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4.6 out of 5 stars
Shadow Of A Doubt [DVD]
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on 27 November 2012
Shadow of a Doubt is a very dark, moving film which masquerades as melodrama. Hitchcock was of course a master of chilling suspense, but he rarely did it as subtly. The film looks like one of those thrillers beloved by the 40s and 50s; there's a campily named killer (the Merry Widow Murderer), orchestral music and lots of humorous supporting characters, including Hume Cronyn in a role which predates Woody Allen's nervous geeks. Yet the story troubles deeper waters. When Theresa Wright leans against the porch, her eyes filled with tears, my heart goes out to her. You could argue that the film's true theme is her loss of innocence; she's a bored girl who's forced to face the reality of human evil, not just from a stranger but her uncle and namesake, with whom she shares a secret bond.
Charlie (Theresa Wright) lives in a small town with her housewife mother (Patricia Collinge), bank clerk father (Henry Travers) and younger siblings. She's delighted when her uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) announces a surprise visit. They share an almost telepathic bond, and Charlie fancies herself his confidant, who knows things about him which others don't. What slowly dawns on her though, as Uncle Charlie's behaviour grows increasingly suspicious, shakes her to the core. He's a killer of women, old widows who will him their money because he's charming and handsome.
Uncle Charlie's full of hatred, happily dismissing his victims as animals. He gives a speech at his family's table which drips with acid and drives young Charlie to despair. Her loss of innocence is perhaps symbolised when he drags her to an insalubrious bar where sailors hook up with girls. Charlie's ordeal in this film is terrifying; it must be said that she rises to the challenge like few heroines today. She has a detective boyfriend, yet he's little help; Theresa Wright's the deserved star, and faces her uncle with steely resolve.
All the other characters basically serve as comic relief. Travers and Cronyn give great performances as a couple of crime story addicts who debate the perfect murder; Cronyn likes poison, while Travers is more "hands on". Though their discussions are dark the characters are nothing but lovable, as is Charlie's mother, the kind of sweet woman with sadness behind her smile. She's the mother we all want to have, while Charlie's the uncle we hope we don't.
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on 24 April 2016
Young Charlie's dull life is turned upside down by the arrival of her favourite uncle who comes to lodge with her family. Charlie quickly notices though that something is not quite right and her that her uncle may well be running as his past catches up with him.

The film deserves strong praise, especially for its casting and score. Cotton plays his role with that great combination of charm and menace which a sociopaths often display. The score, direction, cinematography and framing are also very memorable and well thought through.

The Blu Ray I bought has been nicely restored with a very clear picture and excellent sound. The picture is framed in 4:3 ratio rather than wide screen.

As well as tension and suspense the film also employs a little comic relief - with the father and his brother in law regualry debating the best way in which they'd murder eachother. Little do they know their guest is much more than he seems.

Charlie is our protagonist, a lively, very intelligent but high strung girl who's little world is turned on it's head, not only by the arrival her favourite uncle but also by a rather handsome young man in town who says he's working on a "census" and selects her family due to their "averageness."

The film's location was also one of it's strong points and should be an example to young film makers that you don't need exotic sets and locations to create an amazing story. Just like Rear Window quite of a lot of this film takes place in an ordinary home with a rather extraordinary secret. Psycho also had a simple setting of a motel yet turned out to be one the best horror films in cinema.

Charlie is portrayed as a dark haired, wide eyed, caring and idealistic young lady, a real departure from Hitchock's typical blond young female character who's usually cynical, emotionally resilient and very Blasé. I really loved Charlie's charaterisation, she felt like a throwback to a simpler, dreamier, less demanding time. Her mother too is a very gentle, sweet and affectionate, a woman who adores her family above all else. Set firmly in the 1940s the men of the town go about their business while the women stay at home, the father is a banker, the love interest is a "government employee" and the uncle is said to be involved in some form of business, in the words of his sister something "far too complex for her to understand." Charlie has finished high school but there's no suggestion that she might be looking for a job, instead it seems a marriage proposal is the much more likely thing on the cards for her.

The town itself also has a nice, warm, safe, old fashioned feel to too, the church, the library, the local bar where soldiers on leave can drink and be merry, everywhere feels bright and happy. There's even a local policeman who knows everybody's name. The town feels like the last place in the world where a murderer might be lurking.

