Notorious

 

Notorious

Written by Ben Hecht

Photography by Ted Tetzlaff

Music: Roy Webb

Produced by Alfred Hitchcock

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

1946

 

Cast:

Ingrid Bergman

Cary Grant

Claude Rains

Louis Calhern

Madame Constantin

Reinhold Schunzel

Ivan Triesault

 

Production:

Theatrical: RKO

Video: MGM

 

Video

Aspect ratio: 1.37:1

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: 38.5 GB

Feature Size: 32 GB

Bit Rate: High (35~40 Mbps)

Runtime: 102 minutes

Chapters: 24

 

Audio:

English DTS HD-MA 2.0

English Dolby Digital 2.0 (commentary)

English Dolby Digital 2.0 (commentary)

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, Spanish & French

 

Extras:

• Audio Commentary by Rick Jewell

• Audio Commentary by Drew Casper
• Isolated Music track
• The Ultimate Romance: The Making of Notorious (28:20)
• Alfred Hitchcock The Ultimate Spymaster (13:10)
• The American Film Institute Award: The Key to Hitchcock (3:20)
• 1948 Lux Radio Theater adaptation, starring Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten

• Hitchcock Interviews - excerpts from the director's conversations with filmmaker Francois Truffaut (16:20) and Peter Bogdanovich (2:20)

• Restoration Comparison (2:55)

• Trailer

 

Presentation:

Amaray Blu-ray case: BRD x 1

Street Date: January 24, 2012



Introduction:

In one fell swoop on January 24 MGM has made what feels like a 100% increase in the catalogue of classic films for home high definition theatre: Rebecca (1940), Spellbound (1945), Notorious (1946), The Apartment (1960), Annie Hall (1977) and Manhattan (1979) - and all but one are in B&W.  Two of these are top drawer films from Alfred Hitchcock, two are the best of the best from Woody Allen, and one is a popular Oscar-winning Billy Wilder film.


Synopsis [NY Tmes]

Though Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious was produced by David O. Selznick’s Vanguard Films, Selznick himself had little to do with the production, which undoubtedly pleased the highly independent Hitchcock. Ingrid Bergman plays Alicia Huberman, who goes to hell in a handbasket after her father, an accused WWII traitor, commits suicide. American secret agent Devlin (Cary Grant) is ordered to enlist the libidinous Alicia’s aid in trapping Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains), the head of a Brazilian neo-Nazi group. Openly contemptuous of Alicia despite her loyalty to the American cause, Devlin calmly instructs her to woo and wed Sebastian, so that that good guys will have an “inside woman” to monitor the Nazi chieftain’s activities. It is only after Alicia and Sebastian are married that Devlin admits to himself that he’s fallen in love with her. – Bosley Crowther


     

 

The Movie: 9

Just about every Hitchcock movie has one or two daring shots, some technical, some expressionistic.  Notorious has several.  Three stand out: The first is a deliriously flipped Cary Grant as seen through the haze of Bergman’s hangover. Then there is another so subtle a modern audience might miss it: a deliciously extended two-shot close-up of Bergman and Grant as they migrate from one end of a hotel room to another, muttering sweet nothings to one another while in passionate embrace.  It’s a marvel to behold even now, but in 1946, the idea must have left audiences breathless.


     

 

Twelve years later Orson Welles would arrange what would become the benchmark tour de force for a long, complex shot without cutting.  But Touch of Evil has nothing on Notorious for sheer emotional engagement.  In a nutshell that’s the difference between the two directors.  By comparison, Hitchcock (the case cited above being not an example) sometimes looks technically contrived, cheap, unrealistic – yet somehow, riveting.  Welles, starting with Citizen Kane, is bodacious, electrifying – his technique boggles the mind, yet we rarely care about his characters.  Not like Hitchcock.


     

 

Part of the reason is casting.  Excepting perhaps Joseph Cotton in The Magnificent Ambersons, and to a lesser extent in Kane, Welles rarely casts actors that have the kind of instant appeal or make the kind of emotional connection of a Robert Donat, Nova Pilbeam, James Stewart, Theresa Wright, Joan Fontaine, Cary Grant or Ingrid Bergman.  We forgive Hitch a great deal because of the way he makes what are, in my opinion, essentially love stories, and places them in a breathless context with actors that make a powerful emotional connection to us. . . which brings me to: the key.


