Friday, July 11, 2014

Shadow Of A Doubt (1943)


Beefing on Hitchcock
Shadow Of A Doubt

Charlie, a bored teenage girl in a small town, is thrilled to discover her uncle, also named Charlie is coming to visit. When he arrives, he's just as charming and wonderful as she remembers... until a couple strangers come snooping around. They eventually reveal themselves to be detectives on the trail of a newsworthy killer who preys on widows, and one of their prime suspects is her uncle Charlie. His behaviour appears more and more suspicious to her, and he finally admits that he is a suspect but does not admit to being the killer. She reluctantly agrees to not tell the family, and before long news arrives that the other suspect has died in a tragic accident and is assumed to be the murderer. Despite Uncle Charlie's supposed exoneration, she still suspects him and suffers a series of tragic accidents, possibly set up by her uncle.

In Shadow Of A Doubt, Hitchcock injects a bit of big city mystery into a small, peaceful town. One of the things I noticed most of all while watching this film is how fantastically Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) steadily moves from being just lovable and charming to being incredibly creepy and unsettling without even really changing his actions or stature.  What the rest of the family sees as him just being himself becomes progressively more disturbing to young Charlie (Teresa Wright) and the audience, simply due to the knowledge of certain circumstances.

The real highlight of the movie though are the cast of supporting characters. The two younger siblings are wonderfully adorable and add some quaint innocence to the story, while the background is pretty much stolen by young Charlie's father (Henry Travers) and his friend and neighbour Herbie (Hume Cronyn). The two buddies spend the entirety of the picture discussing various ways to murder someone and get away with it. The friendly competitive banter not only adds plenty of dry wit and humour, but it also creates plenty of suspense once young Charlie begins to suspect the elder Charlie.

This is quite easily one of the most cute and lighthearted murder mysteries ever made, and it's a practically flawless movie. My only real complaint is with the element of the story in which the mother (Patricia Collinge) would apparently die or become deathly ill at the very least if her brother were to end his extended and very impromptu visit. This plot point is what keeps the younger Charlie from revealing her suspicions and from getting her uncle to just leave town.  It's not believable at all that this would cause that much emotional damage to her mother, considering she seemed somewhat okay (albeit a bit sad) before he showed up... Obviously, finding out he might be a killer would be an emotional blow, but to die if he ends his visit? It's a bit far fetched, even for Hitchcock.

That being said, Shadow Of A Doubt is a fantastic film and is well worth a watch or three. It was one of Hitchcock's favourite films, if not the favourite of his collection... and for very good reason. I highly recommend it to everyone.