Sunday, August 14, 2011

Short Review: Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, 1946)

This is my contribution to this week's 'The Best Is Yet To Come' on Duke and the Movies.

Notorious is a near-perfect espionage thriller from the ‘Master of Suspense', Alfred Hitchcock. Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), the daughter of a convicted Nazi spy, is recruited by a government agent, Devlin (Cary Grant), to infiltrate an organization of Nazis who have relocated to Rio de Janiero after World War II. 

The organization is led by Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains), a former colleague of Alicia’s father who is in love with her. The lives of the three become entangled as Alicia’s mission becomes more dangerous. She not only marries Sebastian, but also finds it increasingly difficult to report to Devlin under his jealous and ever-present attention. Complicating things, Alicia and Devlin have fallen in love too. 

Just about every feature of this film is perfectly assembled. The photography is stunning, the score is impeccable and the performances exceptional, especially from the luminous Ingrid Bergman. It is famous for breaking the boundaries of the Hays Code through an extended kissing sequence between Grant and Bergman, and the extended party sequence where the pair break into Sebastian’s wine cellar is as suspenseful as anything Hitchcock has ever created. This is top tier Hitchcock and highly recommended. 


  1. This is one of my favourite Hitchcock movies. Everything about it is magical - from the performances to the script to the direction, cinematography and editing. Definitely one of the master director's finest pieces of work.

  2. @ Sam - Thanks for including me. Usually I would send a snippet from a completed review, but I didn't have one for this. Have had no time this weekend!

    @ Dan - This was my first viewing, and it joins North by Northwest, Vertigo and The Birds as one of my favourite of Hitchcock's works. I can't lock down a favourite, though I was entranced by the technical genius of some of the scenes here, and the compelling performances from Grant and Bergman.

  3. Notorious is easily my favorite Hitchcock flick. I think the characters are impeccable and the suspense is some of the finest. The ending always leaves me holding my breath, wondering what will happen, even though I've seen it enough times to know what happens. I can't say that about any other Hitchcock film I've seen.

  4. I was pretty enthralled throughout, especially by the performances. Ingrid Bergman was outstanding. But there are also some really effective uses of the camera in this film, and the entire scene at the party is probably one of my favourite scenes in a Hitchcock film. Such suspense. I think this is right there with North by Northwest, Vertigo and The Birds as my favourite of his films.

  5. Yeah, absolutely. This was one Hitchcock film where I felt surprised by how tense I was. With Pycho and The Birds - genuine horror films - it comes through the techniques. Here, the situation results in a viewer fearing for the characters. We don't want them to get caught. It's a great film.