I did have a couple of gripes with the film though. Charlie's curiosity and intelligence felt to me slightly undermined at the end where after two attempts at having her murdered she still allows herself to be alone with her uncle yet again. I thought in the final scene maybe she'd made arrangements with the police and they would obviously appear from cover and arrest him on the train showing that she'd set him up, but no. I can only really put her behaviour down to her naivety and fear of upsetting her mother, no person of normal intelligence would surely go anywhere another person who'd over the last couple of days twice tried to kill them. Also I was unclear why the uncle decided the best thing was to kill Charlie, surely her death would only cast further suspicion on himself?

All in all though this was a terrific film, I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good thriller.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 November 2016
Along with Strangers On A Train which I find it hard to separate this from, in my opinion this is Hitchcock's greatest work. The master's own personal favourite, there's absolutely nothing wasted in this Marvellous tale of a man on the run from the law. Unusually for Hitchcock that man is usually innocent, here however the film leaves you in no doubt that Joseph Cotton's superb portrayal of the seemingly charming Uncle Charlie is very much guilty right from the outset. Charlie is one of two men suspected of being The Merry Widow strangler, and to try to throw off his pursuers telegrams his sister to say he is coming to stay with her in their idyllic small town of Santa Rosa. Sister Emma, played by Patricia Collinge as wide eyed and Innocent is thrilled her younger brother is coming to stay, but not as much as daughter Charlotte, nicknamed 'Charlie' after her Uncle. Welcomed into the family Uncle Charlie hands out presents, with 'Charlie' noting an engraving seemingly making no sense on the expensive ring he gives her. Uncle Charlie states he has been duped but 'Charlie' will hear none of it.

Soon Emma reveals that the family have been chosen as 'A typical American family' with a reporter and photographer coming to the house. Uncle Charlie, seemingly uncharacteristically explodes, saying they are fools to allow strangers into the house and he will have no part of it. His suspicions are correct as the men turn out to be the agents who have been following him.

One of the agents, MacDonald Carey playing Jack feigns a ruse to take 'Charlie' to dinner, and there reveals the terrible truth that Uncle Charlie may be the man they are hunting. At first denying this new knowledge, 'Charlie' then sets out to find out for herself - and comes across more than she bargained for.

The juxtaposition of idyllic small town life with a dangerous criminal displaying a believable front that is eventually seen through by his niece is the masterstroke of this film. 'Charlie' is caught in two minds - facing her Uncle with her new gained knowledge versus her realisation that revealing the truth to her dotting mother would destroy her. As the film progresses Uncle Charlie's casual, chilling feelings about rich widows are laid bare, and his willingness to go to any lengths to protect himself made apparent. The rose coloured glasses are truly off as 'Charlie' tries hard to make her Uncle leave, with family loyalty and the potential effect on her mother causing a welter of mixed feelings. The film has one of the most satisfying endings of any Hitchcock, but it's a chilling ride along the way. A stonewall classic I could watch over and over and never tire of - masterful storytelling.
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on 29 May 2008
First things first, I need to justify giving Shadow of a Doubt 5 stars. Yes, it is in black and white, no it's not the best soundtrack from Hitchcock however it is a true cinematic spectacle and that is enough to give it this high rating.

The story is simple, about an apparently 'average family'. Hitch believed that he could make a film full of suspense out of any ordinary script, this could be considered to be true of SOAD. That is not to say that it is badly written or A dull or fantastic plot, the fact is, its likeability lies in the simplicity of the film's characters. The story is basically about a man on the run from the law who visits his sister and her family.

What I love about it is the change of our identification of the characters from the hero over to the heroine - from Charles to Charlie. Where the film differs from other films of the epoch is the director's skill. Unlike the two-dimensional techniques of some, by 1942 Hitch had begun to establish himself in Hollywood as a great director. His motif in SOAD is the shadows; using lighting and different camera angles to create a POV that not only shows what the characters see, but that also tell how the audience to feel.

A very well rounded film, and I genuinely mean this when i say - the film is perfectly cast. The male lead is a familiar face across the Hitchcockian canon, both lead females couldnt have been changed, and there is a subtle comedy that adds a delightful warmth to the movie with the Holmes and Watson-esque characters of the Father and his friend.

