Blu-ray review: NOTORIOUS

MGM Home Entertainment
Release Date: Jan 24th,2012

While certainly not one of his best-known films, Alfred Hitchcock’s NOTORIOUS is, in my opinion, one of his best.

The film stars Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman and while it does contain romance, this is fairly dark, fairly gritty film. Bergnab is Alicia Huberman, a lady that is notorious for many reasons. She enjoys her drink, is known to spend time with men (keep in mind that this is 1946) and her father was a Nazi spy.

Grant is T. R. Devlin, a government agent. The two meet at a party and while things seem to be getting hot, it cools when Devlin makes his goal clear: He wants Alicia to work for the U.S. government. It might, he points out, help her clean up her name.

One might assume that Mr. Grant convinces her with his smooth talking and natural charm, but that is hardly the case. Devlin browbeats her and uses her past, and that of her father, to hit her where it hurts the most. This is a job and he is willing to do whatever he has to to get the job done. Despite that, there is clearly sexual tendsion between the two.

Devlin sends her after a group of Nazis that thave fled to South America. Alicia meets, and ends up marrying, Alex Sebastian (Claude Raines), an old freind of her father. Her mission is to look for anything suspicious. As time goes on, her role as double agent becomes more and more dangerous and Devlin finds himself balances duty to his country with the desires of his own heart.

Hitchcock has been accused by being overly cold and calculating, but he does a masterful job here of slowly building the romantic, and sexual, tension while keeping the overall tone of the film dark. Looking back at the time this was made, I can imagine how closely the censors were watching every scene. At no point do things get syrupy, this feels like very complex, very adult emotions, even with the final payoff at the end of the movie. This is Hitchcock at his best.

Video:
The film is presented in 1080p with the original ratio of 1.37:1. The overall picture quality is solid, but folks expecting a huge jump from the previous DVD release will be disappointed. Resolution is good and the blacks are nice, but there are noticeable scratches on the print.

If you are not familiar with NOTORIOUS, but enjoy Hitchcock, I can’t recomend this enough. Hell, anyone that enjoys hard boiled cinema will likely be capitvated by the tale crafted here. Bergman and Grant often played smooth, breezy characters and this is a chance to see them go beyond that and show their acting chops. If you already own a DVD, I don’t know that there is anything here to knock your socks off, but it is a solid presentation of a world-class film.

Jeremy Lynch