Category Archives: 1945 Movie reviews

Spellbound-1945

Spellbound-1945

Director-Alfred Hitchcock

Starring-Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck

Scott’s Review #1,015

Reviewed April 24, 2020

Grade: A-

One of Alfred Hitchcock’s early American films, after his voyage from home base London to United States soil proved profitable and critically acclaimed, Spellbound (1945) followed the box office and awards success of Rebecca (1940). Probably the most spoofed of all the Hitchcock works in the 1977 Mel Brooks parody High Anxiety, Spellbound provides a psychological storyboard that uses enough vehicles like amnesia, hypnosis, and danger to impress any daytime soap opera writer. Not in the director’s top arsenal or remembered well, but a stellar effort.

Youthful Doctor Anthony Edwardes (Gregory Peck) arrives one day at the sprawling Green Manors Mental Asylum as the new director. After immediately falling for each other, the beautiful Doctor Constance Petersen (Ingrid Bergman) discovers that Edwardes is not who he claims, but instead is a paranoid amnesiac impostor, more reminiscent of a patient. This literally gives new meaning to the term “the inmates are running the asylum.”

Constance becomes obsessed with answering the following questions: What happened to the real Dr. Edwardes? If Edwardes has been kidnapped or murdered who is responsible? Who is the gorgeous man that she has just fallen head over heels for? The intelligent psychoanalyst must practice what she preaches by becoming a sleuth and figuring out what is going on. The action takes place in both bustling New York City and snowy Rochester, New York.

I love the progressive nature of the story. To have a leading female character with a lofty professional status is admirable given the year of 1945 when female roles were just beginning to evolve. While most roles that Hollywood heavyweight Bette Davis portrayed in the 1930’s and 1940’s was vital and strong, this was the exception and not the norm. Bergman, quite beautiful, does not need to play sex kitten to make her character sexy. She does well with that by wearing glasses and a lab coat, using the intelligence of her character to her advantage.

In 1945 Alfred Hitchcock was still considered a “new” director to most and was only beginning to make his mark on audiences unfamiliar with his work. His cunning and masterful use of lighting and shadows to produce suspense is on display during much of Spellbound. The faces of Constance and Anthony glow with a combination of warmth and suspicion, and both are wonderful at eliciting emotion through subdued facial expressions. While Peck is slightly wooden, it does add a dimension to his uncertain character.

Atmosphere is everything with Hitchcock. Treats, like shots of the old Penn Station and Grand Central Station, monumental parts of everyday New York City life, are magnificent. They provide a glimpse of what bustling commuter life was like in the 1940’s before most of us were born. Undoubtedly, many extras and non-actors were used that enrich the scenes and offer what regular people looked like in those days.

As Constance and Anthony team up to determine what secrets lie beneath his subconscious, they board a train for the seclusion of upstate New York, where more secrets are revealed. A heavy dose of psychoanalysis and hypnotism allay the best scene of the film. Anthony sinks into a dreamlike world where he sees strange objects fraught with symbolism: a man with no face, scissors, playing cards, eyes, and curtains. What do they all mean? Fans will have fun piecing together the clues to solve the mystery.

The works of Salvador Dali, a famous surrealist artist known for bizarre and striking images, are on display during the dream sequence. Though limited, they do envelope the scene with fright and mystique and are a perfect addition to the odd sequence. Shot in black and white, the final scene adds a blood red image as a character turns a revolver on themselves and commits suicide. When Anthony drinks a glass of milk, the camera is inside the bottom of the glass, creating a hallucinogenic effect.

While Peck does his best with a peculiar character, Anthony is not as interesting as Constance, Doctor Alex Brulov (Michael Chekhov), or Doctor Murchison (Leo G. Carroll). Personally, I would have loved more scenes or back-story for Brulov and have gotten to know him better. Anthony has some light annoyances as when he inexplicably passes out whenever events become too much for him.

Spellbound (1945) is the perfect accompaniment for a snowy winter night since the film has a warm and cozy look with atmosphere and the soothing musical score. Perfect is to watch in tandem with High Anxiety (1977) for a double-punch of suspense and appreciation for the film with the humor the satire furnishes. While not the best of the best of Hitchcock films, it stands proudly on its own merits.

