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"Average families are the best"
Steffi_P22 February 2009
Alfred Hitchcock's style as a director was a bit like a train – it ran perfectly well, but only along its own lines. He wasn't comfortable adapting his style to suit the material, but when the material suited his style he could do incredible things.

Three years and five pictures into his Hollywood career, Hitch had been having some trouble finding projects he was comfortable with. He had made a couple of adventure thrillers in the vein of his late 30s British films, but the old magic wasn't there. Finally, with Shadow of a Doubt he came upon a project that was right up his street. It represents a welcome return to the domestic murder dramas that had given him his earliest successes (The Lodger, Blackmail), with a storyline ideal for Hitchcock. It is the purest example of murder in a "normal" setting, bringing the audience uncomfortably close to the killer, helped along with plenty of the grisly gallows humour that the Master loved.

Hitch's British pictures had great charm and character, but they were often technically a little haphazard. By now though he knows exactly how to use the camera to manipulate the audience. He begins by carrying us into the story, sweeping in over the city through scenery both pretty and ugly, to home in on an average looking neighbourhood. From then on, every shot, move and edit is calculated to keep up the suspense and unfold the plot. Whereas those early films were swamped and sometimes spoiled by showy camera tricks, Hitch now uses those techniques sparingly, like playing a trump card. For example, he has Joseph Cotton look directly into the camera for a brief moment as he snatches the newspaper back from Theresa Wright. Another trick is to have the camera dolly back as a character advances, only at a faster speed than the actor is moving, which gives a very dizzying effect.

Special mention should also be made of Dimitri Tiomkin's score. Tiomkin was the best composer Hitch worked with before Bernard Hermann, and one of the few who really understood how a Hitchcock film needs to be scored. His sparse string arrangements really capture that sense of spiralling terror without overpowering the scene and turning it into melodrama. He interpolates Franz Lehar's Merry Widow waltz at just the right level, making it noticeable but never overstated– throwing in just a bar or two at an opportune moment, sometimes disguising it in a minor key.

We also have a great cast lined up here. This is among Joseph Cotton's finest performances, which is unusual because Hitch was not a brilliant director of actors. I believe the reason is that, although his soft, honest features meant he usually played clean-cut good guys (as well as making him the perfect choice for the friendly uncle no-one would suspect), he was actually at his best when playing villains. That air of affected friendliness, which gives way to a deadpan monotone, is ironically far more convincing than when he attempted to play genuine niceness. Theresa Wright also does a brilliant job of handling her character's transition from childlike innocence to knowing cynicism. The icing on the cake is a couple of spot-on comic relief supporting parts from Henry Travers and Hume Cronyn.

It's quite appropriate that in his cameo for Shadow of a Doubt, Hitchcock is shown holding all the cards, because here he really did have all the elements working in his favour. It marks the beginning of his golden age and lays down the blueprint for such classics as Rear Window, Vertigo and Psycho. This is about as close to perfect as Hitchcock's pictures get.
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One of Cotten's triumphs; Hitchcock's film is not unconventional, but unabashedly gripping
Quinoa198420 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
One thing that strikes many who come upon Shadow of a Doubt, one of this filmmaker's triumphs, is the knowledge that it was Hitchcock's favorite among his own films- and many watch it with very high expectations, getting shot down as well, making it one of his more under-rated efforts. True, it doesn't go for the immense macabre that lay in Psycho, The Birds, and Frenzy, but it is very effective in telling its stories, and giving us character to either love, or love to hate.

The whole concept to the story is very appealing- a (painfully) normal suburban family gets a calling from a relative- Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten)- who wants to come by for a little while. The oldest daughter, also named Charlie (Teresa Wright), almost feels like a kindred spirit to her uncle, happy as can be that he's come to visit. Things start to unravel, however, when two detectives on his trail come into town, bringing to young Charlie to light what could be going down, or what might not be, or what is as clear as psychopathic day.

It's actually of interest to compare this film to Psycho, I think, in how it's so akin to to how Hitchcock tells the story of the ordinary people of the world getting involved with a certifiable gentlemen. And, perhaps, one could argue (I might, up to a point) that Cotten's performance rivals that of a Perkins' Norman Bates leading male in the sense of subtleties of the suspense in the film. He seems so... calm so much in the film, and even when he shows his hand as to who he really is, there's a lot of depth to his personality. We may hate him, but he is an understandable, frighteningly recognizable monster.

And it solidifies in my book that Cotten had a wonderful range in his work, when he could go from playing a Jed Leland in Citizen Kane to this film, and then on to The Third Man's Holly Martins. Here, he digs into the character and you'll either find it unconvincing in the 40's sense, or a knock-out. As for Teresa Wright, she finds some good notes as well in playing off of Cotten, even in the earlier scenes. And those kids are just the right icing to the cake the film cooks up.

