Alfred Hitchcock considered this 1943 thriller to be his personal favorite among his own films, and although it's not as popular as some of Hitchcock's later work, it's certainly worthy of the master's admiration. Scripted... more » by playwright Thornton Wilder and inspired by the actual case of a 1920's serial killer known as "The Merry Widow Murderer," the movie sets a tone of menace and fear by introducing a psychotic killer into the small-town comforts of Santa Rosa, California. That's where young Charlie (Teresa Wright) lives with her parents and two younger siblings, and where murder is little more than a topic of morbid conversation for their mystery-buff neighbor (Hume Cronyn). Charlie was named after her favorite uncle, who has just arrived for an extended visit, and at first Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) gets along famously with his admiring niece. But the film's chilling prologue has already revealed Uncle Charlie's true identity as the notorious Merry Widow Murderer, and the suspense grows almost unbearable when young Charlie's trust gives way to gradual dread and suspicion. Through narrow escapes and a climactic scene aboard a speeding train, this witty thriller strips away the fašade of small-town tranquility to reveal evil where it's least expected. And, of course, it's all done in pure Hitchcockian style. --Jeff Shannon« less
Charlie, think. How much do you know about your uncle?
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 05/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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.Cookieman108"
IN RETROSPECT, ONE OF THE BEST EVER
DAVID DUBOS | NEW ORLEANS, LA USA | 05/12/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To say Hitch's "Shadow of a Doubt" is a great film would be fair; but in all honesty, looking back on the films (hundreds by now, maybe thousands) I've seen, there are few that have left such an indelible impression on me. By now, everyone knows the story of Uncle Charlie and his adoring niece and how she slowly uncovers the truth behind her mysterious uncle's past.What's brilliant about this movie is the way it foreshadowed and still influences movies today. Think of "Blue Velvet" and its portrayal of the naive small town boy uncovering a secret to his sleepy little town. Or even "The Third Man" just a few years later where, ironically, Joseph Cotton finds the truth about his best friend, Orson Welles.What makes this film endure is its theme: The loss of innocence. the innocence of Teresa Wright's adoring neice (watch the brilliant scene in the bar where she sits down with Joseph Cotton), the innocence of Charlie's family and of course, the innocence of Santa Rosa itself.Perhaps Hitchcock and Thornton Wilder were prophetic in the way they mapped out the loss of America's innocence especially after the war. (the film was released around then). Look at our society now and how everything has changed. The 50's were looked upon as the decade we lost our innocence (Some even point far later to the Vietnam war as the period that ended it) but Hitchcock back in the 40's was saying that everything was not all right, and that bad things just didn't happen in dark alleys and dark houses, that it could happen on the sunniest of days and in most Apple Pie, White picket fence homes. And then, of course, is the equally superb and brilliantly understated ending where Joseph Cotton's Uncle Charlie is being mourned in his death as a hero is equal parts chilling and darkly amusing. Hitch's point? That we still live in denial, that we may need people like Teresa Wright's Charlie to keep the lie hidden, because we aren't able to look at ourselves in the mirror and see that dark side and embrace it. No wonder this film was Hitch's fave. Hitch loved to explore the dark side of the everyman (or every woman) and along with Strangers on a Train, Vertigo, Rear Window and Psycho, they form a collection of films that perfectly dissects the human condition and this theme.A truly great film worth watching over and over."
One of Hitchcock's Greatest Films
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 09/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Shadow of a Doubt is my favorite Hitchock movie. Among the reasons why I like it...
--Theresa Wright gave an extraordinary performance as Young Charlie, immensely sympathetic and appealing. I rate hers as the best acting job by a female lead in any of Hitchock's films, including those by Bergman, Kelly, et al. --It was a perfect role for Cotten, an actor I like, who had charm, attractiveness, but to me always seemed a little weak. I thought the role, however psychopathic, suited his personality. --The murder by-play at the family dinner table was great fun and played off Uncle Charlie's real murderousness. --The slowly building knowledge that Young Charlie was realizing the truth about the uncle she idolized and the knowledge that no one would believe her. --The slowly building realization that despite the affection Uncle Charlie had for Young Charlie, he probably was going to do her harm. --The affection that Hitchcock shows toward comfortable small town America. It's an idealization, but without condescension. And because he plays it straight, he makes Uncle Charlie's philosophy of life seem all the more unsettling. --The script was, I think, one of the best written and tightest Hitchcock ever worked with.
