-MAN is not just an interpretation of a beloved comic book hero film, but a tale of 9/11, as well.

The film was practically a tribute to the Twin Towers from the moment fans witnessed the first teaser movie poster featuring the city skyline's two towers reflected in the web slinger's huge eyes...


That poster was subsequently recalled by Sony following the terrorist attacks. The film's original teaser trailer ends with Spider-Man trapping the bad guys into a gigantic web spun between the World Trade Center towers. That trailer was also pulled after the attacks. Finally, any scenes of the towers that were filmed in 2001 were digitally removed from the final print following the attacks. However, despite Hollywood's best effort to sensitively protect its audience from any painful reminders of our worst day, the entire feel of Sam Raimi's film is still a film of New York City and the evil that dwells inside it...and ultimately the hero we need to fight it (but I'll get into further in a little while).

If you ever read the comic books or religiously followed the animated TV series that ran from 1967 to 1970 (as I did in re-runs), then you know very well the story of high school student and social outcast Peter Parker (played in the first three films by Toby Maguire) and how he came to develop superhuman spider powers following a bite from a genetically-engineered "super spider" (at least that's how it happens in the film). Peter's also in love with neighbor and fellow student Mary Jane Watson (played by Kirsten Dunst). One fateful day, while trying to win money at a wrestling match to buy a car to impress Mary, Peter allows a dangerous thief to escape capture. This same thief will later kill Peter's Uncle Ben (played by the late Cliff Robertson) during a car jacking. Guilt-ridden and now in the famous costume we all know so well, Peter takes on the role and responsibility (because "with great power comes great responsibility") of our friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man. But while he's a doer of good deeds and fighting injustice, it's the head of the Daily Bugle's J. Jonah Jameson (played by J.K. Simmons) who's convinced that Spider-Man is a menace, even as he hires Peter as the only freelance photographer who can manage to ever get a clear picture of the web crawler (oh, the irony of it all!). As a rescuer of the sweet damsel in distress, he manages to save Mary Jane three times. So it's no wonder that's she inevitably falls in love with her unknown hero who's also in love with her when he's just Peter (oh, the total irony of it all!). And to be perfectly honest, I'd be less than a truthful horny, heterosexual male if I didn't confess that Kirsten looks amazing in the rain-soaked street scene with her wet nipples poking through her blouse, just before the famous upside-down smooch...


Spider-Man's arch enemy in this first film is the Green Goblin, who's the insanely powerful brainchild of billionaire Norman Osborn (played chillingly by Willem Dafoe). Unaware of Peter's true identity, he also sees himself as his father figure, practically ignoring his own son Harry (played by James Franco). Such personal affections don't count for much when good must ultimately fight evil in the face of great danger and peril. During an attack on the Roosevelt Island Tram car (that car was also the scene of a hostage situation in Sylvester Stallone's 1981 cop film NIGHTHAWKS), Spider-Man is forced to choose between saving Mary Jane or the poor children in the Tram car (he saves both, of course!). In the end, Green Goblin is defeated, Norman Osborn is killed, Harry swears revenge against Spider-Man, love is revealed and rejected, and the stage is set for the future heroics and responsibility of the amazing Spider-Man. Whether or not you consider his adventures any good after this one is strictly up to your own cinematic opinions and tastes. For myself, Spider-Man's screen time ends for me after Raimi's first film. Despite it's popularity, SPIDER-MAN 2 did nothing for me. Everything that has followed since hasn't been worth my time.

I'd like to return now to the tone of 9/11 that absorbs this film. As previously mentioned, the filmmakers do their best to shield us of any reminders that once existed with the World Trade Center towers. Still, we cannot ignore that this is still New York City, and it's far from ever being a paradise on Earth. The city is filled with danger and with evil, and the actions of such evil still comes in the form of violence, of acts of terror, of explosions and of innocent lives damaged. Any comic book super hero film will boldly shove those hard facts in our face. But it's the realization and understanding of SPIDER-MAN as a heroic film that follows a real-life event of tragedy that reminds us of how much we hold dear our heroes of action and justice...even if those heroes are fiction.