It may take a couple of viewings to really warm up to this film, or you may like it right away. But Shadow of a Doubt contains not only fine acting, but also some trademark Hitchcock camera stylizing. My favorites included a particular shot closing in from medium close-up to extreme close-up on Uncle Charlie when he's in a memorable monologue at the dinner table. Another is the use of the dark value on the characters when they talk outside. And, of course, a climax that is genuine in theatricality. A+
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The Master at his best.
Exploding Penguin7 January 2004
I own the Hitchcock collection (14 films in toto), and while this isn't my favourite of the bunch ('Psycho' is one of my favourite movies of all time, and 'Birds' never gets old), I like to watch it every now and again to remind myself what it means to make a "suspense film", and why Hitchcock was and always will be the master of this craft.

To give away even the slightest story detail would ruin it for new viewers, because it is essential that everyone begin with the wrong impressions of the major characters. This allows Hitch to pull off his famous 'twists' throughout the course of the movie, hitting you every now and then with something you simply weren't expecting.

One of my favourite elements in the movie is the ongoing dialogue between Henry Travers and Hume Cronyn, avid mystery readers who are constantly discussing the best ways to murder each other. Apart from being a bit of comic relief in an otherwise very dark film, it also demonstrates how lightly people think of murder and murderers...until they encounter them face-to-face.

My advice then, if you want to see this movie, is not to learn anything about it beforehand. Going in with no knowledge will increase the movie's initial impact, and will help you to appreciate why Hitchcock was the 'Master of Suspense'. This is a taut thriller with no gratuitous violence, foul language, or mature situations.

(Hitch considered it 'a family film'.)

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Dark and brooding thriller from the master of suspense
The_Void3 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
It is well known that this film is Alfred Hitchcock's favourite of his own oeuvre, and it's a big favourite of mine also. It is also well documented that for this film, Hitchcock stated that he "wants to bring violence back into the home, where it belongs" and he has certainly succeeded at doing that. Hitchcock spends much of the early screen time building up the family at the centre of the tale, and then allowing the violence to come to them, which shows Hitchcock's mastery of the medium as showing the story develop in this way makes the tale much more frightening than if we hadn't got to know the family at the centre of the story first. Joseph Cotten stars as uncle Charlie; a man fleeing Philadelphia to escape the law after marrying and then murdering several rich widows. He goes to stay with his sister and her family, which includes a husband, two young children and the eldest daughter; his niece and namesake; also called 'Charlie'.

Hitchcock puts the focus of the story on young Charlie and her relationship with her uncle. This gives the story a frightening angle as it follows the classic tale of the strange uncle. It's also well done as young Charlie is shown to be the sweetest of characters, and when the dark uncle Charlie enters the fray, her sweet world is infected by nightmares, which also gives way to elements of the classic 'coming of age' tale to enter the proceedings. As if that wasn't enough, Shadow of a Doubt also exposes the trust we put in our loved ones, and how any person is likely to try and shift the blame, or ignore it completely, if their loved one has done wrong. This is shown by the way that young Charlie still attempts to cover for her beloved uncle even when all the evidence is pointing to him being guilty. Hitchcock has turned this thriller, which could easily have been routine, into a complex study of a family that retains it's interest throughout due to the multiple themes on display.

Joseph Cotten was the absolute perfect choice to play uncle Charlie. His portrayal is picture perfect; he carries with him an atmosphere of dread and morbidity throughout, even when he's not doing anything wrong. A role of this sort is difficult to get right, as it's all to easy to underplay it so it isn't effective, or to overstate it so it becomes ridiculous; but Cotten gets the performance spot on. Teresa Wright, who stars alongside Cotten in the role of the other Charlie also does well and delivers a mature and assured performance that fits her character brilliantly. Some of the supporting roles look a little suspect at times, but on the whole the acting from the support is good enough.

The ending of the film comes somewhat against the run of play and is maybe a little bit too over the top after the rest of the film, which is largely down to earth. However, it does work and a big ending isn't something I am in the habit of complaining about. This is up there with Hitchcock's best work and therefore is highly recommended.
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Uncle Hitch
abelardo6423 January 2005
Uncle Charlie did it for me. I mistrusted the uncle thing as a term of endearment ever since. Joseph Cotten is the perfect charming monster. Uncle Charlie's urbanity becomes his most frightening feature. So plausible. So real. Thornton Wilder was Hitchcock's partner in crime this time and it shows. The structure is Our Townish, the characters, deliciously rich. Patricia Collinge's performance is so spot on that you're longing for more. The scenes between Henry Travers and Hume Cronyn are how I imagine the story meetings between Thornton Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock. Teresa Wright's eyes tell the whole story from the audience's point of view, even if the audience is one step ahead of her. Brilliant, because in Joseph Cotten's eyes we find his need for redemption or are we falling in the trap of this master manipulator? We are torn, just like Teresa Wright. I've seen "Shadow of a Doubt" 3 or 4 times but every time you're forced to take the trip with the same amount of commitment. I've been toying with the thought of a remake, I've been doing this lately, although I hate the idea of remakes of great movies, this one is one of those that in the right hands could have a real impact. Using Thornton Wilder's original script as the Bible, Steven Sodebergh could do scrumptious remake for the new millennium. Tim Robbins as uncle Charlie, can you imagine? Natalie Portman as his niece. Joan Cusak and William H Macy as her parents. Wouldn't you go to see that?
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Brilliance From Hitchcock & Cotten
Snow Leopard14 May 2001
Warning: Spoilers
"Shadow of a Doubt" is one of Alfred Hitchcock's most brilliant and most carefully-constructed films, and is further notable as one of the very finest performances of Joseph Cotten, in his role as "Uncle Charlie". Both the movie and the central character are thought-provoking and rich in detail.

