I don’t know if this Hitchcock classic is “officially” an example of film noir, but it qualifies in my book, even though it lacks some of the elements of the genre, such as a seedy setting and rough characters. I also think it is one of the best romantic thrillers ever, even better than North by Northwest. That’s mainly because I love Ingrid Bergman a lot more than I love Eva Marie Saint. Cary Grant has never been better, and the film is full of classic Hitchcock touches. Claude Rains is very good, and so is Leopoldine Konstantin, who plays his creepy mother.(addition to existing review) In fact, those two almost steal the picture from Grant and Bergman, not an easy thing to do
I have to add that the character Cary plays is not someone I liked very much through most of the film. His overwhelming jealousy seems totally unfair, and it doesn’t allow him to see that this is a damaged woman who sincerely loves him and is doing her best to make up for her earlier drunken introduction to him and, not incidentally, do important spying for her country. Which Mr. Sanctimonious T.R. Devlin is responsible for getting her involved with in the first place. Her Nazi father has just been convicted and imprisoned, where he promptly kills himself. Cut her some slack, T.R.! But he never does, dropping snide insult-bombs on her every chance he gets after she agrees to make love to Claude Rains, and eventually marry him. It is so clear that one word … one word … from him and she would have given up the whole thing in a Brazilian minute. After all, why should she give a damn about some pathetic Nazi losers holed up in a mansion with wine bottles filled with Uranium ore?
But I do understand that a justification for his anger was the conflict between his duty—to smuggle her into the mansion and look for the Maguffin—and his understandable frustration imagining Ingrid in the arms of anther man. And I know it was necessary to build the tension between them until the final moments, when he realizes what a fool he’s been, leading to one of the all-time best romantic scenes ever. I guess all Hitchcock fans are aware of his sheer genius in filming that scene, but maybe you’re not. The idiotic Hayes Office of the day decreed that no screen kiss could last longer than 3 seconds. So Hitch had them kiss for 2.5 seconds, pull away, kiss again, pull away. The things artists had to do in those days to get approval from the censors.
The scenes with the two of them in the wine cellar looking for what’s being hidden in there are typically ingenious in the shooting and editing, and the tension builds to an amazing degree as we urge them to get the hell out of there. And the final sequence, the tense walk down the staircase, out the door, into the car … and toodle-oo, Sebastian, you’re on your own … well, it’s one of the best endings ever in a movie.