Thursday, August 30, 2012

Shadow of a Doubt

Epäilyksen varjo / Skuggan av ett tvivel. US 1943 (New York premiere: 12 January 1943) © 1942 Universal Pictures. PC: Jack H. Skirball Productions. P: Jack H. Skirball. D: Alfred Hitchcock. SC: Thornton Wilder, Alma Reville, Sally Benson – based on a story by Gordon McDonnel. DP: Joseph Valentine. AD: John B. Goodman. Set dec: R.A. Gausman. Cost: Adrian, Vera West. M: Dimitri Tiomkin. Franz Lehár: "The Merry Widow Waltz". ED: Milton Carruth. S: Bernard B. Brown. C: Joseph Cotten (Uncle Charlie = Charles Oakley), Teresa Wright (Charlotte "Charlie" Newton), Macdonald Carey (Detective Jack Graham), Patricia Collinge (Emma Newton, mother), Henry Travers (Joseph Newton, father), Hume Cronyn (Herbie Hawkins), Wallace Ford (Detective Fred Saunders), Edma Mae Wonacott (Ann Newton), Charles Bates (Roger Newton), Irving Bacon (station master), Clarence Muse (porter), Janet Shaw (Louise), Estelle Jewell (girlfriend), Minerva Urecal (Mrs. Henderson), Isabel Randolph (Mrs. Green), Frances Carson (Mrs. Poetter), Constance Purdy (Mrs. Martin), Edward Fielding, Sarah Edwards (a doctor and a wife on the train), Grandon Rhodes, Ruth Lee (Reverend and Mrs. MacCurdy), Alfred Hitchcock (man on the train playing cards). Loc: Santa Rosa (California). Helsinki premiere: 2.9.1945 Astor, released by Astor Film – Finnish classification number 25617 – K16 – 2850 m / 104 min. A BFINA print viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Alfred Hitchcock), 30 August 2012.

Revisited a key work of Alfred Hitchcock, one that he at times called his personal favourite.

My previous main impression of Shadow of a Doubt was that it is about the torment of living in a permanent lie. A criminal's whole existence is a fake because he has to keep up an unremitting masquerade and any little detail may give him away. Unusually, the serial killer is the real protagonist of this movie. We are made to identify with him from the start when the policemen get on his trail. But there is another man who becomes the prime suspect, and when he dies Uncle Charlie gets a real opportunity to live the rest of his life undetected. Yet his niece Charlotte, also called "Charlie", instinctively knows the truth, and she becomes the sole remaining obstacle for Uncle Charlie.

On this viewing, my main impression of the movie was that it is about the young girl's endless disappointment and sorrow. She has idolized Uncle Charlie to be a fantastic and spectacular character, out of the ordinary, the opposite to the everyday life in the small town ("I don't like to be from an average family"). And yes, Uncle Charlie is all that, and how. Little disappointments give away the bigger ones. The valuable emerald ring Uncle Charlie gives to her niece bears an inscription belonging to a murdered wealthy widow.

Shadow of a Doubt is the first movie in Hitchcock's Übermensch ("Superman") cycle of the 1940s, also including Lifeboat and Rope. The Übermensch theme was famously studied by Dostoyevsky in Crime and Punishment.

Shadow of a Doubt also belongs to Hitchcock's studies about doubles like Strangers on a Train. In both there is a nice person who is so normal and balanced that it is difficult / impossible for him / her to even believe in such an evil that exists in the other. The outlandishness of the evil is a factor in making the crimes possible because others have a hard time in believing in and relating to its existence. The Dostoyevskian connection here is The Idiot with its train motif and its Myshkin / Rogozhin dichotomy.

Shadow of a Doubt is also a growing up story of the young Charlotte. She remains alone in her doubt, and she is alone to face Uncle Charlie's three murder attempts, and to finally fight Uncle Charlie in the conclusion. In its psychological dynamics Shadow of a Doubt anticipates The Silence of the Lambs, the Clarice Starling / Hannibal Lecter battle of the souls.

Shadow of a Doubt belongs to Hitchcock's expressionist movies with pronounced shadows appearing over sunny California: the exaggerated smoke from the train that brings Uncle Charlie to Santa Rosa, and the Langian-Nosferatuan shadows in scenes where Uncle Charlie appears.

Like in Lifeboat, I have a hard time in relating to the misanthropic aspect of Hitchcock's story: the villain is so powerful, and the other characters, except Charlotte, are sketchy and caricatured to my taste. The performances of Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright are great.

There is a duped look in this print.

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