The film has an intriguing form that Hitchcock used a number of times (for example, in "Strangers on a Train" and "Frenzy"), that of setting up carefully constructed contrasts between two main characters, contrasts that in turn reflect a further complex of themes in the movie's broader setting and story. Here, the central contrast comes from the relationship between Uncle Charlie and his niece "young Charlie" (Teresa Wright). Their unusually close relationship creates tension and intrigue that go beyond the basic concern of the main story-line (which is, namely, whether Uncle Charlie is the elusive serial killer sought by the police). The uncle-niece relationship also mirrors a great many other topics explored by the film: most obviously the contrast between the small-town atmosphere of Santa Rosa, where Uncle Charlie has come to hide out with his sister's family, but also the complicated nature of the other relationships that we see. A fine supporting cast led by Henry Travers, Patricia Collinge, and Hume Cronyn help us focus in on hidden aspects of small-town family and neighborhood life.

"Shadow of a Doubt" is less known and celebrated than Hitchcock's 50's and early 60's work, and even than some of his 30's British films, most probably because it does not contain any of the director's famous set pieces, which were already a part of his pictures well before "Shadow of a Doubt" was made. After all, it is a movie about a suspected serial killer, and not only do we never see him kill anyone, he never even tries anything violent until much later in the film. But what "Shadow of a Doubt" lacks in the spectacular it makes up in tension and characterization, especially in Cotten's brilliant performance. He is by turns charming, calculating, suspicious, and menacing, a balance very difficult to maintain with credibility for an entire film. Cotten's skill and Hitchcock's direction make Uncle Charlie one of Hitchcock's most memorable characters.

Though more slow-paced than most of the famous director's works, this is still one of his greatest, and should be very satisfying to any fan of Hitchcock, of Cotten, or of noirish/crime thrillers.
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Not the standard Hitchcock stuff * MILD SPOILER*
mstomaso22 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Shadow of a Doubt is classified as a Film Noir thriller. While I can see elements of film noir and elements of the thriller genre in this film, I think this film is more of a character study. It's a story about what happens when a soul-mate turns out to be somebody unexpected.

The cast is excellent, and the lead characters - played by Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright - are very well imagined, written and portrayed. Both characters called for sweeping and dramatic personality changes which Wright and Cotten pulled off convincingly. Wright plays a very young woman (19-ish) living with her family and sort of depressed and aimless, while Cotten is her namesake and favorite uncle, Charlie. Uncle Charlie has come to visit and brought good cheer to the entire family, but shortly after his arrival, young Charlie begins to discover that Uncle Charlie has some sinister secrets. As the clues begin to add up to a coherent conclusion, Wright's character is forced to decide what to do about her growing, troublesome, understanding.

In typical Hitchcockian fashion, the film toys with its audience for the first 3/4ths and does not reveal itself until its almost too late - playing on paranoia, misleading and ambiguous dialog, and terrific acting to create equivocation. However, as you will see, this is not the standard Hitchcock stuff - in the end it has more to do with the characters and what they do than the action and resolution of the ingenious plot.

The Hitch' blows me away almost every time, and Shadow of a Doubt is one of his best. If you haven't seen it, you should. It's a very thoughtful and exquisitely executed character study about a very young and very bright woman, encountering the heavy side of life for the first time, and the choices she makes. Worth seeing for Wright's performance alone (easily Oscar-worthy), Shadow of a Doubt is a timeless piece of noir-esquire originality.
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One of his very best - I've loved it since I was a child!
MovieAddict20165 November 2005
"Shadow of a Doubt" may only be listed as #181 on IMDb's "Top 250" list, but in my opinion it far outweighs some of the films higher up on that list and is one of Hitch's very best films.

Joseph Cotten plays Charlie, a crook on the run from the police. Left stranded and pursued, he decides to move in with his brother's family. His niece - who loves him and sees him as a sort of perfect role model - at first is excited that her Uncle Charlie is coming...but then things start to get strange. Charlie acts oddly and, at times, violent. She begins to become suspicious of her uncle as he becomes more suspicious of her own awareness.

