88 of 96 people found the following review helpful
Charlie, think. How much do you know about your uncle?,
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This review is from: Shadow of a Doubt (DVD)
Having just watched Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943) last night for the first time, I was surprised at how good it was, and why I've never seen it before. I mean, I am a fan of Hitchcock, and I've seen many of his movies, but to have heard so little of this particular film seems puzzling to me, as it's an excellent film, and worthy of a lot more recognition than it seems to have gotten. Either that or I just need to get out of my cookie jar more often...
Anyway, the film, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and written by Thornton Wilder, stars a wonderful cast including Teresa Wright, who appeared with Gary Cooper the previous year in The Pride of the Yankees (1942), Joseph Cotten (Citizen Kane, The Third Man), and Henry Travers (High Sierra, Mrs. Miniver, It's a Wonderful Life). Also making an appearance is Hume Cronyn making his film debut in a supporting role as a mousy neighbor.
The story involves a family in a small California town, and the impending arrival of a relative, Charlie (Cotten), from back east. Most anticipatory is younger Charlie (Wright), named after her uncle, as she feels a deep, almost telepathic connection to this man she hasn't seen in quite awhile. Now, before Charlie's departure for California, we get a general sense of unease, as it seems Charlie is involved in something of a sinister nature. Upon arriving in California, the visit seems to be going well, as the family welcomes him with open arms, but soon we learn that trouble has followed Charlie in the form of two rather shady individuals who present themselves with a certain amount of deception, which is elaborated on later. The older Charlie's behavior begins to change subtly, perceptible only to the younger Charlie and us, the audience. As various bits of information are disseminated, the younger Charlie's begins to realize that her uncle may harbor a terrible secret that could tear apart the very fabric of her family. As her uncle's slick veneer is slowly peeled away, she eventually learns the truth, with the older Charlie realizing that the relative safety he sought in coming to stay with his sister and her family is in jeopardy. What lengths will he go to to protect himself from his past?
The film starts out very slowly, but it's obviously deliberate, as the sense of dread within the viewer is cultivated in meticulous fashion. This seems a common tactic with Hitchcock, but I did get the feeling it was more drawn out here than in most of his other films. The pacing felt very similar to Rebecca, another Hitchcock film, which was released in 1940, but while that film had a much more grandiose feel to it, this film keeps things fairly simple, which really works well. There is a good amount of leaving the viewer in the dark within the first hour or so of the film, but when the secrets of the character is revealed, the plot points prior to this fall into place nicely, making sense of these once less meaningful elements. Teresa Wright's character is wonderful as the perceptive and intelligent niece forced to make a very difficult decision between her family and her uncle, trying to deal with the consequences of whatever path she chooses. Cotten is the real standout performance in the film, presenting a very likeable character, with a highly polished exterior, but an exterior you learn is barely hiding a very ugly and, ultimately, dangerous core. He figuratively becomes the fox in the hen house, as his sinister nature encroaches upon this quiet, unassuming community. As I said before, the pacing is pretty slow, picking up moderately within the last 30 minutes (it has a running time of 108 minutes) to a very suitable and satisfying ending, one that provides a nice jolt during an already tense scene.
The print provided by Universal for this release looks very good, despite a few hardly noticeable signs of age and wear. Special features include a featurette on the making of the film, detailing why Hitchcock considered this to be one of his favorite movies he made, production notes, drawings and photographs, recommendations (to other Hitchcock films), and a theatrical trailer for the film. All in all, and excellent, if underrated, Hitchcock classic.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 29, 2007 6:53:28 PM PST
Posted on Jun 12, 2009 6:14:45 AM PDT
K. Phillips says:
Great title...love the review.
Posted on Oct 13, 2014 8:30:35 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 13, 2014 8:37:37 AM PDT
Memito in SD says:
Nice enough review, though I disagree with your repeated statement that this film is underrated. By whom? Critics widely concur this is one of the very best in the Hitchcock canon, and almost any Internet review will proclaim that Hitch considered this his favorite cinematic creation. I first saw "Shadow" decades ago on TV as a young boy on television, and over the years almost every individual to whom I've had the great privilege of introducing this film on home video has been caught up in its spell. So I've seen firsthand the appeal of this particular film to a fairly wide range of viewer sensibilities and sophistication, even among contemporary audiences. It is certainly accessible, and compelling enough to generate deep appreciation among viewers lucky enough to be exposed to it.
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