I refuse to talk about the films famous ending as even noting the smallest details would unravel the entire film. Perhaps the film is famous for being Hitch's favourite, for as it's final lines suggest the world 'needs a lot of watching' - a definition of cinema, just as this film is the definitive Hitchcock. A real pleasure to watch, that truly has stood the test of time.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 May 2012
Alfred Hitchcock's 1943 thriller Shadow Of A Doubt was one of his first films during his Hollywood period and, whilst it contains many great trademark Hitchcock touches, for me, it does not quite rank with the master's absolutely top work - although, interestingly, it was apparently Hitchcock's own personal favourite amongst his films. Set in the leafy backwater of small town Santa Rosa in Californian wine country, Shadow Of A Doubt tells the story of (Uncle) Charlie Oakley (played by the excellent Joseph Cotten), who is returning to his sister's family, leaving behind, back East, a murky and murderous past. The film has a number of similarities with Charles Laughton's later (and, for me, superior) film The Night Of The Hunter, with its travelling ne'er-do-well and its prominent roles for children, together with the inclusion of an approaching steam train to signal the arrival into a small-town idyllic community of an evil presence.

With an outstanding screenplay co-written by Thornton Wilder, Hitchcock conveys brilliantly the innocence of the Newton family, with stalwart acting performances by Henry Travers and Patricia Collinge as husband and wife Joseph and Emma Newton, together with that by Teresa Russell as daughter Charlotte ('Charlie'). Charlie is frustrated with the Newton's family life and is 'waiting for a miracle' to change their mundane lifestyle - which she considers to have occurred as she has a premonition of her uncle's arrival. It is through the characters of Charlie and her mother that Hitch transmits the film's over-riding themes of a family's idyllic existence, and their inherently trusting natures, being cast asunder and deceived by an external force. Hitchcock also adds typically deft cameos by Edna May Wonacott as Charlie's precocious younger sister Ann and by Hume Cronyn as Joseph's geeky friend Herbie Hawkins, whose portrayal as a morbid obsessive, continually speculating on how he might murder Joseph, is one of the highlights of the film. Similarly, Hitch has, in Cotten's role as Uncle Charlie, created a brilliantly understated evil presence, from the character's introductory scene where the director invites the audience to question what this mysterious man lying on his bed is guilty of, through to (one of the standout sequences) where Uncle Charlie is shown in a profile close-up as he condemns the object of his obsession (in his eyes) lazy, wealthy widows, with the deadpan delivered monologue, 'Horrible. Faded, fat, greedy women'.

In typical Hitchcock fashion, Shadow Of A Doubt also uses the brilliantly dynamic soundtrack written by Dimitri Tiomkin to good effect, including the repeated use of the main theme from The Merry Widow Waltz (by Lehar) to signify Uncle Charlie's deadly activities. There are a number of other typically Hitchcockian set-piece scenes including that where Uncle Charlie attempts to hide incriminating evidence contained in a newspaper by suggesting that the children might like to use the paper to build a model house.