The ending of "Shadow of a Doubt" is classic Hitchcock and some of the best stuff he's done. The entire film is taut and suspenseful, well-filmed and realistic. It manages to focus on family ties and the struggles within the family itself while it also juggles the whole theme of an outcast family member.

In the end, however, it's just a nail-biting thriller that - now over sixty years old - still reigns as one of the absolute best of its genre.
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this captivates from the very beginning
christopher-underwood8 February 2017
With the rousing score of Dimitri Tiomkin and the wonderful camera work, this captivates from the very beginning. We switch from the tight, small lodging out into wide open and view a chase on foot from above, runners and shadows racing before us as we wonder just what is afoot. As it happens we are to find out that Joseph Cotton's character is guilty almost straight away yet spend the rest of the film in suspense as we doubt ourselves. This partly because of the tale of his personal history and partly because of the love and affection of his niece, a wonderful performance from Teresa Wright. Shot largely on location and using a lovely old property in which the large family tumble this way and that in marvellous abandon while the lady of the house tries to maintain control. I learn from the extras that in the end, more shots were required by Hitch and so a set had to be built anyway replicating the building. A very fine, involving, moving and suspenseful film.
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Family Feud
BumpyRide17 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I sometimes think that people who don't like this film, don't like it because you aren't bonked over the head by fancy special effects or being shown a bloody knife stuck in someone's back. Psychological thrillers take place in the mind, not splashed across the screen so you don't have to think but sit in your seat and watch all the pretty colors flash by!

The acting is superb. Theresa Wright is a gem, and holds her own quite nicely against veteran actor, Joseph Cotton. What you need to look for in this film are the subtle cues given that build until Charlie suspects her beloved uncle is a murderer, and eventually even tries to kill her, not once but several times.

Made when the world was at war, I find it especially disturbing to realize that evil could and can be anywhere. Even sitting around your own dining room table.
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Hitchcock does it again
mjneu591 January 2011
In one of his most chilling and memorable intrigues Alfred Hitchcock lays bare the myth of small town virtue with a perverse piece of Americana about a wholesome family unaware of the gruesome skeleton lurking in its closet. The arrival of everyone's much loved Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotton, in his favorite role) is the catalyst to disaster, with eldest daughter Charlie in particular welcoming the arrival of her affectionate namesake as a relief from the humdrum routine of suburban life. But evidence soon begins to suggest the elder Charles might actually be a cold-blooded serial killer, and a lethal game of charades begins between uncle and niece: she knows the truth, and he knows that she knows the truth. The tension builds to an alarming climax, in a trademark sequence (another one for the Hitchcock highlight reel) showing the Master of Suspense at the top of his form. The film was shot in sunny Santa Rosa, California, where the shadows are darker because the sunlight is so much brighter.
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Outstanding Hitchcock
harry-7625 May 2004
Warning: Spoilers
For the kind of thing Hitchcock does, this is one of his best films. Not really a whodunit, for the identity of the [serial] killer's revealed early on.

It therefore becomes a challenge to maintain high interest thereafter. This is done through fine performances, direction, photography and production values.

Cast against type, Joesph Cotton is wonderful--a perfect ironic Hitchcock villain: charming, sweet-talking, and suave. The kind unsuspecting, vulnerable widows might be drawn to. Cotton's own personality works magic in bringing out all the nuances of personality in this role.

One of the most talented of actors, Teresa Wright, is cast in the lead role. Her enormous talent and thespian integrity are put to the test here, and they triumph in a great performance.

Like Cathy O'Donnell, another sweet, girl-next-door type, Wright's persona ran out early in Hollywood, and she was prematurely pushed into matronly roles. A shame, for there was none finer than Wright.

The script and production is clean, concise, sharp and economic, and "Shadow of a Doubt" remains one of Hitch's greatest cinematic achievements.
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Not Just An Unlce And A Niece. There's Something Else
Chrysanthepop4 April 2012
It's no little known fact that Hitchcock was among the pioneers of the suspense thriller genre. With 'Shadow of a Doubt' he creates another suspensefilled chilling drama. I must be very careful with what I reveal of the story for it is important for the viewer to be'deceived' when they first 'meet' the characters.

Starting with the look of the film, well things definitely aren't what they seem. I liked the setting of the town. It really captured that small-town feel. The music was a little over the top at times but then again it does add to the Hitchockian feel. Camera-work is exceptionally good.

The screenplay is solid. I especially liked the dialogues and how toned they were. The comic relief is very well placed and it certainly had me laughing. The performances are remarkable. Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten are superb. Their on screen interaction is intriguing and brilliantly executed. Patricia Collinge is outstanding as the mother and sister. Hume Cronyn is very funny.

I only thought that the portrayal of the two detectives was a little odd. They were quite stupid. In addition, the romance between the detective and young Charley felt rushed.

