“Hypnotism is a powerful force that can’t be kidded around with as though it was a harmless little parlor game.”
While being hypnotized by Dr. Morey Bernstein (Louis Hayward), housewife Ruth Simmons (Teresa Wright) experiences a past life as Irishwoman Bridey Murphy.
In 1956, Dr. Morey Bernstein published a best-selling book about his experiences with the medical use of hypnosis, as well as his unintentional past-life regression of housewife Ruth Simmons into a 19th century Irishwoman named “Bridey Murphy”. This film adaptation of Bernstein’s book comes across as overly talky and hopelessly dated (when Simmons asks her husband for “permission” to be regressed, for instance, nobody bats an eye), yet surprisingly entertaining in its own limited way. Regardless of your beliefs concerning the possibility of past lives, it’s fascinating to watch the supine Simmons — well-played by a short-haired Teresa Wright — conjuring up the mundane details of “her” existence 150 years earlier. Simmons’ words are taken directly from the original transcripts of her sessions with Bernstein (published in the book), and are all the more convincing for their lack of overt drama — Simmons-as-Murphy “remembers” dancing a jig, being punished for peeling paint off her bed as a child, and wandering the heavens after her death.
Unfortunately, despite its title, very little time in the film is spent actually searching for “Bridey Murphy”; given the wealth of details Bernstein pries out of Simmons, I expected a lengthy detective hunt in Ireland, and some kind of a resolution (however dissatisfying) to the mystery of this young woman’s existence. Instead, the film’s denouement centers on the melodramatic issue of whether or not Simmons will be able to snap out of her final regression — thus emphasizing once again the film’s moral that hypnosis is a “powerful force”, and not to be taken lightly.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Teresa Wright’s compelling performance as Ruth Simmons and “Bridey Murphy”
- The surprisingly effective “flashback” scenes of Bridey’s life in Ireland
No. This curiosity is very much a product of its time, and will only be of interest either to fans of Teresa Wright or believers in past life regression.