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Alfred Hitchcock: Masterpiece Edition Vol. 2: Joseph Cotten unleashes his inner madman in the terrifying Shadow of a Doubt....
Universal / 108 Minutes / 1943 / Unrated / Street Date: October 30, 2012
[As preparation for our comprehensive review of Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection, we're investing each of that massive Blu-ray sets films one by one chronologically. If you missed our review of Saboteur, check it out here.]
Generally, when I think of the greatest films ever made by Alfred Hitchcock, I fall back on the obvious choices like The Birds, or my personal favorite, Psycho. Others may also answer Vertigo, Rear Window or Rope, and few would argue with any of these choices. These films are so ingrained in film lore that even if you haven't seen them, any self-respecting film connoisseur or student knows that they should.
Apparently, when Hitchcock was asked about his personal favorite movie of all the ones he had done, Shadow of a Doubt was his choice. The story revolves around the Newton family and their mysteriously aloof Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotton, 40's and Citizen Cane star). The film opens with Uncle Charlie hiding out, from some unknown reason, in his home back east. He comes to the decision that he wants to get away from his problems for a while and sends a telegram to his sister in Santa Rosa, informing her that he's coming.
Meanwhile, Charlie Newton (Teresa Wright), Charlie's niece, decides she wants to spice things up around the house. She decides to send a telegram back east to invite her uncle to their home. She doesn't send one when she intercepts the incoming telegram. For some time during the film, she is convinced she a form of ESP when it comes to her kindred spirit, Uncle Charlie. Once Charlie arrives, he bestows many exorbitant gifts on the family.
He gives a watch to Joseph Newton (Henry Travers), Charlie's father, plus a mink coat for Emma (Patricia Collinge), her mother. Uncle Charlie also deposits about $40,000 into the bank where Joseph works. Everyone is stunned by the amount of money Uncle Charlie is flashing around, but writes it off as part of his contractor work.
Mysteriously, the family is chosen to be interviewed for a national family survey. For some reason Uncle Charlie refuses to participate in the survey. He doesn't even want pictures taken. When surveyors Jack Graham (MacDonald Carey) and Fred Saunders (Wallace Ford) arrive, Uncle Charlie leaves the house for some unknown reason. We learn later that Uncle Charlie is the primary suspect in the "Merry-Widow" murders. This is where the plot really begins to thicken...
I would have to say, as a suspense-thriller, Shadow of a Doubt is more low-key than standard Hitchcock fare. There is no real suspense of "Who did what?" It's more in the vein of, "I know who did it, but why? How's he going to get away with it? Will he hurt the rest of his family?" Hitchcock still builds the suspense and tightens the screws really well.