So there are a couple of little flaws but 'Shadow of a Doubt' still is among Hitchcock's awesome pictures. Hitchock himself said that it's his favourite film and I can see why.
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When Hitchcock Comes to Middle America
evanston_dad2 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
It's been reported that the primary appeal of doing "Shadow of a Doubt" for Alfred Hitchcock was the idea of bringing a sense of menace to a small, every day American town. In that, this movie brilliantly succeeds. It doesn't join "Rear Window" or "Psycho" as one of my favorite Hitchcock films, but it has much to recommend it.

Joseph Cotten didn't get many chances to play a sinister villain, but he's very good at it. His natural ease and charm work to his advantage in creating a smarmy character who you're never completely sure about. He has a lot of chemistry with Teresa Wright, who plays his niece and supposedly has a closer than normal connection with him. In fact, in typical Hitchcock fashion, their relationship in the early scenes of this film takes on a sort of creepy romantic quality that's never overtly addressed but is always there as subtext.

As Wright begins to suspect that her Uncle Charlie might not be such a great guy after all--and may in fact be much worse than simply not a great guy--the balance of power shifts and she begins to play against him. One of the things I liked most about this movie was how strong a character Wright's Charlie is allowed to be. She's not a ninny, like a character in her situation would be in any number of other films. She doesn't swoon, cry and squeal helplessly. After Uncle Charlie tries to kill her by locking her in a garage with a running car, and she comes to looking directly into his face, she doesn't bite her knuckles as you might expect, but rather says with a cold hard determination, "Go away." It's very effective, and the whole movie is like that.

It has a great supporting cast, both well cast and acted. There's not a throwaway character among the bunch, and everyone makes much of varying sized roles. Patricia Collinge is a stand out as Uncle Charlie's sister, whose radar is going off even as she doesn't want to believe anything sinister can be happening. Henry Travers is the father of the family...his attitudes toward Charlie change after he comes to the bank where he works and makes inappropriate jokes. It wasn't until the end credits that I even realized who Hume Cronyn was playing; I've never seen him so young.

"Shadow of a Doubt" isn't as obviously distinguished visually as other Hitchcock films, but it bears his unmistakable mark nonetheless. There aren't as many shots you come away from the film remembering as there are in, say, "Rear Window." But the whole thing has the feeling of being completely controlled from beginning to end. I really liked the way small-town America was portrayed in this film. It's not full of a bunch of rubes who say things like "aw shucks" and do silly things for us to laugh at. Hitchcock is skillful at showing the contrast between the small-town life of young Charlie's family and Uncle Charlie's jaded big-city life of crime. But he doesn't condescend or patronize.

If you want to see higher-tier Hitchcock, you could do much worse than this film. It's got an engaging story, wonderful acting and complex characters, and a few scenes that qualify as genuine nail biters. Very good!

Grade: A
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The most overrated film I've ever seen...and I love Hitchcock.
shulmanator16 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I love Hitchcock's movies, but this one's WAY overrated! You have a criminal on the lamb who makes no behavioral attempt to blend into straight society and seem like a regular person. He ALWAYS acts suspicious and vicious like a criminal, and nobody is smart enough to pick up on this.

The niece reacts to seeing her long lost uncle whom she's supposedly never seen before as if she misses having sex with him, which would be incestuous, and she's so seemingly smitten with him, she gets defensive when it's suggested he might be a murderer.

A cop spends probably about three hours with the girl in a non-intimate manner, and suddenly he's ready to marry her. Like that marriage is going to work.

(SPOILER) And the movie ends with this villain who we're supposed to be scared of slipping and falling to his death, purely by accident. WHAT KIND OF MEANINGFUL ENDING IS THAT? A good ending involving a villain failing is supposed to happen because of the villain's Achilles's heel. Not a Deus ex Machina!

I'm shocked that this is Hitchcock's favorite film. Frenzy, The Lady Vanishes, Dial M for Murder, Rope, and The 39 Steps are all rated lower on IMDb, but are actually much better, and more credible stories.
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Be Careful What You Wish For
seymourblack-11 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
In Alfred Hitchcock's "Shadow Of A Doubt", suspicion and suspense develop side by side when fears start to grow that the arrival of a visitor in Santa Rosa, California, could threaten the tranquillity of the small town, the calm lifestyle of a very conventional family and also the life of a teenage girl. The story unfolds at a pace which is consistent with the sleepy surroundings in which it's set and contains moments of menace, misogyny, conflict and black humour. An uneasy atmosphere also prevails as it becomes increasingly apparent that beneath the community's respectable veneer something very dangerous exists.

Charlie Newton (Teresa Wright) is a teenage girl who suffers extreme boredom living in an environment where everything is well ordered and predictable and she longs desperately for some excitement. The promise of this soon comes when her favourite uncle from Philadelphia arrives to stay with her family. Uncle Charles (Joseph Cotten) is a charming and successful businessman, her mother's brother and also the member of the family after whom she was named. Their names are not all that Charlie and her uncle share as they're also connected by a telepathic link and an example of this is seen when Uncle Charles gives his niece a ring and she starts to hum the same piece of music that he had on his mind at the time ("The Merry Widow Waltz").

