Notorious: Criterion Collection

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) has a rather checkered past, as after her father was convicted for treason and took his own life, she fell into booze and men. But because her father was a Nazi agent, she is enlisted by government agent T.R. Devlin (Cary Grant) for an important mission. She is to report to Rio de Janeiro, where she is to meet with some of her father’s Nazi buddies and establish a bond with them. Once she has gained their trust and the information starts to be shared, she is to then report it to Devlin, who can ensure it ends up in the right hands. For Alicia, this is a chance to cleanse her name and do some good, which sounds like just what she needs. As time passes, she begins to have feelings for Devlin, but he shuns her because of her lifestyle choices. The operation continues as planned, but when Alicia ends up married to Nazi agent Alex Sebastion (Claude Rains), the mission takes some unexpected turns. Devlin knows Alicia faces danger where she is, but in order to save her life, he has to make some cold, hard decisions…

This is the kind of release that should excite film lovers to no end, as one of the all time classics has been given the complete red carpet treatment. Notorious is a film that has won audience & critical praise since 1946 and never seems to lose steam, picking up masses of new fans with each new generation. As directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Notorious has elements of romance & suspense and blends them to perfection, never too much of one and not the other. The romance seems like an odd one and it is in truth, but it works very well within the storyline and with such well developed characters, it never seems out of place. As per usual, Hitchcock has no trouble piling on generous helpings of suspense, with simply excellent results. A lot of the suspense comes from the characters here and not just the situations, which keeps the viewer guessing and always trying to discern motivations. All too often, tense films like this let down at the end, but Notorious even delivers full force when it comes to the final moments. I am thrilled to see this lush presentation of such a great picture and as such, this one is nothing short of a must own title.

The man directed a lot of excellent films, but if you ask me, Notorious is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s finest efforts. I love the way he blends romance & suspense here, a theme he went to many times in his career. He managed to deliver a number of pictures that succeeded in bringing the two elements together, but Notorious is simply one of his greatest. It is not as flashy as some of Hitchcock’s later pictures, but it is every bit as suspenseful and ranks as one of his most powerful pictures, which is a real compliment. I know his fans will never all agree that one stands out as his very best, but to me, this one is the top of the charts. Such rich characters within a complex storyline, always well written and engrossing, from the start to finish. I know it sounds like I’m repeating the same line over and again, but I think this is some of Hitchcock’s greatest work, hands down. Other films directed by Hitchcock include Spellbound, North by Northwest, Rebecca, The Lady Vanishes, and The 39 Steps. The cast includes Cary Grant (His Girl Friday, Father Goose), Ingrid Bergman (Casablanca, Indiscreet), and Claude Rains (Strange Holiday, The Invisible Man).

Video: How does it look?

Notorious is presented in a full frame transfer, as intended. This is a very impressive visual effort, thanks to some extensive restoration work that was involved. I owned the DVD from Anchor Bay & Criterion’s laserdisc set and I am pleased to report, this new transfer is an improvement over those previous editions. The image seems to have a small amount of additional grain at times, but has much richer black levels, which is vital in this case. The black & white image looks very sharp and clean, with a well preserved & restored source print utilized. It might not measure up to some other restored transfers, but Notorious has never looked this good on home video, so I see no reason to complain too much.

Audio: How does it sound?

The included mono option has been restored & remastered, with terrific overall results. I heard minimal age signs here, which means the elements come through in clean & clear form, simply wonderful work. The musical score sounds rich and never dated, while sound effects are also well presented, as far as mono is concerned. The dialogue remains crisp and sharp at all times, with no volume errors to report. This is an excellent audio treatment, considering the film was made in 1946 and all. This disc also includes optional English subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc sports an impressive selection of bonus features, including two feature length audio commentary tracks. The first track is with film historian Rudy Behlmer, who offers a wealth of insight into the history of the production, even back the to short story on which it was based. I always enjoy Behlmer’s sessions and while I have heard his Notorious track before, it was a rewarding experience even the second time around. The other commentary features Hitchcock film scholar Marian Keane, who also provides an informative, enjoyable session. Keane uses a more focused & often technical approach, taking each scene and breaking it down, in terms of visuals, storyline, characters, and beyond. This was sort of a film school on disc sort of track, with tons of insight involved, but always presented in an easy to understand form. You can also choose to listen to the isolated musical score, or even soak in the complete Lux Radio Theater adaptation, both of which are well worth a listen. This disc also includes script excerpts of deleted scenes & alternate endings, rare newsreel footage, some very interesting production correspondence, a wide selection of still photos & promotional materials, excerpts from The Song of the Dragon, the story of the Unica key, three teaser spots, and the film’s theatrical trailer.

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