written by Ben Hecht and an uncredited Alfred Hitchcock and Clifford Odets, based on a story by John Taintor Foote
Taking a step back to consider the plot, this spy film is filled with rather inept secret agents. Hitchcock loves to throw regular people into the shoes of a spy -- which is what he does he with Ingrid Bergman's Alicia -- but the ostensibly professional Devlin (Cary Grant) and Sebastian (Claude Rains) aren't much better than Alicia. Devlin leaves a complete mess in the wine cellar, which Sebastian detects almost immediately and causes him to suspect his wife. Sebastian and his mother's plan to poison Ingrid Bergman's Alicia begins to fall apart when they overreact to a guest accidentally picking up her poisoned coffee. Sebastian's inability to compose himself eventually leads to his (presumed) death at the end of the picture.
I like this. A film portraying spies (and the villains they chase) as real people is a nice change. I'm so used to the near-Superman levels of Connery's James Bond, it's interesting to see this character type with flaws. Grant's Devlin, in particular, is a complex mix of uncertainty, stubbornness and passion. Arguably a secondary character to Alicia, he changes just as much over the course of the film as she.
An great script, excellent performances and rock-solid directing make for one of Hitchcock's best. (9/10)
Watched the region 1 DVD released by Fox in 2008 as a part of the Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection. The transfer's fine and it has a set of good documentaries. I don't miss my old Criterion version at all.
22 June 2009