First off, I am among those that consider Alfred Hitchcock to have been the greatest director of all time. Back in Welland, I had purchased this collection featuring Notorious, Rebecca, and Spellbound.
I watched Rebecca because it was his only film to ever win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It was enjoyable with a twisty plot. I became busy and forgot about the other films. Last week I watched both Notorious and Spellbound. Since they were both romantic thrillers, I figured they were as good as any to review for Valentine’s Day.
Notorious is a story about Alicia, played by Ingrid Bergman. The year us 1946, and her father has just been convicted of working with Nazi conspirators. Devlin, played by Cary Grant, is sent to recruit Alicia to spy on the German spies. They head to Rio and a romance quickly blossoms, but a wrench is thrown in the works when Devlin is told what Alicia’s mission is. She is to romance an old friend in order to gain access to the spy ring.
Spellbound tells the tale of Constance, a psychiatrist played by Ingrid Bergman. She is a no nonsense woman who focusses on her work, but this all changes when she falls for an amnesia victim who may also be a murderer. The film follows them across the country as they try to escape the police and unlock the mysteries in the mind of Gregory Peck’s mystery man.
Notorious was great, and Spellbound was not. I felt bad because it was the first Hitchcock film I’d seen that I thought was actually bad. For the master of suspense, I couldn’t fathom how he concocted such a boring thriller. The whole film is a giant police chase. How do you make that boring?
Sadly I now know the answer. You just have to make sure the majority of the film is spent with the doctor yelling for the patient to remember then he collapses into screams and they cap it of with a bit of romantic banter. Yuck. Hitchcock’s formula for suspense is all about giving information, not starving us for details till the last reveal then The End.
Notorious was great because it did the opposite. It threw our lead into a den of snakes. We knew what one character was holding back from another, and we were forced to watch and wait till the truth would be found before it destroyed them.
My favourites from the film:
Notorious: Ingrid Bergman was amazing. I loved seeing her portrayal of the type of woman who goes out driving drunk. It was refreshing to see a film from the period with a female lead that held her own. Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant had great chemistry. I enjoyed the wine cellar scenes and the poisoning dillema. The ending was perfect.
Spellbound: I like that Alfred Hitchcock made films that explored psychology. The scenes in the psychiatric ward were great, and the scenes in Constance’s old professor’s house were a breath of fresh air. The straight razor scenes was thrilling, and the dream sequence was visually interesting.
My less enjoyed parts of the films:
Notorious: The romance once in Rio was quick, and the movie slumps a little till Alicia gets her assignment. I thought it was odd they discussed their plan to hook her up with Alexander while right behind him. It also bugged me that Devlin knocked over just the right bottle by accident.
Spellbound: The worst part about this film is that Constance is established as a professional woman, but that is thrown out the window when she falls in love. The film literally says that is what happens to women when they fall in love. It was dumb. The amnesia went on too long with a slow progress to going anywhere, and it never delivered on the promise of a manhunt.
My recommendation: Check out Notorious. Skip Spellbound. My favourites from Alfred Hitchcock are the original Man Who Knew Too Much, The 39 Steps, Rear Window, North by Northwest, and Psycho. I’d suggest checking those out.