Soon after Uncle Charles' arrival, the family is visited by two men who work for a national polling organisation and they arrange with Mrs Newton (Patricia Collinge) for the entire family to be interviewed and photographed but Uncle Charles is clearly uncomfortable about this and refuses to cooperate. One of the men, Jack Graham (MacDonald Carey) later dates Charlie and confides in her that he's actually a detective who's checking up on her uncle as he's one of two suspects that are under investigation. Charlie is also then asked not to tell her family about the investigation.

When her uncle hides a page from her father's newspaper, Charlie goes to the local library, peruses their copy and finds that the page in question carried a story about a hunt being carried out for the "Merry Widow Murderer". Furthermore she discovers that the initials engraved on the ring she was given by her uncle match those of one of the murder victims. A nightmare she has about her uncle running away from something, a speech he gives at dinner about his hatred of widows and his attitude to taking part in the survey, all serve to strengthen her strong suspicions that he's a murderer.

Charlie's suspicions and the fact that she's unable to warn her family about the danger that lurks in their midst make her increasingly anxious and creates a conflict within her as she struggles to reconcile her contradictory impulses. Things get even worse however, when Uncle Charles realises what Charlie knows and as a consequence, her life is put in jeopardy.

Knowing just how devastating it would be for her mother to find out the unpalatable truth about her favourite brother, Charlie readily cooperates with the detectives in a plan to resolve their case in a way which avoids scandal and saves her family from being disgraced by the associated fall out.

The suspense in this movie is relieved periodically by some humorous moments which mostly arise from the exchanges between Charlie's father Joseph (Henry Travers) and his neighbour Herbie (Hugh Cronyn) who are both avid murder mystery buffs who enjoy discussing ideas for committing the perfect murder.

The two characters at the heart of this story seem so strongly connected that they're almost like one entity within which good and evil, naivety and sophistication and also innocence and wickedness all coexist. This is symptomatic of the theme of duality which is present throughout the entire film and can be seen in the number of doubles featured (two Charlies, two detectives, two suspects, two attempts on Charlie's life etc).

High angle shots are used effectively at certain points but the one in the library when Charlie has just discovered the information about the "Merry Widow Murderer" is outstanding. Similarly, interesting use is made of close-ups but the one which makes the most impact is seen when Uncle Charles makes his speech in which he viciously attacks the lifestyles and appearances of wealthy widows.

The talented cast bring their characters to life convincingly and the events which follow Charlie's craving for excitement bring to mind the advice to "be careful what you wish for".
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Good Old Uncle Charlie
bkoganbing29 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I don't believe Shadow of a Doubt will rank as one of Alfred Hitchcock's best film. But second rank Hitchcock is better than most people's best efforts.

Joseph Cotten has come for a visit to Santa Rosa, California to see his sister Patricia Collinge and her family. They welcome him as the prodigal brother. But his very perceptive niece named after him played by Teresa Wright suspects something is wrong with this picture.

Uncle Charlie is suspected of being a serial killer with the monniker of The Merry Widow Killer. He strangles rich old widows and robs them. I guess it's a living, albeit one with risks.

Those risks are getting to him and on some levels you see Cotten almost wants to be caught. In fact Teresa starts to suspect him over a trivial incident involving her dad's paper. Cotten goes to great lengths to hide a feature story about The Merry Widow Murders. When she goes to the library to see what was in the paper that he didn't want the family to see, this is when she starts figuring it out.

Really all Cotten had to do is nothing. But he really did want it to end.

I'm not sure any player ever had such an auspicious beginning in such top rated films as Teresa Wright. In the space of three years she appeared in The Little Foxes, Mrs. Miniver, Pride of the Yankees and now Shadow of a Doubt. She's a Nancy Drew if Nancy had ever discovered there was a criminal who was a close relative.

Patricia Collinge essentially repeats her role from The Little Foxes. If she's not quite as daft as Miss Birdie, she's still kind of operating within her own world. Henry Travers does fine as her husband as does Hume Cronyn as his partner in their own make believe world of crime.

Of course giving a big assist to Ms. Wright's suspicions is the presence of detectives MacDonald Carey and Wallace Ford. They are a team chasing Cotten as one of two men they think is the Merry Widow Killer.

One thing with this film is that unlike Suspicion, Hitchcock stood firm and did not bow to pressure to exonerate Cotten like he did with Cary Grant in the previous film. Of course Cotten was fairly new to the cinema so he could be cast as a villain. And Hitchcock does what he does best, toy with the audiences emotions. Like Suspicion when a whole lot of things happen to Teresa Wright they can be explained away and there is that red herring of that other suspect across the continent.

