Thursday, 6 December 2012

Shadow of a Doubt (1943) - ★★★★★

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writers: Thornten Wilder, Sally Benson, Alma Reville (screenplay), Based on a story by Gordon McDonnell
Stars: Joseph Cotten, Teresa Wright,  Patricia Collinge, Macdonald Carey

"Don't touch me Uncle Charlie!" is the line that sticks in my mind when I think of Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece Shadow of a Doubt. This is an exquisite movie that had me in awe for much of it. The excellent performances and brilliant story are absolutely riveting. I finished the film feeling elated for seeing it. Now that's a sign of a great movie.

Set in the North Californian town of Santa Rosa, this is mystery film with the quiet Newton family at its core. The Newton's eldest daughter, Charlie (Teresa Wright) is discontent with life and needs a change from everything, which is why she contacts her uncle Charlie to invite him to stay and bring some positive energy into the house. It turns out that he was already on his way, with a couple of detectives pursuing him for an unknown reason. This reason is shocking, and when it is found out, the film really kicks off.

I have to say that when I found out the reason for the first time, my jaw dropped. It had me quoting the great film Witness for the Prosecution (1957) in which Charles Laughton said "I suspected something, but never that!" It made the film absolutely riveting! My heart went out to young Charlie (Wright) who couldn't tell whether she was in danger or not.

The performances were absolutely terrific. Joseph Cotten deserved an Oscar for his portrayal of Uncle Charlie, a very paranoid and deeply disturbed character. He was totally convincing, and reminded me of Anthony Perkin's in Alfred Hitchcock's other masterpiece Psycho (1960). One of his monologues about widow's was absolutely chilling and gave me goosebumps.

Teresa Wright played a great heroine, who could act terror and hatred so well. There were moments in the film where I saw 'Oscar-contender' written all over her. For me, this is her greatest performance. The other thing that made this film compelling was the excellent use in suspenseful music and cinematography. You can always tell if a film is from Alfred Hitchcock, for his style is so distinguishable and perfect for thrillers.

There isn't a shadow of a doubt in my mind (see what I did there) that Shadow of a Doubt is one of the greatest films of all time. It is shocking, thrilling, exciting, riveting, every word to do with adrenaline. It holds up today as one of the great thrillers, and is one of Hitchcock's very best, and that's saying something. This is a film that everyone should see.

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