Shadow of a Doubt Reviews

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Super Reviewer
January 10, 2009
Hitchcock made so many brilliant films in his long career that it's easy to overlook certain gems among showier works like Psycho, Vertigo and The Birds, yet in its quiet, unassuming way, Shadow of a Doubt is as perfect as anything the master ever made. I don't necessarily cite it as a fault - indeed, he often uses it to advantage - but there is certainly much in Hitchcock that is artificial and studio-bound. Here, however, by effectively casting (then) small-town America as a central character in the drama and opting to shoot on location in Santa Rosa, California, Hitchcock achieves with Shadow of a Doubt a vividness of setting virtually unparalleled elsewhere in his oeuvre, possible exceptions being the San Francisco of Vertigo or the Covent Garden of Frenzy. This might also be Hitchcock's most perfectly cast movie, with even the most minor of characters perfectly realised. Joseph Cotton is cast superbly against type as the charismatic wolf in sheep's clothing, Uncle Charlie, but the heart and soul of the picture is the beautifully judged performance of Teresa Wright as Charlie's adoring niece and namesake. I would personally rank the adorable Miss Wright as my favourite heroine in all of Hitchcock.
paul o.
Super Reviewer
½ August 22, 2012
Unlike Hitchcock's typical films about espionage and voyeurism, Shadow of a Doubt presents a different type of drama. The film feels like a mystery story with a hint of symbolic noir. Teresa Wright (Niece Charlie) is an exclusive actor who does not particularly belong in the Hitchcock universe since she isnt a blonde love interest but she does portray the innocent female that many Hitchcockian fans have come to appreciate.
Super Reviewer
½ November 13, 2011
Hitchcock's first masterpiece is an amazing character study and features my favorite performance from the great Joseph Cotton. A must see.
Super Reviewer
½ June 18, 2006
This is the story of a girl named Charlie who is rather fond of her uncle, whom she is named after. One day Uncle Charlie comes from the east coast out to Santa Rosa, California to visit Young Charlie and the rest of the family for a while. Things start off well enough, but then Uncle Charlie begins to act as if he's got dark secrets to hide, something made more curious due to his increasingly odd behavior and the activities of some men desperate to talk to him.

Filmed in beautiful black and white with some great lighting and camera work, this is a top notch psychological suspense thriller filled with great mood and wonderfully established tension and suspense that keeps rising and rising until a fine and thrilling climax. Hitchcock gives his usual masterful direction, and Dimitri Tiomkin provides an excellent musical score.

The real highlight though, are the performances, especially the two show stopping ones from Joseph Cotten as Uncle Charlie, and Teresa Wright as Young Charlie. They have some wonderful tense cat and mouse moments with one another, and it is just a joy to watch Wright as she tries to unravel the mystery, and an even bigger delight to watch Cotten shift from sly, playful, and charming one minute to creepy, suspicious, and menacing the next.

This is a real gem and a wonderful picture. My only real gripe are the performances from the two little kids. They're annoying, loud, and obnoxious. On the plus side though, the little girl reminded me a lot of young Abigail Breslin (young as in her early roles). You should really give this a watch. It's some great stuff.
Super Reviewer
June 30, 2011
Alfred Hitchcock and I wouldn't have gotten along. He claimed that "Shadow of a Doubt" was his favorite film and it's my least favorite of his. He claimed that Jimmy Stewart ruined "Vertigo" and he ended up hating the film and never speaking to the actor again, I on the other hand think it's his crowing achievement and a fantastic Stewart performance. For me, "Shadow of a Doubt" is just to disparate for me to embrace. While each of the elements seem interesting on their own, none of it congeals. The film has no back story, you are supposed to be caring for Charlie (or at least that's what the overwrought score seems to convey). How can we care for this main character (and Young Charlie) if we don't know anything about them. We know she is good and he is bad, but WHY? How can we possibly love a character when we know so little about their decision making process? To me, this is lazy filmmaking. The film tries to be thrilling, funny, dark, romantic and fails every step of the way due to the lack of characterization. All we end up with is a film that will only scare the naive morons of Middle America... (which is what the film is about, so maybe it works?... nahhh)
Super Reviewer
April 29, 2011
I love it when Hitchcock gets perverse. And there's nothing more perverse than a niece lustin' after her uncle, and he lustin' for her right back.
Super Reviewer
June 6, 2007
Hmm...I heard so much good about this film. And now that I've seen it, I wonder why. I found it kinda dull. A young woman named Charlie gets a visit from her mom's beloved younger brother, and Charlie's favorite uncle, also named Charlie. But slowly she discovers secrets about her uncle that could threaten her life if the secrets were exposed. Sounds interesting enough, but I didn't find myself particularly engrossed in it (this is the 4th time I've tried to watch it, and only the first time I made it all the way through), I kept waiting for a big climax or reveal that never came, and I would have completely changed the ending. An OK film, but not nearly up to par with my fave Hitckcock films -- Rear Window, Rebecca and The 39 Steps.

