A man in London tries to help a counterespionage agent. But when the agent is killed and the man stands accused, he must go on the run to both save himself and also stop a spy ring which is trying to steal top secret information.
Charlotte 'Charlie' Newton is bored with her quiet life at home with her parents and her younger sister. She wishes something exciting would happen and knows exactly what they need: a visit from her sophisticated and much traveled uncle Charlie Oakley, her mother's younger brother. Imagine her delight when, out of the blue, they receive a telegram from uncle Charlie announcing that he is coming to visit them for awhile. Charlie Oakley creates quite a stir and charms the ladies club as well as the bank president where his brother-in-law works. Young Charlie begins to notice some odd behavior on his part, such as cutting out a story in the local paper about a man who marries and then murders rich widows. When two strangers appear asking questions about him, she begins to imagine the worst about her dearly beloved uncle Charlie. Written by
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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