"Wonderful tosh". Tosh? Oh Miranda, how could you?
This great b/w Hitchcock film from 1946 is a film in search of a category. Not a spy story, despite wearing the trappings of one - nor an adventure story as action is in short supply. It's a love story of sorts, an anti-romance that inhabits territory that Hitch would return to a decade later in Vertigo.
I say anti-romance because the relationship between the three principals, the US agent Devlin (Cary Grant), the German agent Sebastian (Claude Rains) and the woman who oscillates between them (Ingrid Bergman) is a twisted one in that the three of them are concerned with manipulating the others in a sour dance of death. At no time are relations between the three normal in any sense. Ingrid Bergman's initial drink problem and self-disgust distort her ability to conduct a normal relationship of mutual attraction with Cary Grant, and his passivity and self-concealment lead directly to a situation where he is effectively acting as her pimp in prostituting her to Claude Rains. The latter in his turn has no qualms in throwing her to the wolves as soon as his amour propre is wounded and his own skin is threatened.
The film has always an atmosphere of bitterness and maladjustment to it, but it becomes positively nightmarish in the final scenes. All the elements of the picture come together to foster the unique atmosphere. The script is sour with little sweet. We expect great direction from Hitchcock and we get it - the brisk pace, the unblinking focus on the depths of the hearts of the characters, the unexpected, bravura camera angles, the sudden close-ups. The three principals are at the top of their game. Cary Grant is unusually unassertive and just oozes enigma. Claude Rains is great as a superficially confident, successful man in whom beats a vacillating, weak heart. Ingrid Bergman was never better than this. She's a persuasive drunk, even managing to look pretty rough, and then conveys wonderfully well the twin elements of her character as she controls and is controlled.
Tosh? No, a must for Hitchcock fans and anyone with a serious interest in cinema.
Sit back, relax and let the charisma wash over you. Ingrid Bergman, the troubled, alcoholic daughter of an exposed Nazi spy, is contacted by American agent Cary Grant. Will she redeem herself in the eyes of her adopted country by taking on a mission to infiltrate and then betray her father's circle of friends? Will she go as far as marriage to accomplish her mission? And if so, can she bring herself to betray Claude Rains, her father's oldest friend (incidentally a delightful actor, best known as the policeman who wanders off with Bogart at the end of Casablanca)? Will she have time to worm out his sinister secret before his canny mother spots her game? And does the callous, aloof Cary Grant really care?
It's wonderful tosh, a flashy two-handed melodrama with buckets of suspense, no sentimentality and fabulous dresses. Lots of classic, nail-bitingly tense Hitchcock passages. Cary Grant stern, unyielding, and of course dark and handsome. Ingrid Bergman elegant, heroic and revelling in an uncharacteristically dirty part. Hitchcock in his prime, causing anxiety, tension and distress throughout. If you get the chance to see this on the big screen rather than on late-night Sky, take it.