UPDATE -- This film seems to be growing on me. I think Joseph Cotten's performance as the seemingly endearing but actually creepy uncle is what keeps me coming back.
Super Reviewer
May 6, 2007
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 Hitch'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. Anyone looking for a film to play drinking games to should also check this out; a shot every time someone says "Charlie" would flatten a concrete elephant...
Super Reviewer
September 5, 2010
Hitchcock's 1940s movies are really the best. If you love his movies, you can't miss this one.
The Gandiman
Super Reviewer
January 7, 2010
A cerebral cat-and-mouse game that crackles with suspense and tension. One of Hitchcock's brainiest ... and often overlooked.

"Shadow" is not a murder-mystery, but is a granddaddy of the psychological thriller genre. The murders have happened and there's no doubt as to who committed them - celebrated favorite uncle and brother Charlie. When he comes to visit none is more excited to see him than his admiring niece "Charlie" who's fawning and admiring begins to melt away as she begins to suspect her uncle of horrific crimes.

Hitchcock is less interested in catching the killer and more interested in exploring the reaction and actions of a loved one when they discover a dark secret. And as the stakes get higher, the actions get even more dire.

Academy Award winner Teresa Wright (for Mrs Miniver) is luminous and Orson Welles mainstay Joseph Cotten is perfect.

There's no doubt why "Shadow" was one of Hitchcock's favorites.
Super Reviewer
½ August 18, 2010
A expertly crafted, supremely entertaining piece of work from the master of suspense - Alfred Hitchcock. While the ending leaves a gaping plot hole and some of the dialogue can come across as corny and obvious, the positives outweigh the negatives largely here. Both Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright do what is expected of them skillfully (although the beginning of their relationship is quite, unintentionally, somewhat inappropriately "touchy", if you will). Still, what makes this film a classic is Hitchcock's feel for increasing suspense until his coda, where everything explodes and its entirely satisfying (the act, that is, not quite the aftermath). Definitely a must-see for any Hitchcock fan.
Super Reviewer
½ July 21, 2010
"You think you know something, don't you? You think you're the clever little girl who knows something. There's so much you don't know. So much."

Charlie (Teresa Wright) is thrilled when her adored uncle (Joseph Cotten) comes to visit her family and shake her out of the malaise and monotony that she's been feeling. But when suspicion is cast on the man that she was named after, can she accept that he might be a killer? If he finds out what she suspects, could that put even the life of his beloved niece in jeopardy?

I don't really know how to review Shadow of a Doubt. I found myself liking it, even though I can't give any particular reasons why. In fact, I found it to be meandering and a little unfocused, at times. Yet it still left me with a positive impression. It had a different feel from any of the other Hitchcock movies that I've seen. There's little mystery to it, and the thrills and suspense are of a different kind than those that were offered in North by Northwest or Notorious. I'd struggle to compare this to any of his other movies. Yet, the director felt that it was his favorite. I can't deny that I found the relationship between Charlie and her uncle to be interesting, in all its phases. And since so much of the plot hinges on that, then perhaps that explains some of Shadow of a Doubt's likeability.

I'd say that if you're a fan of Hitchcock, give this film about family menace in Santa Rosa a try. It's a bit of an odd duck, yet it was entertaining, nonetheless. I put it firmly in the middle of the pack of Hitchcock's movies.
Super Reviewer
November 29, 2007
hitchcock's grand-daughter claims that "shadow of a doubt" is hitch's favorite piece of work. as for its authentiy, it's another business, but "shadow of a doubt" is phenomenal considering its double parallel of its smitten moral dualism.

the story is about the characters of two "charlies" in an average household. the uncle charlie is a closet sociopath with penchant to strangle rich widows to serve his twisted idealism. young charlie is a naive small-town girl with whimsical ruminations all the time. to escape from investigator, uncle charlie takes refugee in his elder sister's home under the expectation of young charlie's mental telegracy that injects some dreamy hope into young charlie's dried life of boredom. but she would never know her dream degenerates into a horrisome nightmare as she discovers her uncle's deadly secret.

the appliance of two charlies with the introduction of them laying on bed in seperate scenes is the resonation of their connected twin personality. uncle charlie is the dark evil side while young charlie stands for the bright gentility. as uncle charlie dies, part of young charlie's perspect of innocence also withers just like she would never be completed ever again, consuming the rest of her life mourning over the uncle she's infatuated with, as hitch once remarks "sometimes you would slaughters the one you love"....her self-guilt is severe becuz her uncle's vice is partially indulged by her connived silence, then she has to run the risk of his murderous elimination for the sake of his own safety.

