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Shadow of a Doubt

Universal/Universal . R4 . B&W . 103 mins . PG . PAL


Good eeeeeeeeeeeeeevening…

Welcome to Santa Rosa - as perfect a snapshot of '40s Middle America that you could ever wish for. Meet the Newtons, father Joe and his wife Emma, and their three children. There's little Roger, a precocious proto-Lisa Simpson in Anne and their elder daughter Charlie, named after her uncle, Emma's younger brother. Charlie is bored of life in a town where nothing ever seems to happen, and decides to send off a telegram to her namesake uncle inviting him to visit - at the same time he too has sent one proclaiming his intention to do the very same. Young Charlie is excited at this further example of their almost psychic link, and is agog awaiting her uncle's visit. Little does she know, however, that with his arrival a black cloud is (literally) about to descend on the little town, and her yearning for some excitement is set to be more than fulfilled.

For the elder Charlie has a secret, which eventually sees his doting niece's excitement at his stopover turn to suspicion and fear. Believing him to be the perpetrator of a string of murders of rich widows, two detectives arrive on his trail - but when another suspect meets an untimely end and the case is called off it would appear his troubles are over, except for one slight problem…

"What's the use of looking backward? What's the use of looking ahead? Today's the thing, that's my philosophy, today."

Often misquoted as being Hitchcock's favourite film, in fact even on this disc, Shadow of a Doubt is a fantastic, if not necessarily typical, example of the man's work. It features many of his most treasured hallmarks, including many deft visual touches and that certain vein of twisted humour, and transposes his unique line of cynical sinisterness into an innocent little US town masterfully.

Used to working with the cream of writers and actors in his native England, being relatively new to America Hitchcock was finding many people rather averse to working with him. So when eminent playwright of the time, Thornton Wilder - who following his work on this joined the US Army's psychological warfare division - agreed to come on board and write the bulk of the screenplay, he was apparently more than chuffed. With the skilfully penned story coupled with Hitch's uniquely manipulative directorial vision and slightly askew view of the world, Shadow of a Doubt grabs you early and doesn’t let you go until it's climactic, nail biting finale. But with a couple of twists and turns along the way, naturally…

Regardless of the director's ability, the cast can make or break a film. A great reason why this works so well is in the authentic and believable characterisation. Joseph Cotton as Uncle Charlie is truly magnificent, with his ability to switch between sweet as apple pie and deeply disturbing at the flick of a switch, skilfully portraying the greyness of his character to great, and often creepy, effect. He really carries the film, along with Teresa Wright as his young namesake, handling the sullying of her unbridled innocence as the story unfolds completely believably. The supporting cast add to the success immensely, in particular Patricia Collinge as Emma Newton, who blindly dotes on her younger brother, Henry Travers as her husband Joseph and Hume Cronyn as his oddball, murder-obsessed friend Herbie Hawkins.


Harking from 1943, it would be unreasonable to expect a perfectly pristine visual presentation. Most certainly this isn’t pristine, however what we get still comes as quite a pleasant surprise. Whilst white speckles abound throughout, to the point where you virtually don’t see them after a while due to becoming inured, and there is a small amount of grain, advantages are found in the general sharpness (barring a few scenes), and more than satisfactory contrast and shadow detail.

Shadow of a Doubt is served up in a non-anamorphic, full frame version - which is essentially akin to the original cinematic ratio. The layer change is almost fantastic, occurring in a fade to black, and is only really made noticeable due to an interruption in a sob.


It's mono - naturally - and generally dialogue is remarkably clear and easy to understand. Audio synch posed no problems, and the only real incursions to this having brilliant audio quality for its age are the occasional fart that pops out, and rare leaps into minor distortion by the musical soundtrack.

This soundtrack is courtesy of Dimitri Tiomkin, and can tend toward the phenomenally overly melodramatic at times, but somehow this adds to the atmosphere of a film that quite obviously wasn't made yesterday. The Merry Widow waltz is also featured, quite appropriately under the circumstances, and is used as an integral part of the story.


As with other releases in this series, the menu is visually static and themed to the movie. This is accompanied by the Alfred Hitchcock Presents… music which I'm sure is familiar to most - all eerie at the beginning before veering off almost into Three Stooges-type territory. Moving onward into the special features, we are given…

Making of - Beyond Doubt - The Making of Hitchcock's Favourite Film: Another in a series of superb documentaries made in 2000, this follows the same formula by featuring latter day interviews with some of the cast (in this instance Teresa Wright and Hume Cronyn), Hitch's daughter Patricia, and assistant art director Robert Boyle and film maker Peter Bogdanovich. Full of fabulous anecdotes on locations, other actors, the story and Hitchcock himself, this is another must-see for any fan.

Art gallery: A collection of fifty on-set and behind the scenes stills, lobby cards and publicity shots, plus the odd movie poster. Once again they are unannotated, however they are all rendered quite beautifully, and well worth at least quickly checking out.

Production drawings: 37 renderings by production designer Peter Doyle. It would have been nice to see more A-B comparisons with the actual filmed scenes, which we get a few of in the 'Making of', however we don’t. Oh well.

Trailer: Only 1:23 in length, and in pretty dodgy shape, this is in fact a re-release trailer for the film, full of gloriously over the top proclamations which was the style at the time.


Don’t let the age of this film put you off. It is a fantastic suspense film from a man who made more than his fair share of them, and is a shining example of how adept he was at making the seemingly comfy decidedly un-comfy that stands up incredibly well today.

Whilst not super-stacked with extras, any fan should be delighted with the 'making of' feature included on this disc, if they're not simply happy enough to be able to own this brilliant film in an as-good-as-it-is-ever-going-to-get form.

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      And I quote...
    "A fantastic suspense film from a man who made more than his fair share of them..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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