B&W, 1964, 94 mins. 4 secs.
Directed by Alexander Singer
Starring Patricia Neal, Curt Jurgens, Samantha Eggar, Ian Bannen
Indicator (Blu-ray) (UK R0 HD), Sony (DVD) (US R0 MOD NTSC) / WS (1.75:1) (16:9)
Hollywood's mania for all things psychoanalytical may have hit a fever pitch with Alfred Hitchcock's delirious Spellbound, but England wasn't about to let him have the last word when it came to psychological melodramas. Enter Psyche 59, a sex-crazed character study with Patricia Neal (hot off her Oscar-winning turn in Hud) giving it her all as Allison, a woman suffering from sudden, inexplicable blindness after tumbling down the stairs. Well into her pregnancy and unable to remember how it happened, she's trying to piece it all together along with her stern husband, Eric (The Spy Who Loved Me's Jurgens), to figure out what she saw that caused her injury. When Allison's younger sister Robin (Eggar) turns up, tension mounts due to a past tryst three years ago between Eric and the manipulative Allison, who threatens to expose the husband for what he really is. Then there's Paul (Bannen), a family friend whose own relationship with Robin seems to be in flux -- and when they all end up together for a weekend in the country, psychoanalysis and dark secrets threaten to consume them all.
Surprisingly, this was only the second feature film for New York-born director Alexander Singer after his hot and heavy A Cold Wind in August, another film seriously overdue for reappraisal. Most of his career was confined to television, but he proved himself very adept at eliciting terrific female performances and making the most lurid plot turns without tipping over into unintentional hilarity. The excellent cast deserves a huge amount of the credit, of course, with Neal anchoring a role that would have gone to an actress like Lana Turner or Jane Wyman in a more traditional Hollywood setting, while the gorgeous, appealing Eggar proves once again she could have been a much bigger movie star with a few different career choices.
Despite its pedigree, this was a fairly difficult film to see outside of TV airings until its release as an MOD DVD from Sony in 2011. In 2019, Indicator gave the film its Blu-ray debut as a region-free U.K. release that looks as exceptional as you'd expect for a black-and-white Sony catalog title. It's really a feast for the eyes with deep blacks and pitch perfect detail throughout, and the LPCM English mono track is also top quality (with optional English SDH subtitles provided). The film can also be played with the audio track "The Britih Entertainment History Project Interview with Walter Lassally" from 1988 with Roy Fowler, running the length of the feature and covering his life and career from his upbringing in Germany through his various paths in the U.K. working up the ladder through the industry and overcoming a "factory" mentality that was prevalent at the time. A very cheerful Eggar turns up in the video interview "Come to Silence" (11m53s) discussing her attraction to this "wicked girl" part and her lack of input in her roles at Columbia before doing The Collector. Her memories of Neal are especially poignant as she chats about their lifelong friendship. "Intangible Visions" (1314s) features composer Kenneth V Jones discussing his score, which was composed the same year as his excellent work on Tomb of Ligeia and granted him far more leeway to experiment than was common at the time. Finally in "An Abstract Quality" (10m36s), critic Richard Combs tackles the film as part of Singer's body of work (especially the focus on gestures and hands) while adding biographical details like his early friendship with Stanley Kubrick and some unmade projects for the big screen. The very dramatic theatrical trailer is also included along with a gallery of producton photos and stills, while the limited edition (3,000 unit) packaging comes with liner notes by Josephine Botting and press coverage and reviews from its theatrical run.
Reviewed on February 25, 2019.