WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), the American daughter of a Nazi spy is recruited by a government agent T.R Devlin (Cary Grant) to infiltrate an underground Nazi organization that’s sprung up in Brazil. To do so, she seduces and later marries Sebastian (Claude Raines) the head of the organization- in order to supply Devlin with the information he needs to dismantle the ring. Complicating matters in Devlin’s jealousy, as he’s fallen in love with Alicia.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
NOTORIOUS is film champagne, meaning that of Alfred Hitchcock’s already incredible output of film, it ranks near the top of the heap. The premise of NOTORIOUS, that a spy must use his lover to capture his enemy, has been reused to death since NOTORIOUS’ bow in 1946. Heck, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 was little more than a high-octane remake of this film, minus the wit and sophistication.
The plot of NOTORIOUS, involving a Nazi plot to smuggle Uranium, is really the least important aspect of NOTORIOUS. As Hitchcock himself would say, it was merely his “MacGuffin”, meaning it was simply a plot device. The really important aspect of NOTORIOUS is what’s happening between Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, with the two having a palpable sexual chemistry on-screen that was more than a little risqué for 1946.
There’s an extra layer of perversity here, with Devlin using Alicia because he knows that Sebastian will want her sexually, and thus will be an easier mark. Wanting to both clear her conscience for having served her Nazi father, and make Devlin, who she loves, jealous, Alicia takes the charade further than anyone thought possible, eventually establishing herself as Sebastian’s wife, and making her the perfect person to use to dismantle this spy ring.
As a thriller, NOTORIOUS is pretty much perfect, with an incredible shot, starting on a balcony, and panning down until we finally rest on Alicia’s hand, which is clutching a key to a cellar full of uranium that she’s stolen from her husband, is one of Hitchcock’s most famous shots. But it’s the heat between Grant and Bergman than makes this a classic, and Grant in particular was never used better than he was by Hitchcock, with his cool reserve making him the perfect gentleman spy, and likely an early model for James Bond.
NOTORIOUS comes with a nice selection of extras, including two film historian audio commentaries , one by Rick Jewel, the other by Drew Casper. Next, The Making of Notorious a fun thirty minute doc examining the film’s production history. Briefer is the second featurette, Hitchcock: The Ultimate Spymaster examining Hitchcock’s fascination with tales of espionage (in a bio I read recently, it was revealed that Hitchcock LOVED the Bond movies, and kept up with them until he passed away). There also a quick AFI Tribute featurette, featuring some nice moments from that event, which is widely considered Hitchcock’s last hurrah. Finally, there’s the Lux Radio Adaptation a brief restoration comparison , the trailer and more interview clips from Hitchcock’s interviews with Peter Bogdanovich, and Francois Truffaut.
NOTORIOUS is really one of Hitchcock’s finest, and as such is a must see. Even if you own another version of NOTORIOUS, this Blu-ray is the best it’s ever looked, and considering that you can get it for a mere 15 bucks on Amazon, I’d say this is a no-brainer.