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Of the films that Alfred Hitchcock made while under contract to David O. Selznick, NOTORIOUS ($25) 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 life takes an unexpected turn when she is offered an opportunity to redeem herself and serve American interests. Enter one T.R. Devlin (Cary Grant), a U.S. intelligence agent who brings Alicia a proposal to work as a government operative. Since her father’s former associates are well familiar with Alicia, she is the ideal candidate to infiltrate a Nazi organization operating is South America.

Alicia's assignment requires her work her feminine wiles on Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains), the head of the Nazi organization. Since Alicia has developed romantic feelings for Devlin, she is somewhat reluctant to take the assignment. However, Devlin is willing to place the mission before his own feeling, which forces Alicia into the arms of another man. Sebastian falls in love and quickly asks Alicia to marry him. With the blessings of her superiors, Alicia accepts Sebastian’s proposal, since they see the marriage as a unique opportunity that will allow her to get even closer to Sebastian and his associates. Of course, sleeping with the enemy has the tendency to place one’s life in jeopardy. 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.

MGM Home Entertainment through 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made NOTORIOUS available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.37:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. The black and white 1080p presentation generally looks quite good, but there are some issues with the optical effects that leave certain shots looking a tad dupey. For the most part image is strong, being rendered with very good levels sharpness and detail. There is still a penchant for old school glamour photography, so some of the close-ups come across as slightly diffuse and soft. Black appear pure, as do the whites. Contrast and grayscale are both very good for a film of this vintage, but there are occasional shots that that do have contrast issues. Noticeable blemishes are diminished over previous editions of the film, but the haven’t been entirely eliminated. There is a noticeable grain structure throughout, which makes for a wonderfully film-like presentation.

NOTORIOUS is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 2.0 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Considering that NOTORIOUS is well over sixty years old, I have to say the sound quality impresses for a film of this vintage. Certainly, there are decided limitations to the fidelity, but the track sounds fairly robust. Roy Webb’s music comes across rather nicely, without sounding overly thin. Most signs of background hiss and noise have been cleaned up in the mastering process, which leaves a generally smooth quality to the soundtrack. Dialogue is always clear and easy to understand. No other language tracks have been included on the disc, but English subtitles are provided.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some supplements. Starting things off are two running Audio Commentaries; the first is with Film Professor Rick Jewell, while the second features Film Professor Drew Casper. In addition there is also an Isolated Music And Effects Track. Featurettes and other programs include the following: The Ultimate Romance: The Making Of Notorious (twenty eight minutes), Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Spymaster (thirteen minutes) and The American Film Institute Award: The Key To Hitchcock (three minutes). Next are Hitchcock Audio Interviews that includes discussions with fellow directors Peter Bogdanovich and François Truffaut. A 1948 Radio Play Version featuring Joseph Cotton and Ingrid Bergman is also provided, as is a Restoration Comparison and Theatrical Trailer.

NOTORIOUS is early American Hitchcock, yet one the master’s best. The Blu-ray presentation looks and sounds quite good in high definition. Definitely recommended.


Notorious [Blu-ray] (1946)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright © 2012 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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