It’s been said time and time again that Alfred Hitchcock is the master of suspense, and when you see him spin a web such as Notorious so effortlessly it’s very easy to understand why.
In this film, Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) is a alcoholic party girl who happens to be the daughter of an American traitor. During one of her parties a handsome stranger shows up and quickly endears himself to her. He is simply known as Devlin (Cart Grant) and he works for an unnamed branch of the government. They want Alicia to go undercover in a German spy ring by getting herself romantically involved with one it’s leaders, Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains). There is just one problem: Alicia and Devlin have already fallen madly in love and watching Alicia and Alexander drives Devlin crazy. Things start out very smoothly for Alicia with only Alexander’s mother (Leopoldine Konstantin) being suspicious. But soon everything slowly begins to fall apart putting Alicia’s life and danger. Will Devlin be able to save her in time?
Notorious is just about near as perfect a film as one can get. Not only is the story wonderful, but the dialog is impeccable and effortlessly delivered by Grant and Bergman. With the chemistry these two share on screen it is easy to believe how quickly they fall in love and why Alicia chooses to take the job anyway.
Then there is the masterful cinematography that Hitchock is always known for. There are two moments that come to mind. The first is in the beginning when Alicia is driving drunk and her hair flies in her face. We get a great POV shot with her hair going in her face as she complains about the fog. It seems like a simple thing, but people weren’t doing shots like this back in the 40’s.
The second scene that comes to mind is the wonderfully suspenseful dinner party towards the end of the film. All of the suspense in this scene revolves around a key. Hitchcock shows us this by opening the scene with a grand wide shot of the party and slowly panning down towards Alicia and Alexander speaking. At first you think we are panning down to them, but the camera keeps moving into an extreme close up of the key palmed in Alicia’s hand. This scene also utilizes one of Hitchcock favorite techniques, the ticking time bomb. Alicia realizes the staff will be running out of wine soon and Alexander will need his wine key back so her and Devlin only have a few minutes to search the cellar before getting the key back where it belongs.
The suspense cranks up to a eleven at the end as Alexander and his mother realize what’s going on and begin plotting Alicia’s demise. Hitchcock made a lot of great spy films and this might be the best one. Both Grant and Bergman are at the top of their game and Hitchcock delivers the perfect blend of white knuckled suspense and steamy romance. Or as steamy as 1940’s Hollywood would allow at the time anyway.
This film is presented in 1.33:1 full screen and DTS-HD Mater Audio. This is a fantastic looking trasfer and it sounds beautiful too. For a black and white film from the 40’s the greys are very vibrant. The film has never looked better.
The Ultimate Romance: The Making Of…: (28 min.) More than a making of, though it is thorough and interesting, this is more a love letter to the film. Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Spymaster: (13 min.) This one talks about how the Bond films and other spy films took so much from Notorious. The American Film Institute Award: The Key to Hitchcock: (3 min.) A quick look at Hitchcock getting this award wherein Bergman returns the wine cellar key to Hitchcock some 30 years later. 1948 Radio Play starring Joseph Cotton and Ingrid Bergman: (60 min.) Fun to listen to, but not as good as the film. Hitchcock Audio Interviews: (18 min.) Listen to Hitchcock discuss his craft with Francois Truffaut and Peter Boganovich. Really interesting stuff here. There are two different Commentary tracks. One with film professor Rick Jewell and one with film professor Drew Casper: I’ve never found film professor or film historian commentaries to be all that exciting and these didn’t change my mind. Plenty of interesting information if you can stay awake long enough to listen to it all. Isolated Music and Effects Track For when you just want to listen to the pretty music… and the sound effects. Restoration Comparison: (3 min.) Shows off how much cleaner the new transfer is with side by side comparison. Original Theatrical Trailer
Notorious easily ranks up at the top of Hitchcock’s list of best films and this Blu-ray presentation fantastically represents it. If you love Hitchcock this is absolutely a must own.
MGM presents Notorious. Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock. Written by Ben Hecht. Based on an original story by Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains and Madame Konstantin. Running time: 101 min. Rating: Not Rated. Released on Blu-ray: January 24, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: alfred hitchcock