For this month’s first review for Genre Grandeur – Film Noir Movies, here’s a review of Shadow of a Doubt (1943) by SG of Rhyme and Reason
Thanks again to Ghezal of Ghezal Plus Movies for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Gavin of Mini Media Reviews and he has chosen the genre of Revenge Movies.
Films in which a person or persons are wronged in some way and exact an, hopefully disproportionate, amount of revenge or retribution!
Please get me your submissions by the 25th of Aug by sending them to Gavinsrevenge@movierob.net
Try to think out of the box! Great choice Gavin!
Let’s see what SG thought of this movie:
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
How much do you really know
About your friends and family dear? Some hide sordid corners deep
For their facade’s veneered upkeep,
And warrant shock, surprise, and fear
When hearts of darkness start to show.
Few things are worse than one’s betrayal
Of who we once had thought they were.
For when the truth is come to light,
No weak assurance can make right
The loss of trust, resentment’s stir,
And danger from behind the veil.
MPAA rating: PG
I’m not particularly well-versed in film noir, but I thought I would explore Hitchcock’s version of it in 1943’s Shadow of a Doubt, perhaps not his most famous film but said to be his personal favorite of all his works. With a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score, Shadow of a Doubt certainly has its admirers, and, while it’s not my favorite Hitchcock film, it’s a prime example of the director’s strengths.
When I think of film noir, I usually imagine hard-boiled private detectives and shadowy alleyways, which Shadow of a Doubt doesn’t have. In fact, most of the film takes place in a bright and cheery corner of small-town America, the home of the Newtons, including teenage Charlie (Teresa Wright). While she is discontented with her complacent environment of Santa Rosa, California, she thrills at the visit of her Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten), after whom she was named. Little does she know that he holds a dark secret and is being tracked by the law.
It’s Uncle Charlie who personifies the film’s noir elements. He’s practically a walking embodiment of a noir villain, invading the naïve happiness of his sister’s family. When he first arrives by train, the billowing smoke of the engine casts a dusky pall over the station platform, signaling the arrival of evil. When he goes upstairs to his room, shadows are suddenly more prominent and angular. And all the while, he’s effortlessly charming, a hero to his niece, and a skilled operator at covering up his tracks and avoiding being photographed. It isn’t until a detective (Macdonald Carey) arrives to cast doubt on beloved Uncle Charlie that young Charlie begins to notice his shadier tactics.
The drama is certainly well-cast. Teresa Wright lights up the screen with her smile, while Joseph Cotten excels as the two-faced villain, especially when he allows his chilling darker side to peek through. Patricia Collinge, Edna May Wonacott, and Charles Bates all add to the believable family dynamic on display, as the mother, younger sister, and brother of the Newton clan, respectively. Some well-placed dark comic relief takes the form of conversations about the perfect murder between the Newton patriarch (Henry Travers, who played Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life) and his friend from work (Hume Cronyn). Their hypothetical discussions on how best to kill each other reflect Hitchcock’s penchant for gallows humor, as seen, for example, in the 2012 biographical film Hitchcock.
While I liked Shadow of a Doubt more than other Hitchcock films I’ve seen, it’s not quite a 100% in my book. The rushed romance between Charlie and the investigating detective held little chemistry, and it was as if a scene was missing when one of their dates suddenly switched from laughing together to a confrontation about his undercover identity. Despite this, there’s some excellent Hitchcockian tension, especially when Charlie discovers the truth and her uncle’s façade is half-dropped. Even if the only noir aspects are the villain and his accompanying atmosphere, Hitchcock uses them as a menacing contrast to suburban tranquility, and I can see why he was fond and proud of Shadow of a Doubt.
Best line: (Joseph Newton, the father) “We’re not talking about killing people. Herb’s talking about killing me, and I’m talking about killing him.”
Rank: List Runner-Up
© 2017 S.G. Liput
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