MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
The last of the Hitchcock 40s trifecta that recently hit Blu-ray is “Notorious.” No, this has nothing to do with that Biggy Smalls biopic that hit the theaters a few years ago, and Tupac does not show up in the middle to start an east-coast/west-coast rapper war with Cary Grant. This is the classic post-WWII thriller about a reluctant American agent uncovering a plot in Rio de Janeiro.
Ingrid Bergman plays Alicia Huberman, whose father was jailed for treason. American Agent Devlin (Cary Grant) recruits her to travel to Brazil and uncover a Nazi plot by seducing one of the top leaders (Claude Rains). However, they didn’t count on falling in love first, which might jeopardize the mission.
I had seen “Notorious” many years ago, though much of the story escaped me. Of the three Hitchcock Blu-rays I received in this pack, this one was the latest of the bunch, and it fell farthest into skullduggery, being a plot by Nazis. It actually falls quite a bit outside of Hitchcock’s standard wheelhouse as his more famous stories tend to be more intimate suspense films.
However, this one is noteworthy because it is as much of a romance as it is a spy thriller. The entire plot hinges on the relationship between Bergman and Grant’s characters, and the couple brings quite a bit of chemistry on screen. Just as much time is spent on developing their relationship as is devoted to laying out the plan of the Nazis. In fact, to a degree, the Nazi plan is more of an excuse around which the plot wraps a love triangle.
Like Hitchcock’s other works, especially the ones from the 40s rather than his heyday in the 50s, this movie is not about technical innovation as much as it about presenting the plot. The production is relatively standard, aside from a few moments where Hitchcock plays with camera placement and pacing. In “Notorious,” as with “Spellbound,” we see a lot of his later techniques and styles tested.
The presentation on the Blu-ray is a bit messy, which is disappointing, and this can be said for all the Blu-rays in this set. While there is a bonus feature that boasts the restoration process, a lot more could have been done aside from cleaning up some dust and scratches. Contrast problems, flickering and murkiness still exists in the presentation, which is unfortunate.
The saving grace is a nice assortment of special features which come from the 2008 DVD release. These include commentary tracks from film experts Rick Jewell and Drew Casper, as well as an isolated music and effects track. Featurettes include “The Ultimate Romance: The Making of Notorious,” “Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Spymaster” and “The American Film Institute Award: The Key to Hitchcock.” Additional features include a 1948 radio play with Joseph Cotten and Ingrid Bergman, audio interviews with Hitchcock, a restoration comparison and the original theatrical trailer.