joseph cotten as the merry window strangler is sinisterly dynamic, and he delivers some cynically spiteful lines upon women by demeaning old rich widows as "faded, fat. freezing animals" who squader their diligent husbands' hard-earned fortunes by being wastefully leisure all the time, he detests them but takes belief that their annihilations would improve the world as a better place that is the most harsh misogynisitc comment ever in hitch's movies. or lines like "women are fools! they could be in love with anything!!" his idealism detorted with his pervert killing is the so called "moral ambiguity"... there're some stylish shots of cotten's smoking poises full of contempts and complacency as he gazes outside the window as well as his disregard to the conventional superstition by tossing his hat toward the bed purposedly.

there're some engrossing symbolic metaphors, such as the train cotten takes as he arrives the town emits black fume that means devil is approaching here; then the train he takes to depart exuberates white smoke that crytalizes the town as the devil's going away. ironically the ending shows the whole town santa rosa is all lamenting over uncle charlie by dubbing him "son of santa rosa" that is literarily consecrating a murderer with righteous holliness.

the tasteful part is that hitchcock never demonstrates one scene of the actual widow-strangling crime, and it's simply hinted with the killer's fierce strength to string over a napkin with a ferocious gaze. joseph cotten shall be one of the best hitchcockian villains among claude rains, robert walker and ray millard, recognition approved by hitch himself.
Super Reviewer
½ April 29, 2010
Nothing is scarier than having Joseph Cotton as your uncle, well, unless heā??s trying to kill you. I really think this is Hitchcock doing what he loves, scaring Middle America. Just when you think the world is safe again and you can live in peace with a nice house and a white picket fence, along comes a psychopath relative. Teresa Wright is amazing and really helps you buy into the fear of living with someone who is potentially a killer and a crook. Hitchcock turns a beautiful little town into a death trap with no escape.
Super Reviewer
November 9, 2006
I've tried watching Shadow of a Doubt half a dozen times to no avail. I always stopped either out of restlessness or boredom but it was worth the wait once I was able to sit still and enjoy it. I wouldn't way I want to kick my own ass for not seeing it sooner, but I'm definitely glad I caught it. Truly one of Hitchcock's lesser-known masterpieces, the direction and imagery is fantastic (especially in the first 15 minutes or at the top or bottom of a flight of stairs) and the supporting cast is colorful enough without reaching the point of annoying. And the chemistry between Henry Travers and Hume Cronyn was gold. Of course the real standout was Joseph Cotten who could emit paternal warmth and straight vileness in the same scene. The story seemed to end a little too abruptly but it didn't ruin the movie overall. I'd put in my Top 10 of favorite Hitchcock films but the Top 5 are safe.
Super Reviewer
½ October 2, 2009
Absolutely superb entry from Hitchcock.
Super Reviewer
½ October 18, 2009
Shadow of a Doubt is truly one of Hitchcock's best. The gradual build is intense and intriguing, never giving too much away, but enough to make you feel as though you are working it all out. The family dynamic is well presented. Each member is different without being a forced caricature. This allows for some truly realistic and familiar moments. One of the best, little touches, the film offers is the father's relationship with his best friend. They discuss literature, and have a running conversation throughout the film where they try and come up with the best ways of killing each other. It's these little moments that add humour but hint at disaster. It's a wonderful film, and unlike the thrillers of today, stays it's course and keeps it's tone.
Super Reviewer
January 8, 2009
Whereas Psycho changed the way the world viewed showers, and Jaws made swimming in the ocean forever less appealing, and even Diabolique led us all to view swimming pools with cynicism, Shadow of a Doubt shows us that something as benign as "family" can become horrifying and evil. Hitchcock took the fright out of old European castles and dark back alleys and put it right smack-dab in our living room. It raises the question, "Is something sinister sitting across from you at the dinner table every night?" ...well? it?
Super Reviewer
April 4, 2007
A much underestimated and underrated Hitchcock Thriller, In fact this was Hitchcock?s favourite. Of course this appeals to my interest of Serial Killer films and it?s great to see an enjoyable early one.

The characters were all very developed here and the storyline is told from a unique perspective, in that it involves the Killer?s own family.

An enjoyable performance from X White and Joseph Cotton who are both new names for me.

Super Reviewer
April 19, 2007
Highly distilled Hitchcock. All of the tropes that he would be heralded for later are on display in this taught "Noir in a small town" film. Rich well rounded characters bring this delightful suspense picture to life.
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