That in mind, I'd like to conclude with a piece of Spider-Man history that I've always considered very moving and poignant for our time. In December 2001, Marvel Comics released the Amazing Spider-Man, Volume 2, Issue #36 - "Stand Tall", a 9/11 tribute comic book with an all black cover. The story focuses on Spider-Man (as well as other Marvel heroes and villains) coping with the devastation and sorrow following the terrorist attacks. Despite it being a work of fictional characters that do not exist in our real lives, one cannot help but reflect on the themes behind the true evil we live with and the heroes we depend on that do exist in our lives, primarily the great first responders of the city. Still, it's impossible not to fantasize of what we wish existed in our life. Spider-Man, Superman, Captain America and any other beloved character we grew up with are ideas many of us can't help but cling to in times of horrible crisis, despite their being merely imaginary.

There are two images from the comic book that speak wonders for me in their effort to help us connect with the myth of the comic book hero and those who so desperately need him. The first is Spider-Man staring in horror at the ground's devastation following the tower's collapse...


Even as our great hero is horrified at what he's witnessed, he speaks to us by reminding us that "Only madmen could contain the thought, execute the act, fly the planes. The sane world will always be vulnerable to madmen, because we cannot go where they go to conceive of such things. We could not see it coming. We could not be here before it happened. We could not stop it. But we are here now. You cannot see us for the dust, but we are here. You cannot hear us for the cries, but we are here."

The second image is the cries of desperation from innocent people who are running for their lives from the cataclysmic collapse of the towers as they beg for understanding from Spider-Man when they ask him, "Where were you? How could you let this happen?"...


We are reading nothing more than a comic book, but how can we not ask somewhere deep down in our own minds and hearts how such an evil deed could possibly happen to us and why wasn't there a hero to stop it from happening in the first place? These are haunting questions that are likely to never be answered, but I applaud Marvel Comics for just one brief moment, in trying to artistically express those feelings of fear and confusion by reminding us of legendary heroes of good and justice like the amazing Spider-Man.

Always remember September 11, 2001.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Wrestling Promoter (after Peter allows a thief to escape with cash): "You coulda taken that guy apart! Now he's gonna get away with my money!"
Peter Parker: "I missed the part where that's my problem!"


























Monday, December 18, 2017

SPHERE



(February 1998, U.S.)

It's interesting to think that Spielberg's JURASSIC PARK (1993) kicked off the 1990's as the decade of Michael Crichton-novel-turned-movies (thought he also made a name for himself as a director in the '70s of films like WESTWORLD and COMA). I think I saw every one of them, including crap like CONGO (1995). But more than just another Crichton literary thriller, SPHERE reminds me that among his versatilities, director Barry Levinson proves he can put together not only an effective sci-fi thriller, but an interesting think-piece, as well. It's also the last film, in my opinion, that really stood out for me regarding Barry's impressive career (despite the initial negative reviews by critics). Everything that followed SPHERE just never worked for me.

When you're watching SPHERE, I suppose having a fondness for James Cameron's THE ABYSS (1989) doesn't hurt to start you off in the right direction. Once again, there's something mysterious going on at the deepest depths of the ocean floor. An alien spacecraft has been discovered and the immediate analysis by every sought-out intelligent expert (including Dustin Hoffman as a psychologist who once wrote a report under the Bush Sr. administration on what should be done in the event of an extraterrestrial visit to Earth) is that the ship is three hundred years-old. Other experts include Samuel L. Jackson, Liev Schreiber and Sharon Stone (sorry - she keeps all her clothes on in this one!) under the command of the hard-as-nails U.S. Navy Captain (played by Peter Coyote, whom, if you haven't forgotten his role in E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, seems perfectly suitable for roles involving men in charge of alien life investigations). Everyone is assembled to an underwater "dormitory" called the Habitat; a state-of-the-art living facility located near the mysterious spacecraft. Turns out, however, that we're not dealing with aliens, but rather Earth people from the United States of the future, who somehow fell into a black hole once-upon-a-time and traveled back in time three hundred years and ended up underwater in our own present day of the late '90s.

