Reviewed by Ivana Redwine
Length: 101 minutes
Starring Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, and Claude Rains, Alfred Hitchcock's 1946 Notorious is an elegant film noir that interweaves a suspense yarn about spies with a strange love story. Hitchcock was a master of visual style, and "Notorious" is arguably his finest expression of that mastery. I watched the Criterion Collection DVD version of this classic and found the picture and sound quality to be outstanding. I also loved both of the DVD's excellent commentary tracks, and the DVD provides a variety of other special features I enjoyed as well.
Notorious opens in 1946 Miami, where we meet Alicia Huberman (Bergman), a woman who likes partying and drinking and is rather casual about sexual relationships. Soon Alicia is recruited by T.R. "Dev" Devlin (Grant), a U.S. intelligence agent, to infiltrate and spy on a group of Nazis in Rio de Janeiro. Alicia is quite forward in pursuing a romantic relationship with Dev, and he is strongly attracted to her as well. But one of the movie's biggest triumphs is the way it captures Dev's ambivalence toward Alicia.
Alicia and Dev travel to Rio, where Dev's boss reveals to Alicia the nature of her assignment: She is to use her feminine wiles to get close enough to a Nazi leader named Alex Sebastian (Rains) to learn the secrets of his organization. As Alicia becomes sexually involved with Alex and then goes on to marry him, she and Dev uncover a Nazi scheme that poses a serious threat. But both Alicia and Dev grow increasingly troubled by the conflict between the love they feel for each other and the work they are doing out of a sense of duty. Eventually, with Alicia's life in danger and time running out, Dev is forced to come to terms with their relationship as he embarks on a perilous course of action.
The Criterion Collection DVD boasts two outstanding commentary tracks. I really liked the commentary of film scholar Marian Keane, who basically gives a scene-by-scene interpretive reading of the movie. She is particularly good at discussing Hitchcock's brilliant visual style. But I also enjoyed the commentary of film historian Rudy Behlmer, who mostly relates lively anecdotes and imparts entertaining behind-the-scenes tidbits related to the film.
There are lots of other worthwhile special features on the Criterion Collection DVD as well. I really admire Ben Hecht's screenplay for Notorious, and so I found it quite a treat to learn about some of the movie's deleted scenes and alternate endings, as well as to look over excerpts from the short story on which the screenplay was based. Also, I found it interesting to listen to the 1948 Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of Notorious, in which Ingrid Bergman reprises her role as Alicia and Joseph Cotten plays Dev. Yet another informative special feature shows how rear projection was used to make it appear that the stars were in Miami and Rio when they never left the Los Angeles area.
There are other interesting special features on the Criterion Collection DVD, and I've listed most of them below.
Selected Special Features on the DVD: