Shadow Of A Doubt (1943)

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A young woman is elated when her favourite uncle comes to stay with her family but becomes increasingly suspicious that he is in fact the “merry widow murderer”.

An early work from Alfred Hitchcock, Shadow Of A Doubt contains many of the themes that would reoccur in his work. It’s almost an attack on the idea of the concept of the “blood is thicker than water” family unit and another example of Hitchcock’s enemy within stories as the seemingly innocuous Joseph Cotten is revealed to have a dark secret. There are some great examples of Hitchcock’s genius contained within the story, particularly some beautifully framed shots and his use of light and shadow, and he toys with the audience as he places us in Charlie’s position as Cotten’s facade slips. The highlight for me was his rancorously misogynistic tirade at the dinner table accompanied by an incredibly sinister look straight into camera. Hume Cronyn and Henry Travers also bring some wonderfully black comic relief so all the ingredients are there for another classic. Unfortunately I found the pacing rather off; the first half of the film is actually really rather dull, with nothing happening but family bliss and the bland detectives on the case are almost treated as an afterthought leaving a “hero” figure glaringly absent; Teresa Wright is appealing but too helpless and victim-like to be a strong protagonist.

The second half of the film certainly makes up for the dull first, but Hitchcock covered similar ground with the superior Suspicion.

6/10

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