Oscar Nominations: Best Motion Picture, Best Director-Alfred Hitchcock, Best Supporting Actor-Michael Chekhov, Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (won), Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Special Effects

The Lost Weekend-1945

The Lost Weekend-1945

Director-Billy Wilder

Starring-Ray Milland, Jane Wyman

Scott’s Review #856

Reviewed January 10, 2019

Grade: A

Billy Wilder, considered one of the most influential directors to emerge from the Hollywood Golden Age of cinema (the 1940’s), creates a masterpiece tackling a social issues story line until this time never explored before. The Lost Weekend (1945) tells a tale of alcoholism and the desperation and degradation of an addict. Wilder bravely goes where no film had dared to go with astounding results. The film was awarded several Academy awards including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor.

Don Birnam (Ray Milland) plays a New York writer left alone for the weekend one hot summer. His brother Wick (Philip Terry) and girlfriend Helen (Jane Wyman) are aware of Don’s drinking problem but leave for the weekend anyway when Don goes on a bender. He spends each subsequent day desperate for liquor and in need of for cash to purchase it. He resorts to theft and selling personal items out of desperation and the need for booze.  The story features flashbacks of past events when he first met Helen and an embarrassing attempt to meet her parents for lunch.

The film is adapted from the novel of the same name written by Charles R. Jackson in 1944. Assuredly a dark story that can be categorized as a downer the film does not paint a glamorous picture of the pains an alcoholic will go through or the lengths he will take out of desperation. Before, The Lost Weekend was made drunkard characters in film were largely portrayed as either bumbling or as comic relief, so this character study is a welcome departure from tradition.

Milland is perfectly cast and effectively relays the troubled and desperate Don. Handsome, well-dressed, and professional, he is not the stereotypical image of a drunk. Dressed in a suit and tie by all measures he does not fit the bill of a desperate man, but slowly begins his decent and spirals out of control. This makes Wilder’s message more powerful as he shows that alcoholism can afflict anyone even professional, intelligent men. Milland, who resembles actor Jimmy Stewart is supposed to be liked by the audience eliciting a rooting factor even when he treats Helen badly. We want him to face his problems and recover.

Many glimpses of Manhattan are shown, and exterior shots used plentifully. Wilder shoots the scenes as largely bleak and lonely which aligns with the overall feel of the film. Third Avenue looks desolate and isolated as we watch a desperate Don wander around and attempt to sell his typewriter for booze money. He is grief stricken when he realizes it is Yom Kippur weekend and therefore the pawnshops are closed. The camera remains firmly fixed on Milland showcasing a range of powerful emotions over the course of the film.

The Lost Weekend (1945) was a groundbreaking film at the time of release with a serious and detailed tale of the life and times of an alcoholic. With a wonderful acting performance by Milland, Wilder, is able to portray the world of an addict in a dark and frightening way. Decades later the film is still mentioned as inspirational to other film makers creating works about alcohol abuse.

Oscar Nominations: Best Motion Picture, Best Director-Billy Wilder (won), Best Actor-Ray Milland (won), Best Screenplay (won), Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Film Editing

And Then There Were None-1945

And Then There Were None-1945

Director-Rene Clair

Starring-Barry Fitzgerald, Judith Anderson

Scott’s Review #66

255772

Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: C+

And Then There Were None is adapted from a famous Agatha Christie novel of the same name from the 1930’s, the first of 3 film adaptations over the years. A group of 10 individuals from all walks of life are summoned for a weekend of merriment at a secluded mansion on a lonely island. The premise is perfectly set up for a fascinating whodunit as the characters are knocked off one by one in sometimes bizarre fashion- the bee sting death is great. There are a wide range of characters- the rich movie star, the spinster, the doctor, the house servant and his wife). For starters, I was very disappointed in the DVD quality (no Blu-Ray is available for this film). The picture and sound are abhorrent. The quality is quite grainy and faded and made watching an unpleasant experience. However, a great film might withstand those issues. The film has some appeal that the novel had- an interesting whodunit. The character histories are similar to the ones in the book and, to be fair, the film is well acted, and the wonderful Judith Anderson (Rebecca) is always a treat to watch. But the most disappointing aspect is the blatantly changed and completely upbeat, romantic comedy ending, which is vastly different from the dark novel ending and lost major points with me for the adjustment.