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A stark thrilling film from Hitchcock. (Spoilers)
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.