Blu-ray Review: Notorious (Criterion Collection)

Directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock, Notorious is not only one of the most stylish films ever made but is one of the greatest suspense yarns ever committed to celluloid. Buoyed by a great cast, and a well-rounded script by Ben Hecht (Design for Living) Notorious represents filmmaking at its best.

Government agent T. R. Devlin (Cary Grant, The Philadelphia Story) is assigned to watch over Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman, Ingrid Bergman: in Her Own Words), a socialite whose father has been convicted of spying for the Nazis. Devlin convinces her to travel to Rio de Janeiro and use her family name to infiltrate a group of Nazis’ who have relocated to Brazil.  Though Alicia and T.R. have developed feelings for one another, Alicia agrees to infiltrate her father’s former associates by pretending to fall in love the group’s leader Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains, Casablanca). Alicia’s charm wins over Sebastian, and he quickly proposes marriage. With the approval of her superiors, and no objection from Devlin, Alicia marries Sebastian in a bid to gain access to his inner circle.

To show Alexander she’s truly in love with him, Alicia convinces him to throw a party and invite Devlin to show him how happy they are together. He’s wary but agrees. It’s at this party that Alicia and Devlin discover what is really going on in the house. After getting the key to the locked wine cellar, where something being hidden is worth killing a man over, and a shattered bottle of uranium is discovered, Alexander discovers Alicia and Devlin in a passionate embrace. But, is everything as it seems?

None of Ben Hecht’s characters are angels. Alicia is sexually indiscriminate and has alcohol problems; Devlin’s emotions run hot and cold in a matter of seconds. But the genius of Hecht and Hitchcock’s work here is that they make the audience care about these two seriously flawed individuals. To their credit, both Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman seemed to embrace portraying these far from perfect people. Both actors give excellent performances, with Bergman’s tormented emotional rollercoaster being of note. At the same time, Grant’s subtle emotions as he struggles with his growing love for Alicia are interesting. I’ve also felt that Cary Grant was one of the few male actors whose face often said so much more than his dialogue. Claude Rains, who scored an Oscar nomination, is brilliant as the lovesick villain.

In 2006, Notorious was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Criterion’s new 4K transfer provides a noticeable improvement over MGM’s 2012 Blu-ray release. Presented in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio, the image is sharper, with only a few miniscule specks that don’t interfere with the overall viewing experience. The transfer also has an appealing thickness that adds to the filmic atmosphere. Contrast is appropriate, offering inky blacks and strong whites that never appear blown out.

The LPCM Mono audio track is solid considering its age. Its well balanced, with no pronounced drops or spikes in volume. While the effects can’t be considered dynamic, they come through clearly. The score by Roy Webb sounds remarkably full, and dialogue is clean, clear and concise throughout. The background is free of any age-related distortions.

English SDH subtitles are included.

The following extras are available:

  • Audio Commentary with Alfred Hitchcock Scholar Marian Keane: Recorded exclusively for Criterion in 2001.
  • Audio Commentary with film Historian Rudy Behlmer: Recorded in 1990, this initially appeared on Criterion’s Laser Disc release of Notorious.
  • Poisoned Romance (HD, 21:01) Recorded exclusively for Criterion in 2018, Alfred Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto discusses Alfred Hitchcock’s relationship with David O. Selznick, the production history of Notorious, and its story.
  • Glamour and Tension (HD, 23:25) Recorded exclusively for Criterion in 2018, cinematographer John Bailey (The Big Chill) discusses the films visual style as well as the methods Hitchcock used in his directing style over the years.
  • Powerful Patterns (HD, 29:42) Recorded exclusively for Criterion in 2018, film scholar David Bordwell deconstructs the finale of Notorious and the general atmosphere of the film.
  • Once Upon a Time… “Notorious” (HD, 52:02) Produced in 2009, this documentary about the film includes interviews with actress Isabella Rossellini; filmmakers Peter Bogdanovich, Claude Chabrol, Stephen Frears and others.
  • Writing with the Camera (HD, 19:54) In this new program, filmmaker David Raim examines Hitchcock’s storyboarding methods, and other pre-production preparations. Clops from interviews with production designer Henry Bumstead (Vertigo), and author Steven Katz, amongst others are included.
  • Pathe Reporter Meets… (HD, 59:56) Archival newsreel of Hitchcock greeting Ingrid Bergman to the United States in 1948.
  • Lux Radio Theatre (59:56) Recorded in 1948, this radio adaption of Notorious features Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten.
  • Four Vintage Trailers (HD)
    • “A Notorious Woman of Affairs!” (2:09)
    • “Gems in Her Hair and Ice in Her Heart!” (0:55)
    • “Notorious! Notorious! Notorious!” (0:52)
    • “All She Was, All She Wanted” (0:16)
  • Leaflet: An illustrated leaflet featuring an essay by critic Angelica Jade Bastién.

Movie title: Notorious (1946)

Director(s): Alfred Hitchcock

Actor(s): Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains , Louis Calhern , Leopoldine Konstantin , Reinhold Schünzel

Genre: Drama, Romance, Film Noir, Thriller

  • Movie
    (4.5)
  • Video
    (4.5)
  • Audio
    (4)
  • Extras
    (5)
4.5
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