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Of the films that Alfred Hitchcock made while under contract to David O. Selznick, NOTORIOUS is the first one that is most assuredly his own. Already having absorbed the glamour and attention to detail that was the trademark of a Selznick production, Hitchcock melded this to his filmmaking sensibilities to craft one of the most effective romantic thrillers of all time. Set at the end of the Second World War, NOTORIOUS tells the story of Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), the daughter of a Nazi sympathizer that was tried and convicted of treason. As a form of escape, Alicia has become a drunken "party girl" whose reputation is less than sterling. Alicia’s existence is forever changed by the arrival of T.R. Devlin (Cary Grant), a government agent who offers her a job as an operative, as a way of making up for her father’s peculiarities.

After traveling down to South America, Alicia learns that her mission will involve infiltrating a group of her father’s former associates via Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains), who was once enamored with her. Although Alicia and Devlin have developed romantic feelings for one another, she accepts the mission albeit reluctantly. Alicia’s charm soon wins over Sebastian, who quickly proposes marriage. With the approval of her superiors, and no objection from Devlin, Alicia takes the ultimate step to enter Sebastian’s inner circle by marrying him. Unfortunately for Alicia, sleeping with the enemy has the potential to turn deadly. The cast of NOTORIOUS also features Louis Calhern, Leopoldine Konstantin, Reinhold Schünzel, Moroni Olsen, Ivan Triesault, Alex Minotis, Wally Brown, Charles Mendl, Ricardo Costa, Eberhard Krumschmidt and Fay Baker.

The Criterion Collection has created a wonderful black and white transfer of NOTORIOUS; utilizing restored black and white film elements produced by Scott MacQueen of The Walt Disney Company. There are some blemishes remaining on the restored film elements, but they are not terribly bothersome. Actually, this presentation is truly marvelous, with the transfer providing a rich, film like image. Yes, there is some film grain present throughout, but Criterion’s DVD release of looks far more like a movie than it does a video. The level of sharpness and detail are impressive, bringing out the textures in fabrics and intricacies in the production design. Blacks are silky and deep, while the whites are pure and completely stable. Contrast is completely smooth, with a distinct and varied grayscale. Sequences with rear screen projection doesn’t present as fine an image as the main body of the film, but those were the limitations of special effects in 1946. Dual layer authoring completely disguises all traces of digital compression artifacts.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack that accompanies this Criterion release of NOTORIOUS has also been restored. Although the sound is crisp and clean sounding, the frequency limitations in the original recording do remain. Dialogue is always fully intelligible and the actors’ voices do retain their sense of character. Audible hiss and distortion have been greatly minimized and the track sounds just fine with a fair amount of amplification. Additionally, English subtitles have been included on the DVD.

Animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD’s attractive interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a nice complement of supplemental materials. NOTORIOUS features two separate running audio commentaries, the first features Hitchcock scholar Marian Keane and the second is with film historian Rudy Behlmer. Both tracks are highly detailed; yet look at NOTORIOUS from different perspectives. An isolated music and effects track is also encoded onto the DVD. Other supplements include excerpts from the original story on which NOTORIOUS was based, production correspondence, a look at the film’s rear projection work, script excerpts from deleted scenes, alternate ending script excerpts, publicity stills, four theatrical trailers/teasers, the fate of the Unica key from the movie and newsreel footage. Finally, the DVD offers the complete hour long Lux Radio Theater broadcast of NOTORIOUS starring Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotton.

NOTORIOUS is certainly one of Hitchcock’s best early American movies and remains an enduring classic. Criterion’s presentation is a marvelous rendering of a film that is more than half a century old. That, along with the solid supplemental section, make this a DVD that film fans are going to want to add to their collections.


Notorious - Criterion Collection


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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