For me, not quite up with Hitchcock's very best, but essential viewing nevertheless.
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on 29 June 2009
One of Alfred Hitchcock's first American movies, 1943's Shadow of a Doubt is a great film in many respects, even though, to those more familiar with the director's later works, it does not immediately come across as a particularly `Hitchcockian' one.
It tells the story of Young Charlie (Teresa Wright), a teenage girl in a small Californian town, who comes to suspect that her family's beloved Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotton) may actually be the infamous `Merry Widow Murderer'. The film is less of a cinematic thrill ride than some of Hitchcock's other films, and more a character study of a warped and dangerous man, and the potential for disaster he brings home to his `normal' family. And though the story is a compelling and ultimately satisfying one, the viewer is left with the feeling that Hitch wasn't quite firing on all cylinders when he made the film.
Reputedly the great director's favourite of all the movies he made, Shadow of a Doubt has less in common with his other `American family gone rotten' works like Strangers on a Train and Psycho, and more with other `dangerous intruder into a small town' films like Orson Welles' The Stranger and Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter. Joseph Cotton gives possibly his most famous and impressive movie performance in this film (though as he was also in Citizen Kane and The Third Man, the film doesn't quite rate as his best overall), whilst Teresa Wright impressively carries the bulk of the running time with her detailed turn as the confused, caring, and yet unexpectedly ruthless niece.
The film is not without problems. The most disappointing thing about the movie is its lack of typically `Hitchcockian' set-pieces; though the film's opening scenes show a certain amount of flair in the camerawork, both of Cotton's later attempts to murder Wright (by first sabotaging a staircase, and then trying to poison her with car exhaust fumes) come and go without any real build-up or consequence. The supporting performances are variable as well; Henry Travers (Clarence the Angel in It's a Wonderful Life) and Hume Cronyn are both superb as, respectively, Wright's father and a faintly odd neighbour, but Patricia Collinge's winsome turn as Wright's emotionally childlike mother very quickly stops being interesting and instead becomes simply irritating. The twenty-nine year-old Macdonald Carey, too, isn't really right for the character of the investigator on Cotton's tail, coming across as less of a canny detective and more of a lunk-headed High School quarterback.
Carey's character is central to the film's most unfortunate and least convincing sub-plot, the faintly-drawn romance between the detective and the teenage girl. Whilst it never dominates the movie, this angle does seem superfluous and draws attention away from the film's most striking aspect, which is the teenage Wright's undeniable attraction the glamorous and charismatic Cotton.
Whilst the character of Young Charlie may not be attracted to her uncle in an explicitly physical way, their mental `connection' still carries an unsavoury whiff of two people who are far closer than they really should be, given the nature of their relationship. Wright tries to rationalise that they are more like twin siblings than an uncle and niece, but there is no doubt that she responds directly to the excitement caused by having her worldly and adventurous relative around; when she encounters her girlfriends whilst out walking with Cotton, Wright is clearly excited by the idea that they have mistaken him for a handsome suitor, a scene unfortunately diluted in impact when the same friends see Wright out on a date with Carey later in the film and arrive (this time correctly) at exactly the same conclusion.
The unhealthy philosophy of Cotton's character, and the spell he weaves over his family (Wright in particular) remains the most interesting point of the film, and in the second half, once Wright is in no doubt that her uncle is indeed the hunted `Merry Widow Murderer', she is troubled not only by his true nature, but also by self-disgust at the fact that she has for so long regarded the man as a kindred spirit. With the impressionable, unfulfilled young woman responding to the attraction of a charismatic older man who also happens to be a psychopathic killer, the film provides a foretaste of the relationship between Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs; although here, with the two characters related by blood (and the duality theme made obvious by having both characters called Charlie), this angle is arguably even more disquieting.
By no means Hitchcock's best, but certainly in his top ten, Shadow of a Doubt is well worth catching. This is a reasonably good DVD edition, with an interesting documentary on the film's production, including comments from Wright and Cronyn, as well as the original trailer.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 22 August 2011
I watched this film in astonishment: not only does it have psychological depth that is in no other Hitchcock film, but the sense of dread in it builds slowly and inexorably to a frightening climax. The best part of this by far is Teresa Wright's performance, as the intelligent child who enters adulthood as she sees a terrible truth she cannot deny. I was utterly riveted by her introspective performance and natural beauty.

The story is that a serial killer, Cotton, decides to hide at his sister's house, far away from his hunting ground in the northeast. It is clear that he is the killer from the very beginning, so there is no suspense about that. Once in CA, he meets his sister and his niece, Charlie, both of whom adore him. However, it becomes clear that neither of them recognizes him for what he is: a sociopath and con man on his last desperate run.

The emotional center is Teresa Wright, who cannot ignore her suspicions at his strange yet simple behavior. Not only does she observe him, but he makes cryptic and frightening utterances to her that seem to reveal what he really is underneath.

The most amazing thing is that nothing much really happens. And yet a sense of menace and terror grows until it is undeniable. This makes it the best kind of psychological thriller: most of the development is internal, as revealed by the body language of Wright, in her perfect acting. Cotton too is great, a creepy presence who emerges from the shadows now and then, whose actions occur almost entirely offstage. Of course, young Charlie's parents and siblings form the perfect backdrop, normal people unaware of the drama going on inside of her, yet curiously reflecting the mind of the older Charlie, who is charming the entire town. Wright wants to protect all of them from the truth as it dawns on her, a grief that will mark her and her alone for the rest of her life.