Of course the other part of Shadow of a Doubt is how the thing is resolved in regard to Cotten's family. The ending might be a bit too pat, but still it does tie up the loose ends in the best way for all concerned.
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This is one of Hitch's best with images full of suspense , drama and tension
ma-cortes30 January 2010
Handsome and uncomplicated uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten)has come to visit his family in Santa Rosa, returning to home town after longer absence. Although he seems a good man, his young niece (Teresa Wright)slowly comes to aware he is a wanted merry widow killer and he comes to recognize her malignant suspicions. The suspicious uncle Charlie gradually becoming stronger and mysterious. Meantime two detectives (Mcdonald Carey and Wallace Ford) are investigating. Further developments ensure an exciting climax on train.

From the story by Gordon McConnell, the picture gets unlimited suspense in crescendo, tense, full of lingering frames and with the typical touches Hitchcock. Besides a literately and thoughtful dialog signed by Thornton Wilder and Alma Reville (Hitchcock's usual screenwriter and wife) though lacking humor . After his successful British films as ¨39 steps¨ and ¨Jamaica Inn¨ , Hitch was encouraged to go to America and promptly shot his first work in Hollywood hired by the great producer David O'Selznick ; later on he directed this excellent picture . Fine performance by Joseph Cotten as sunny and cynic uncle Charlie . Teresa Wright as shy and glad young is superb and enjoyable . Likable couple formed by Henry Travers and Hume Cronyn in his film debut , booth of whom speaking continuously about murders. And of course cameo role by Alfred Hitchcock , this time as a man on train playing cards. Atmospheric and perceptible music by the maestro Dimitri Tiomkin, including piano sounds . Sensational visual style in black and white cinematography by the cameraman by Joseph Valentine . This interesting movie is brilliantly directed by the Master Hitchcock, resulting to be his favorite personal. It's remade in 1958 in quite inferior remake titled ¨Step down to terror¨ by Harry Keller with Charles Drake, Rod Taylor,Jocelyn Brando and Josephine Hutchinson, furthermore a lousy Television movie. The motion picture is indispensable watching for Hithcock lovers achieving the maximum impact on his audience. Rating : Very good, engrossing and essential viewing.
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Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten are excellent in slow-paced Hitch thriller...
Doylenf23 April 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Using the small town of Santa Rosa, California as his backdrop, Hitch takes his time in unwinding a tale about a serial killer (Joseph Cotten) who comes to town on a family visit. Slowly the suspense builds as his niece (Teresa Wright) begins to suspect that he may be the Merry Widow killer who courts wealthy women for financial gain. Against the everyday small town life of its participants, the story unfolds in a leisurely way--perhaps too slow for today's taste. Admittedly, there are some dull stretches--but midway through the story the relationship between Cotten and Wright gets us caught in the story and we have to follow it to conclusion. Macdonald Carey, Hume Cronyn, Patricia Collinge and Henry Travers are all splendid in supporting roles. Hitch uses Agatha Christie's favorite device--telling a story of murder against a mundane setting. Tighter editing might have made this more watchable, but still highly recommended as one of his best earlier works.
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brilliant, subtle film
cherold3 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I didn't care much for this film when I first saw it in college. I liked the romantic, humorous Hitchcock of Lady Vanishes and North by Northwest. But I've seen it twice since over the last 30 years, and each time liked it more than the time before.

This time I was struck by the amazing subtleties and details. I love the heroine's pretentious angst in the beginning (good to know angsty teens are just a modern invention). I loved the slow build of the plot, and how well you are forced to consider what would you do in such an extraordinary case.

But what I mainly love is Joseph Cotton's brilliant, dead-on performance as a psychopath. Genial and charming, he will flash a dangerous fury for just a moment then veer back to charming and easygoing without in blink of an eye. You see him smile and then, when no one is looking, you see the smile turn to calculation. He is chilling because you can both see how dangerous he is as well as why no one else can see it.

I also love the many subtle ways they create the connection between the girl and her uncle, a relationship that at times looks dangerously close to a flirtation.

While this is one of Hitchcock's least flashy films, if you go into it knowing that, you will be well rewarded.
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Hitchcock's first masterpiece
faraaj-17 November 2006
Shadow of a Doubt is perhaps Hitchcock's first real masterpiece - a more mature film than The 39 Steps or Rebecca. It is also incidentally his favorite of his own films. The sleepy town of Santa Rosa is far removed from the very real events of WW-2, events that figured at least a mention if not a central influence on most films of that period. Hitchcock's Rear Window and Vertigo were also far removed from the realities of the Cold War and the Communist Witch-Hunts of the 50's.

Shadow is taut with sexual tension - the incestuous overtones of the mental affinity of niece and uncle Charlie, the lusty infatuations of Charlie's teenage friend Catherine, and Herb, who just happens to be around the corner where ever we see Charlie. Charlie, the niece, is played by Teresa Wright in one of Hitchcock's best female performances. She is very warm, innocent and genuinely good-natured - completely unlike Hitch's usual icy blonds. I have always found Joseph Cotten to be quite inexpressive. He is slightly better than his usual self and is believable in charming and winning over the small town-folk.