     

 

The second astonishing piece of technical wizardry occurs at the start of Sebastian’s party where an interminable crane shot that begins high up, taking in a huge roomful of guests and slowly makes its way to Bergman’s hand in which she has hidden the key – the key to everything about the movie: the wine cellar, the truth about Sebastian and his Nazi friends, the truth about Bergman and Grant.  The tension veritably crackles for the next ten minutes until Rains confronts the lovers in an unexpected embrace.  It’s the whole movie in a nutshell – and it all starts with a daring, remarkably well focused crane shot (remember: they didn’t have zoom lenses in those days, so focus had to be managed by hand as the camera moves closer): This is technique in the service of drama. Welles, for all his precision and artfulness, never goes there.


     

 

That said, I admit to never having being entirely convinced by Grant’s reluctance to fess up to his feelings for Bergman.  His explanation: “I couldn't see straight or think straight. I was a fat-headed guy, full of pain” comes too little too late to satisfy me.  But come it does, and his rescue of Bergman at the end is as satisfying as any on the screen, leaving Sebastian to his Nazis, where not even his mother can help him.  It’s a great ending – to the movie and to the war.


     

 

Image: 7/7

The picture looks considerably improved and cleaner and with a longer and more sensible grayscale than the Criterion DVD of several years ago, which had more than a tendency for the contrast to be pumped up to favor the blacks.  There are a few scattered and unobtrusive blemishes and a little flickering here and there.  There is a softness to the picture as if much of the movie was shot a slight Gaussian filter; but for the most part this is nice step-up from the DVD.


     

 

Audio & Music: 7/8

As is the case with MGM’s Blu-ray of Rebecca and Spellbound the studio offers the original mono track in a lossless format, eschewing the too common idiocy of re-imaging such films in 5.1.  Perhaps there’s hope.  Dialogue is clear, the music score is well balanced and textured, consistent with what was possible in those days.  My only complaint is that the MGM logo that precedes the movie is entirely too loud, requiring a level adjustment if you don’t want your ears blown off.


     

 

Roy Webb is perhaps not a name that leaps to mind when we think of great film score composers, nor is he particularly much associated with Hitchcock (Notorious being his only movie for the master).  Webb has well over 200 film score credits listed in the IMDB, and was nominated for Oscars for seven different movies over the years – the best known being The Enchanted Cottage and The Fallen Sparrow – but he has done journeyman work for some well known films, among them: Clash by Night, Out of the Past, I Remember Mama, Murder My Sweet and Cat People.  The Bonus Features offer an isolated score for us to hear Webb’s contribution out of context.  Not bad.


     

 

Extras: 7

MGM offers not just one, but two audio commentaries, both by professors of the genre from USC: the better one is by Rick Jewell, who spends a considerable amount of his allotted time talking about RKO and Selznick – lots of choice stuff here; the second, with Drew Casper, whose breathless delivery and peculiar word choices are hard to follow at times, as when he describes the reflection of the race track in Bergman’s binoculars as a “bravura shot” but that it’s a bit of “character business” that he insists doesn’t take us out of the movie wondering how Hitch did it.  Really! After the first time, perhaps.


There is a so-called “Isolated Music Track” - I say “so-called” because it includes odd bits of effects throughout (e.g. the motorcycle driving off after not giving Alyssa a ticket, her struggle with Dev in the car, his grunting afterward, but their car remains silent throughout.) The remaining features are presented in standard definition, and are worth your time, though a little brief to really sink your teeth into.  “Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Spymaster” is a bit more interesting than the others, as it considers the influence of Hitchcock on the movie mystery genre.


     

 

Recommendation: 9

Notorious was made immediately after Spellbound, and was Hitchcock’s first film after the war.  It was to be his last movie, but one, with Ingrid Bergman and his second of four with Cary Grant.  Curiously, Notorious, one of the director’s better films, was followed, one after the other, by three of his least successful efforts (The Paradine Case, Rope and Under Capricorn.)  The exceedingly entertaining Stage Fright was next, after which came an astounding string of ten or eleven films (from Strangers on a Train in 1951 through Psycho in 1960) that would certify his reputation with American audiences and critics forever.  MGM’s Blu-ray is a worthy restorative effort.  Highly recommended.

 



Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

January 28, 2012

 

 

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