(you following all of this, so far?)

The technology of our future far surpasses anything we have now. The computer aboard reveals an "unknown entry event" that took place and the logic of our on-board scientists leads us to believe that none will survive this mission since it appears evident that the events we're witnessing were never revealed to the world, thus documented as an "unknown entry event".

(you still with me?)

As the intensity of the ship, the perfect spherical ball of golden fluid that hovers not far from the ship, and its inexplicable effect on the crew become more evident and more lethal, we come to the learn and understand the concept of time travel, reality, dreams, and the ability of our deep-rooted "monsters from the Id" (remember FORBIDDEN PLANET?) to manifest our fears and nightmares into reality, including killer jellyfish, aggressive squids, poisonous snakes, a fire that nearly destroys the entire ship, and a temperamental computer entity who calls himself "Jerry". Actually, learning about "Jerry" is a funny moment when the crew concludes that the alien intelligence controlling "Jerry" must be an idiot. They even conclude among themselves, "Why not a stupid alien?" As they desperately wait to be rescued from above, the three remaining crew members (Hoffman, Stone and Jackson) come to realize their manifestations and their fears. They all conclude that they each entered the sphere, which gave them their supernatural abilities. But it's also the realization of these abilities that will save them in the end. Once they've managed to escape a cataclysmic explosion in a mini-sub, they conclude (I've used that word quite a bit, haven't I) that the only way to keep their powers out of the wrong hands (including their own) is to simply choose to forget everything that happened to them throughout the entire film, thus assuring the true meaning behind the paradox of the "unknown entry event".

Okay, so the critics didn't like SPHERE. Fuck them! Okay, so it's a sci-fi think piece, though not necessarily at the same thinking level as, say, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, SOLARIS or even DUNE. Still, I believe that the art of science fiction in film has to be embraced beyond the United Federation of Planets or a galaxy far, far away. Crichton's story challenges us to not only consider the possibilities of our future, but also the human flaws of our present. Dustin Hoffman concludes the film by citing that we're not ready to handle such alien powers, whether considered a gift or a curse. He's likely right. But I suppose if you take the negative criticism of audiences and film critics who chose not to embrace Barry Levinson's one attempt at sci-fi to heart, then clearly, the average Friday night multiplex moviegoer isn't ready for anything that requires too much thought or imagination, either. Fuck them, too!

Favorite line or dialogue:

Dr. Harry Adams: "We're all gonna die down here."
Norman Goodman: "What?"
Harry: "You see? It's curious. Ted did figure it out; time travel, and when we get back, we gonna tell everyone. How it's possible, how it's done, what the dangers are. But then why fifty years in the future when the spacecraft encounters a black hole does the computer call it an 'unknown entry event'? Why don't they know? If they don't know, that means we never told anyone. And if we never told anyone, it means we never made it back. Hence, we die down here. Just as a matter of deductive logic."











Sunday, December 10, 2017

SPELLBOUND



(October 1945, U.S.)

Alfred Hitchcock was considered the master of suspense. He wasn't perfect, though, in my opinion. Even the great "masters" have their flaws. SPELLBOUND is far from flawless. In fact, as I sat down to watch it last night for the first time in years for the purpose of writing this post, I slowly piled up in my brain, everything about the film that was irritating me. To begin with, its intent on addressing the professional practices of psychiatry and psychoanalysis feels considerably overdone and overblown at times. Yes, we get it, Hitch - you were fascinated by the insights into the human mind and what made it "tick", so to say. You overstretch its point, in my opinion. Then there's what I consider a real negative stretch for such a gifted actor as Gregory Peck in which he overdoes the catatonic bit of his amnesiac mental state and his repeated aggressive outbursts and fainting dizzy spells. In fact, if one were to over-analyze SPELLBOUND, it may easily be accused of passing itself off as nothing greater than a full-length documentary on psychoanalysis starring two of the biggest movie stars of the era. In short, this Hitchcock film comes very close to fall on its ass compared to such other great masterpieces that came later by the great master!