There's no mystery. We know Uncle Charlie is a killer. The movie is about how Young Charlie and Uncle Charlie are going to resolve their problem as they circle around each other. Hitchcock creates an increasingly unsettling atmosphere, using gentle humor as a foil, and with a person, Young Charlie, it's easy to care about.
The DVD transfer is very good."
One of Hitchcock's Best
C. O. DeRiemer | 07/01/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film doesn't really represent all that Hitchcock was about--it doesn't feature any of his familiar themes or his trademark sexual tension--but it's still one of his best. Unlike his exciting chase films (NORTH BY NORTHWEST, THE 39 STEPS), his espionage movies (NOTORIOUS), or his straight-up horror films (PSYCHO, THE BIRDS), SHADOW OF A DOUBT is a quiet, subtly disturbing psychological thriller set in a sleepy California town. Joseph Cotten plays a murderer who stops in to visit his sister and her family while on the run from the police. Of course, the family has no idea that their charming, charismatic uncle is actually a killer. However, Cotten's favorite neice--played remarkably in a heartbreaking performance by Teresa Wright--soon catches on and is the only one who knows of his horrifying secret. Every detail of this masterfully constructed film is brilliant; the portrait of middle-class family life in small-town America has never been clearer or more nostalgically rendered. As a result, Hitchcock achieves in placing danger right among the innocent charm of the suburbs. As usual with Hitchcock's films, it is also wonderfully directed and edited. Hitchcock himself has named this film as one of his favorites among all those he made. This disc also features an interesting documentary about the film."
Underrated Hitchcock Classic
Kathy Fennessy | 02/11/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Somewhat reminiscent of Orson Welles' The Stranger (1946), Shadow of a Doubt is a superior film about evil in the most unexpected places and the bottomless human capacity for denial. This seems somehow fitting since Welles directed Joseph Cotten to such acclaim in The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), also a box office disappointment, and both give such excellent performances in Carole Reed's masterful The Third Man (1949).In Shadow of a Doubt, Cotten plays Charlie Oakley, a widow murderer hiding from the authorities in his sister's pleasant suburban home. (In The Stranger, Welles plays a Nazi hiding from the authorities in another pleasant American suburb.) Just about everyone--but especially Charlie's adoring namesake niece Charlie (Teresa Wright)--is seduced by his charm and good looks and thinks he's an upstanding citizen. But looks can be deceiving. The dinner table speech Cotten gives towards the end of the film is the essence of pure evil. It rivals the speech Welles gives to Cotten on the merry-go-round in The Third Man (and James Mason's "God was wrong" speech in Larger Than Life) as one of the most chilling in cinematic history. It's more subtle, but just as insidious. And you'll never hear "The Merry Widow Waltz" the same way again! The script was co-written by Aldred Hitchcock and Thornton Wilder (Our Town, The Skin of Our Teeth). Although it's long been long assumed that Shadow of a Doubt was Hitchcock's personal favorite, this is not correct. He disputes the claim in Francois Truffaut's "Hitchcock" (the definitive text for Hitchcock enthusiasts). He does say, however, that the impression may be "due to my very pleasant memories of working on it with Thornton Wilder...it was so gratifying for me to find out that one of America's most eminent playwrights was willing to work with me, and indeed, that he took the whole thing quite seriously."Hume Cronyn and Henry Travers (Clarence in It's a Wonderful Life) provide excellent support. Cronyn would appear in Hitchcock's next film, Lifeboat, also released in 1943. Shadow of a Doubt was a stellar effort from all involved. If it failed to find its audience the first time around, time has elevated the film--much like Welles' Touch of Evil (1958)--to the deserved status of classic."