Shadow of a Doubt (Hitchcock, 1943) was a turning point in the career of the master of suspense. It was reportedly Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite film he ever made. It is also what I consider to be his first truly American film. Once he looked into small town America’s heart of darkness, it seemed he never looked back. The global dangers and international intrigue of previous films was replaced by a terror that was closer to home. He would routinely deliver thrills now that encroached on our sense of safety and normalcy. Central to that unease was the corruption of what we once held dear. And it all started right here in Santa Rosa.
Shadow of a Doubt is special for a number of reasons. The writing collaborators, Thornton Wilder and Sally Benson, were uniquely positioned to deliver the ultimate idyllic American town to be defiled. No film of its era was more prescient about serial murder as we would come to know it decades later. The erotic undercurrent between uncle and niece was about as subversive as you could get at the time. It does so many things to shock and dismay us. And the cat and mouse game of the final act has us holding our breath for the last thirty minutes. It’s not just the normal tension held in a single scene. It is a masterclass in sustained suspense right up until the final frames.
What you’ll find in this episode: Ericca’s Alfred Hitchcock impression, the undermining of Norman Rockwell idealism, how incisive the film is about these particular crimes and motivations, and whether uncle Charlie fell or was pushed.
Links and Recommendations:
Check out Shadow of a Doubt on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Keeper of the Flame.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Stoker.
A profile of Earle Nelson, one inspiration for the film.
Get a copy of Thornton Wilder’s original screenplay, along with other great works, here.