Our reviews of Notorious (1946) Criterion Collection (published February 17th, 2004), Notorious (2009) (published April 21st, 2009), Notorious (1946) (Blu-ray) (published February 6th, 2012), and Notorious (2009) (Blu-ray) (published May 4th, 2009) are also available.
From the master of suspense…
Notorious tell the story of Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), daughter of a Nazi spy convicted of treason against the United States just following the second world war. Following the verdict Huberman throws a party, something she does often. At the party she meets a dashing stranger named Devlin (Cary Grant). It turns out Devlin works for the US Intelligence community and his superiors are convinced that using her notoriety as a Nazi's daughter, she can infiltrate a cadre of Nazi's living in Brazil and find out what their plans are. Of course during the course of events Devlin and Huberman fall in love. That love is put to a great deal of strain when, in the course of her assignment, Huberman is forced to marry a Nazi named Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains). Huberman's mission is to find out what secret plot the Nazi's are working on. During all of this she must also survive the attentions of the mother-in-law from hell Madame Sabastian (Madame Konstantin).
Notorious has long been my favorite Hitchcock film from his Hollywood pre-color days. The collaboration between screenwriter Ben Hecht (The Front Page), producer David Selznick and Hitch was a lesson in chemistry. Throw into the mix the charm and sexuality of Grant/Bergman and Rains/Bergman and the film really is something quite special.
One of the best things about Notorious is how simple it really is and how well it holds up today. To quote the master himself from the excellent book Hitchcock/Truffaut—The definitive study of Alfred Hitchcock by Francois Truffaut: "The story of Notorious is the old conflict between love and duty. Cary Grant's job—and it's a rather ironic situation—is to push Ingrid Bergman into Claude Rains's bed. One can hardly blame him for seeming bitter throughout the story, whereas Claude Rains is a rather appealing figure, both because his confidence is being betrayed and because his love for Ingrid Bergman is probably deeper than Cary Grant's. All of these elements of psychological drama have been woven into the spy story." Could not have said it better myself. For the period, the film is very frank, especially in regards to its sexual aspects. It is very well acted. It is tense and it possesses an amazingly suspenseful climax. What more could anyone ask for?
As always Hitch was pushing the envelope and in this case was predicting history. The MacGuffin of the film is the idea of the German's working with uranium a full year before the bomb at Hiroshima was dropped. The US government was so concerned in fact, that the FBI had Hitchcock followed for three months. How about that for art imitating life?
This version of Notorious comes by way of my favorite little company that could—Anchor Bay. The film is presented in its original full-frame format, in glorious black and white. And while there are some obvious problems with a film this old, none of it is too distracting. In fact, considering it's age, the film looks quite good. Sound is of the mono variety and here was the great surprise: I could not hear anything in the way of pops or hiss. Dialogue was clear as a bell and the music shined through. Very impressive.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I suppose the only disappointment is the disc's lack of extras. This is especially made clear when looking at Universal's editions of Vertigo and Psycho and the upcoming The Birds. But I suppose we can't have everything. On the plus side Notorious is priced to own. At my local Best Buy I picked this up for $14.99! That is cheaper than the VHS!
Notorious is one of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest films and it stars two of Hollywood's biggest stars, in roles that they can really sink their teeth into. It's priced right and if you love film, it belongs on your shelf.
Everyone connected with Notorious is released on their own recognizance. They and this film have withstood the greatest judge of all…time. I think I need to go back and watch Spellbound again. So it's time to say thank you, good day and case dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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