It does take some time to develop the thrills, and when there are, they're affective. Notorious also includes great performances, stylish direction, and magnificent sets.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and this has many of his cinematic traits. The innocuous start, the slow-burning intrigue, the ramping up of the suspense and the thrilling conclusion, all executed with the deft Hitchcock touch. Great twist at one point, just when the plot was looking predictable.
Not perfect though. The start and the initial scenes involving Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman feel a bit clumsy. The whole romantic side feels overly sappy and forced and seems to have too much weight in the script. This is made up for by an espionage plot that gets better as it goes on.
Not in the same league as Hitchcock's best - Rebecca, Rear Window and Psycho - but still very good nevertheless.
9AM - Boy and girl meet
9:10 AM - They confess their love for one another
9:25 AM - They kiss and hug and tell each other they never want to leave one another
9:40 AM - Discuss marriage
Married by next day or end of movie.
Who in hell comes up with crap like that??? NOBODY does that!!! It takes away from the main plot of the movie, which made the main story minimal. So unrealistic and unbelievable, that stuff like that is laughable, embarrassing and painful to watch, that I was cringing and yelling at my screen! I absolutely hate it!!!! If they would have stuck to the main story line and left all that nonsense out of it, it would have been so much pleasurable to watch. What was up with the stuff in the bottle? Why did they have the stuff in the bottle? Why did they kill Emrich? What was the story with the mother being such a bitch? Was the the leader of the whole thing? The whole plot is left feeling empty! Nothing leading to anything, but a cheesy, unnecessary love thing.
For Alfred Hitchcock, "Notorious" marked a new beginning. Worldwide fame, despite having worked in the film industry since the 1920s, had only become him since the one-two punch of "Rebecca" and "Foreign Correspondent," both released in 1940. Far off in the future were his outstanding 1950s, characterized by knockout collaborations with Grace Kelly, indulgences in his erotic fixations, and William Castle-level publicity stunts that made him as much of a phenom as a recognizable celebrity. His reputation as technical wizard and fine-tuned visual storyteller were yet to be broadened by "Strangers On a Train," "Rear Window," and "Psycho." His renown as a risk-taker with a thing for aloof blondes was yet to be realized by "To Catch a Thief," "North by Northwest," "Vertigo," and "The Birds."
"Notorious," released in 1946, was his first serious attempt to tell a love story, his first serious attempt to make his artistic idiosyncrasies central rather than purely complementary, and his first serious attempt to wander around mature themes entrenched in gnarled reality rather than moviedom fantasticality and/or worst-case-scenario hysteria. It kicked off a brief period of interesting but mostly unsuccessful ego-boosts ("The Paradine Case," "Rope," "Under Capricorn"), denoted the continuation of his long-standing working relationship with Cary Grant, and was his second time partnering with Ingrid Bergman. But it, most evidently, arguably announced his arrival as cinema's resident Master of Suspense, no longer just a crafty filmmaker but also as an artist so in control of his abilities that criticism is rendered infeasible.
And, as is the case for most artistic breakthroughs, "Notorious" is one of Hitchcock's best films.
It's additionally among his most accessible, and is, dare I say it, his sexiest. Derived from a pithy screenplay by Ben Hecht, the film unforgettably stars Bergman as Alicia Huberman, the daughter of a Nazi spy. As a young woman with a mind of her own and an appreciation for the country she's called home for more than half her life, inheriting her father's deviousness has dodged her. In a conversation recorded by the feds, Alicia flatly rejects her old man's invitation to join the party - she's too loyal to think of betraying her fellow Americans.
Her faithfulness is noted by the government, who, since the man's execution, has been contemplating different methods to infiltrate the ring of adversaries he originally pledged allegiance to. The group has relocated to Brazil following World War II and have proven to be evasive.
Unknowing of what Alicia's assignment will entail, agent T.R. Devlin (Grant) recruits and seduces her. Only days after their first meeting are he and Alicia necking at her hotel room in Rio de Janeiro. Once his superiors decide what their best course of action is, though, he finds himself regretting initiating a blossoming romance. His boss (Louis Calhern) has proclaimed that the smartest way to insinuate themselves into the Nazi ring is by using Alicia's feminine wiles. Romance the leader, Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains), enough and the necessary trust to live in his humble abode will provide easy access to his baleful possessions. A conflict of interest it is - Alicia and Devlin's spark dwindles after time apart and misunderstandings inflict strife - but it just might work.
Dangers lie ahead. Sebastian's monstrous mother (Leopoldine Konstantin), with whom he appears to have a near incestuous bond, is poised and ready to harm Alicia as soon as they first shake hands. Nazis stroll in and out of the home incessantly. Devlin and Alicia's relationship is immediately apparent to Sebastian, fueling jealousy and suspicion that threatens to turn lethal.
But gorgeously dangerous "Notorious" is - it's so attractive that its underlying menace is strangely sexy. Clearly, that's Hitchcock's intended effect. As evidenced by a filmography more beguiled by danger presented with a sense of humor than danger presented with a straight face (though his darkest works are almost always worthier), "Notorious" accommodates his love of playing the audience like a piano, getting a rise out of even the biggest of a cynic only to turn around with a smile and a wink and inform one of his paying victims that all in front of them was simply a close call.
There are many moments like these to be found in the film, and that's part of its allure. Bergman and Grant, so tantalizing and commanding, have intoxicating chemistry. They look good dodging hazard (and look good with each other), and we're more than willing to sprint alongside them as they jump over the obstacles Hecht unceremoniously places in front of them. Hitchcock photographs the pair with the delectation of a cheesecake shutterbug, admiring their beauty, but he also rises supreme performances out of them. Bergman is a sensual femme made more appealing as a result of her courageousness, her scrappiness, and her emotional fragility; Grant is a charismatic lone wolf who seems to be a precursor to James Bond minus the male chauvinism.
But it's "Notorious's" little touches of Hitchcockian regality that make the utmost impression. Notice how Hitch works his way around the Hays Code's ruling that characters cannot kiss for longer than three seconds by keeping Grant and Bergman, at the height of Alicia and Devlin's romance, locked in a heated embrace for two and a half minutes, nuzzles and caresses taking the place of a flaming French. How the keys that unlock Sebastian's secret riddled wine cellar, along with the poisoned cups of tea the latter and his mother deliver to Alicia after they discover her duplicity, become characters themselves. How the dialogue is both nudge nudge witty and meanderingly serious. How the cinematography is sometimes effervescently elegant but sometimes distortedly surreal.
"Notorious" is so mouthwateringly designed and presented that it feels like much more than an escapist thriller. In a genre that oftentimes runs the risk of being one-note by putting overly familiar characters in overly familiar situations, caring more about a potential thrill than about becoming a potential masterpiece, the film turns the building of excitement, of intrigue, into an art form. Hitchcock would eventually go bigger and broader, but "Notorious" captures him making the transition from reliable filmmaker to bona fide artiste.