Highest recommendation. No wonder this is Hitchcock's favorite of all his films.
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on 26 July 2017
Review to 2005 universal version(Black & Grey cover with Hitchcock 'signature' top right side).By most accounts this was one of Hitchcocks' own favourites, & with good reason, by the time this film was made A.H. had progressed far beyond being the 'talented' to clearly knowing & having the skills (& financial backing) to achieve what he envisioned.
This film uses the 'murder & domestic family setting' he was adept in & would return to &
uses curiosity, tension & bit of sly humour along with some thrilling 'set pieces' & a good cast to provide a complete film.
A Hitchcock regular Dimitri Tiomkin provides a fine musical score & while the picture is not 'remastered' it looks perfectly good for its age (1943). The extras are an entertaining documentary (35 mins), various production drawings together with a
picture gallery, trailer ,with a German audio option and subtitles in various languages.
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on 27 January 2009
Hitchcock is hatching in the US while the war is dragging along. He is building a tight little plot around a small criminal who gets into some serial killing of rich widows in New York or somewhere back East just because he likes money, because he does not like working at all, and because he hates these women who are wasting the money they inherited instead of giving it to someone like him who would make a better use of it since that would prevent him from working ever and forever and might even enable him to open some small business to cover up the bag of green backs. He is on the run. He escapes from the East and moves to California where his sister lives with her family. But the cops are on his tracks and they get quite close. One manages to capture the attention and care of the oldest girl of the family who is over eighteen in order to arrange with her the leaving of the uncle so that he is arrested out of the city. The uncle, the murderer as you have guessed, understands his niece has gotten through the cloud of mystery and has put two and two together and that it does make four in her head. So he has to get rid of her but he fails probably more out of lack of luck than anything else. But the luck of one is the lack of luck of the ether and vice versa. And during that time our uncle is courting the city and becoming some kind of glorious visitor on the music of some Merry Widow. The end is not going to be what he wanted it to be since he will not be able to leave the town but he will not remain at the surface of it either because he will nicely take residence is some kind of wooden underground chamber six feet under. You really feel the growing pains of Hitchcock under this little film that is probably already definitely too small for the big man who is inhabiting it. But he still has a few years to go before getting in the big shoes he deserves.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne & University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines
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on 18 April 2008
Yeah, "Shadow of a Doubt" is missing the moodiness of "Psycho", ambiguity of "The Birds", claustrophobia of "Rear Window", mystery of "Vertigo", vibrancy of "North by Northwest" and lightweightness of "The Trouble with Harry", but it is a strangely gripping and charming movie in Hitchcock's oeuvre.

Like most Hitchcock films, the premise of the film is very simple: mysterious Uncle Charlie decides to pay a visit to his extended family living in a small town. After a while, as his secret is revealed, all family will suffer dire consequences. For me, the most interesting thing about the film is its well-constructed details, or Hitchcock's trademark subtleties that enhance and add layer to the depth to the experience. From start to end, the film is built on dualities, with each scene and character having its complement. There are two Charlies, uncle & niece, having sharp contrasts, albeit a mystic bond with each other. The film begins with uncle Charlie in Philadelphia and his niece Charlie in Santa Rosa, both lying on their beds thinking uncle Charlie to visit Santa Rosa. Two Charlies meet twice at the Till Two Diner. There are two detectives. There are two murder suspects. There are two discussions of perfect murder techniques. There are two train scenes at uncle Charlie's arrival and departure, etc.

Along with these cool pairings, what makes the story more chilling is that it is set in a middle-class, all-American family atmosphere and more importantly the concept of "bringing menace to a tranquil, idyllic small town environment" (unlike many other Hitchcock films). The main focus is put on the psychological interplay between young Charlie and her enigmatic and sophisticated uncle. The main suspense element doesn't come from whether uncle Charlie is "Merry Widow Murderer" or not. Hitchcock makes us realize that he is a vicious, self-interested and gritty sociopath from the very beginning. He didn't resort to gimmicky twists and turns. Instead, the suspense comes from another elements: will uncle Charlie kill his niece as soon as she discovers his "secret"?, Is he going to arrange his escape out of town ahead of the FBI agents?, and like that.

To sum up: Being Hitchcock's first true Hollywood film using American writers and actors as well as real American settings, "Shadow of a Doubt" is a good thriller that works on many different levels. Like most Hitch's films there are complex character studies and visual clues scattered throughout the film. Pay special attention to dualities and little details.
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