Blind Spot: Shadow of a Doubt
Shadow of a Doubt is regarded as Hitchcock’s first masterpiece, and stated many times by Hitch himself, that this is his finest and favorite film. It was an obvious choice to include this as my first pick in my Blind Spot. I believe Hitchcock is one of the great directors to ever grace Cinema. He’s known for his chilling suspense tales of ordinary people, in familiar settings but thrust into peril. Shadow of a Doubt carries this theme, but this time it’s closer to home.
The Newton family lead a normal life in Santa Rosa, Ca. The eldest daughter Charlie Newton (Teresa Wright) is bored with this quiet life, and decides to contact her sophisticated uncle Charlie Oakley (Joseph Cotten) whom she was named after. Much to her surprise the day she wanted to contact her beloved Uncle, The Newton family receives a telegram saying that he’s coming to visit them from the east coast. The family is exuberant for his arrival but little do they know, Uncle Charlie is being pursued by two detectives back on the east coast. The detectives suspect him to be “The Merry Widow Murderer”, a man who strangled several rich east coast Widows.
From the opening scene we watch Uncle Charlie quickly pack his things and boldly walk past the detectives, from this instance he knew that the detectives were unsure on the suspect. Upon his arrival in Santa Rosa, the town were all excited to see such a man of charm and class taking stay in their town. One of the first things Uncle Charlie does when he arrives his drops off a load of cash in his brother-n-law’s (Henry Travers) bank, and utilize his smooth charm with The Mother (Patricia Collinge) and the two youngest kids Ann (Edna May Wonacott) and Roger (Charles Bates). All seems well for Uncle Charlie, until two random interviews come wanting to take pictures of the Newton family and most importantly of Uncle Charlie. Everyone is unaware of the interviewers true identities of being Detectives besides the two Charlies’. As Young Charlie takes notice in all these clues about “The Merry Widow Murderer” and her Uncle’s strange behavior. She begins to realize her uncle may not be the man she idolizes, and that her own life may be in danger.
This film took a different route than most Hitchcock films. It still had the makings of a man wrongly Accused of murder but ‘Hitch’ put a different spin on it. The film put a lot of focus on the relationships between the characters most importantly Uncle Charles and Young Charlie. I enjoyed watching their interactions, initially very sweet and profound, but gradually becoming more tense by each encounter. It came to the point where Young Charlie attempts to evade her own Uncle. Hitchcock is able to keep us intrigued in what’s going to happen next because we all know “The Merry Widow Murderer” will attempt to strike again.
What had me the most interested was the youngest daughter Ann. She appears to be the brightest member of the family besides Uncle Charlie, but she’s only a child. “Honestly, Father, you’d think Mother had never seen a phone. She has no faith in science. She thinks she has to cover the distance by sheer lung power.” says Ann. To my surprise Mrs. Newton claims Ann has foolish ideas, and frequently ignores what Ann has to say, yet when the two interviewers came asking to take Young Charlie for a look around town. Mrs. Newton says they should take Ann because she knows all the places around town. I was baffled that the mother would allow two strangers to take her daughter around time, let alone, allow them in the house. Young Charlie has a strong personality as well, sticking up for who she believes in, but not foolish. The daughters being brighter than the mother was interesting to watch.
The Film is quite old now, 71 years to be exact. It holds up quite well due to the family dynamic, however I don’t really see it as a Hitchcock masterpiece, but more so classic. The look of the film is very traditional Hollywood-escque type shots, and angles, but with great contrast in the lighting & composition. Although all the other characters besides the two Charlies, are just supporting characters to make up the family. When I think of Hitchcock’s other work such as Vertigo for example, asides from Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak’s characters, the supporting characters like Midge was extremely interesting but never really explored. The only supporting character in here that was a little more defined than the rest of the family was Ann, but the role was so minimal. I believe allowing the family to be not so cliched could have given more substance to the film.
I believe this will be in my Hitchcock top ten but I don’t hold as high. Hitch has so many brilliant films, to make a top 10 is of his filmography is hard enough. Which could be why I came to this film I was expecting more. At first I thought maybe it was because a lot of the film takes place at the house, but then I realized all of Rear Window was in a bedroom. I can say I enjoyed Shadow of a Doubt a lot more when they adventured off into town, because Hitchcock is known for people getting caught up in everyday life, however that didn’t really happen.Overall the suspense was there but the film wasn’t a personally favorite of mine. I am glad I was able to finally watch the film though.
You can find my list of films for my here: 2014 Blind Spot
Rating: ★★★★ / ★★★★★
Dir. Alfred Hitchcock
IMDb 8/10 – Rotten Tomatoes 100%
Nominated Academy Award – Best Original Writing
National Film Registry – 1991
“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”