This is probably Hitchcock's only film with a strong human core, coupled with his well-known skills as a master technician. What other director of the era could have revealed the murderer at the start of the film and still maintained tension and a lingering unease throughout. Shadow of a Doubt is a precursor to the menace of Blue Velvet and the sexual tensions of American Beauty - and stays with you much longer than either of them.
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its pretty good actually
gazzo-215 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers like if some smiling killer showed up in Dennis the Menace's neighborhood I guess. I have seen many many of Hitch's flix, but somehow this one had eluded me til I got the DVD a couple days ago. So what did I think? Few things--it Does have a couple weaknesses: Droopalong pace, Charlie's inexplicable rapid 'Key to the City' rise simply because(why? He came in on a train and had some money? what gives?), and the implausible freedom given the, ummm, survey-takers in a private home. Riggggggghttttt.....

What works? About everything else-Terry Wright's great fragile heroine, Cotton's smiling killer in a suit, the dithering Mother, 'Clarence' as the harmless helpful father, and of course fun bits by Hume Cronyn and the little bespectacled daughter. I liked that stuff.

You gotta like as well the usual Hitch trademarks-clouds of smoke billowing behind a villain, near-fatal 'accidents' in the backyard around the home, some rather nasty things more than hinted at during the movie but never stated out-right.

I have been wondering, for example, as sick as this sounds, was there an incestuous connection between the two Charlies? You def. know that Joseph Cotton harbors Very inappropriate feelings towards Young Charlie, some reviewers seem to think that this was more than just implied. There was def. a lot Wrong in that family below the surface, i know that.

Anyways--good solid flick, well done all in all.

*** outta **** or so.
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My least favourite Hitchcock movie so far.
BA_Harrison26 March 2014
Pursued by the police, shifty Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) skips town to stay with his sister's family in tranquil Santa Rosa, but it's not long before his beautiful niece, Young Charlie (Teresa Wright), begins to suspect that the new house-guest is a right wrong'un.

Shadow of a Doubt was apparently Hitchcock's favourite of all his own films, which I fail to understand: while many of the director's movies grab hold and don't let go till the end credits, this one took me several evenings to get through, which is indicative of just how mundane I found it. Certain potentially interesting themes—the sexual tension between Charlie and her uncle and the notion of evil lurking unsuspected in American suburbia—amount to very little and the manner in which the film unfolds is surprisingly dull, the whole affair lacking Hitch's usual excellent pacing, masterful storytelling and visual flair.

Wright is a delight to behold and Cotten makes for a genuinely creepy villain but overall I found the film to be far from Hitchcock's best work.
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Predictable, linear plot, and just plain bad
russian-movie-fan3 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers annoyed I was after watching this movie. Heralded as Hitchcock's finest, I was impressed by the score it received and I settled in for a wonderful film noir/suspense experience. What resulted was a blatantly boring linear plot w/many unbelievable plot points that were very annoying, and an unsatisfying ending. First I will mention the one great thing about this film: the plot which is superb in its own right although poorly executed by the "Shadow" in this case and the acting of Joseph Cotton. I watched Cotton in other films--very bland in "Gaslight" for example and thought he did an outstanding job showing uneasiness with the fear of being suspected as the murderous villain. So great acting range from him made the movie tolerable. This is about all the praise the movie deserves. The beginning reels you in with a clever and suspenseful look at Cotton hiding out in his rented room trying to avoid men pursuing him. The interest vanishes however in the viewer when Cotton arrives to California to visit/hide out with his family. What follows is the niece's attempt at discovering why her uncle (Cotton) is acting so strangely. Suddenly this innocent girl transforms into a Sherlock Holmes with an esp-like ability to guess/predict everything about her uncle's doings/identity. Other than Cotton, the rest of the acting is forgettable in the movie. Somehow w/no explanation the cops are hot on Cotton's trail!! He traveled from east coast to west coast and within a short time the cops know who he is and where he is?? The problem with this movie, is there is just no suspense; also I felt it was impossible that a smart criminal like Cotton was outsmarted by his young/innocent niece with really no hard facts to go on. These are the little details that kept happening throughout the movie that made it very unsatisfying. Oh yeah, and what really nailed it for me was the ending: Cotton struggles w/his niece on a train, between the carts, and she shoves him to his death off the train (done w/atrocious special effects by the way). A 6ft 2in 200lb man being outwrestled by his 5ft 5 100lb niece? I would not mind this lack of believability if it was a minor part in a movie that served to advance some minor plot point, but this was THE most important part of the movie, the climax where it all ends and comes to a point. It was a huge letdown. If you enjoy a good story, find a book version of this movie, because Hitchcock's linear approach makes it all but impossible to be surprised at what happens for the next hour and a half of the movie.
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