So, why, you may ask am I here even discussing it if I'm starting things off with such negative feelings? Well, it's Hitchcock, for starters, and that means always giving everything he did a fair chance. There's also a fine and surprising resolution at the film's end, which manages to save it all, but I'll get into that later. From the moment the opening credits gives its audience some insight into the profession and practices of psychiatry, we're immediately introduced to a Vermont mental hospital called Green Manors where its patients and their "problems" are portrayed with a certain degree of resistance. Remember, this is the 1940s, so the level of violence from mental illness is bound to be restrained on screen. We have a woman who's your basic man hater and a man who appears to be afraid of his own shadow as he's convinced he killed his own father. Dr. Constance Peterson (played by Ingrid Bergman) is a rather emotionless and detached psychoanalyst who, while not believing in the concept of the emotions behind falling in love, manages to fall head-over-heels for Dr. Anthony Edwards (played by Gregory Peck) when he arrives at Green Manors to replace its former director, Dr. Murchison (played by Leo G. Carroll, a frequent Hitchcock performer), who is being forced into retirement after a mild breakdown of his own. Constance is in love now, but her new male fancy may not be what he seems. First, he may not actually be Dr. Edwards, but rather the man who murdered Dr. Edwards and then assumed his identity to hide any guilt complex he may be experiencing following the crime.

(you following all of this, so far?)

Second, the good doctor suffers from a bizarre phobia about parallel lines against white backgrounds (???). Through her own investigation into his handwriting, Constance soon realizes that her new love interest is not who he pretends to be and is in need of help. Of course, in real life, most women would run for their lives from a potentially dangerous man they've only known a few days. But this is Hollywood and it's Ingrid Bergman - you know, the woman who always seems to stand by her man in nearly every film she does - so we know the young doctor in love is going to stand by this man, too, and try to help cure him of his amnesia, his phobias and his unknown demons because she believes him to be innocent of any crimes. Now we get to watch the patient on the couch, the shrink with the glasses and the notepad, and the detailed interpretations of Peck's surrealistic dream, courtesy of none other than artist Salvador DalĂ­ himself...


Is the fake Dr. Edwards psychotic, schizophrenic, amnesiac, homicidal...or just in need of some good 'ol fashioned couch time? We're trying to find out as we watch Constance not only try to get to the heart of her lover's mind, but also evade the police with him, as well. In the end, we learn that the fake Dr. Edward's mental state and guilt complex is ultimately linked to an incident from his childhood when he accidentally killed his brother. But that's not the end of the story, nor the big revelation that saves SPELLBOUND in the end. We still have the body of the real Dr. Edwards that was discovered on a ski mountain to contain a bullet in its back. Somebody shot him, but who? Looks like it was Peck and it looks like he's going to get the chair for it. Ah, but things are (thankfully) never that neat and tidy in a Hitchcock mystery. Remember the director of Green Manors who was forced into retirement due to his own breakdown? Turns out he was on the ski mountain with a gun the day the real Dr. Edwards fell over a treacherous cliff and Gregory Peck "took the fall" for it. Constance is not only a great psychiatrist, but a pretty talented detective, too. So, in the end, Peck is miraculously healed, seemingly without any leftover trace of the psychosis that ailed him, and he now gets to live happily-ever-after and sleep with Ingrid Bergman. That's Hollywood, my friends!

Favorite line or dialogue:

Dr. Murchison (pointing a gun at Constance): "You're an excellent analyst, Dr. Peterson, but a rather stupid woman."