While I can never quite settle on my absolute favorite Hitchcock film, 1946’s Notorious always remains in the top three. Not only one of the most stylish films ever made, Notorious is one of the greatest suspense yarns ever committed to celluloid. Buoyed by a great cast, and a well rounded script, Notorious represents filmmaking at its best.

Government agent T. R. Devlin (Cary Grant) is assigned to watch over Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), 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 Nazi’s 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). 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.

NotoriousIn an effort 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 screenwriter 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 actually 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 particular 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.

Presented in 1.33:1, this 1080p transfer does have some issues with specks and dust. While a few shots appear more digitally enhanced than they probably should, the image is mostly clear through. Blacks and whites are fairly well balanced. Not the best, but not bad.

The DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio sound mix is as good as the ones on the other newly-upgraded Hitchcock Blu-ray releases (Though I didn’t notice the hisses and pops apparent on some of the other titles). While center focused, both music and dialogue is very clear and free of distortion.

English subtitles are included.

The following special features are available:

  • Commentary with Film Professor Rick Jewell. Concentrating more on film history, Jewell spends roughly the first half the commentary giving us the history of RKO and then Selznick’s involvement with the project, before discussing the movie at hand.
  • Commentary with Film Professor Drew Casper: Far too chatty and not very informative. Some may like his style; not me.
  • Isolated Music and Effects Track. Listen to Roy Webb’s score.
  • The Ultimate Romance: The Making of Notorious (SD; 28:22) is a decent look at the film, concentrating on the romantic angle as a unifying focus.
  • Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Spymaster (SD; 13:10) is a look at how Hitchcock’s films such as Notorious have influenced the whole spy and espionage genre in film.
  • The American Film Institute Award: The Key to Hitchcock (SD; 3:20) features Mary Stone, Hitchcock’s granddaughter introducing snippets of footage from Hitch’s AFI Lifetime Achieement Award.
  • 1948 Radio Play starring Joseph Cotton and Ingrid Bergman (59:35)
  • Hitchcock Audio Interviews includes talks with Peter Bogdanovich (2:14) and François Truffaut (16:22).
  • Restoration Comparison (SD; 2:50)
  • Theatrical Trailer (SD; 2:31)