I usually leave the reviews to Jonny and Zach, but since they’ve been neglecting the site as of late, I decided to take some action. For 1943, we watched yet another Hitchcock movie, Shadow of a Doubt (Hitchcock makes his cameo playing cards in a train car).
Shadow of a Doubt is about a person named Charlie – two people, actually. One is a mysterious, film noir-looking man named Charlie with a startling amount of money, though you don’t yet know where he acquired such funds. The two men tailing might suggest it’s something illegal, though. The other is Charlie #1′s niece, an adventurous girl named after her uncle. Charlie #2 is a regular Lewis Carrol Alice, constantly complaining about the rut her entire family is in. Charlie wants something new and exciting to break the ice covering her folksy town. Little does she know she’s about to get more than she bargained for. When Charlie #1 needs to lay low for a while, he finds the perfect place: his sister’s house. Charlie #2 immediately latches onto her uncle as an answer to her prayers, but unwittingly stumbles upon the awful truth about her role model.
Shadow of a doubt stars Teresa Wright as young Charlie, probably best known for Pride of the Yankees as Lou Gherig’s wife, and Joseph Cotton as fugitive Charlie, who is no stranger to SVU, and definitely deserves a proper introduction. Not only was Cotton a good actor, but a versatile one. He has played some of the most endearing of protagonists, including the naive author from The Third Man and the righteous yet quirky hero who saves the day in Gaslight. But in Shadow of a Doubt, we see a wildly different, dark side to Cotton, which makes a nice transition into my next topic.
To be honest, Shadow of a Doubt drags on a bit. It’s a seemingly endless game of cat-and-mouse between Charlie and Charlie for a great majority of the movie. Charlie #2 tries to redeem Charlie #1, Charlie #1 tries to kill Charlie #2, Charlie #2 tries to get help, but Charlie #1 convinces her not to, Charlie #2 freaks out her family with odd behavior, Charlie #1 calms her down, then tries to kill her again, etc. This formula continues until the very end of the movie, when the conflict is finally resolved. For some reason, I liked it though. The admittedly episodic formula doesn’t really matter, because somehow, you still care. Every time Charlie #1 tries to kill his niece, it’s still chillingly real. It never gets old or any the less suspenseful. You still find yourself on the edge of your seat until the attempted murder stops reprising itself.
Why is this so? It’s the people behind the scenes that really make this movie, and not just literally. With the genius direction of Alfred Hitchcock, the endearing performance of Teresa Wright, and the wonderfully dark performance of Joseph Cotton, how could you not like this movie? Sometimes a good script is all a movie needs to be successful, but sometimes, it’s the other way around. The script for this movie isn’t horrible, in fact there are some really memorable lines, it’s just a bit…weak in areas. Even with these flaws, though, these people knew how take the script and make something good out of it. That’s talent.
Incidentally, a footnote on the short we watched this week, “Der Fuehrer’s Face”. Around this time, the tail end of WWII, the government began taking over many forms of media, turning it into propoganda for the war, and Disney was no exception. Unlike most of Disney’s war-related shorts, this one is actually funny. They did a superb job at the studio creating a cartoon which harshly beat naziism figuratively, and creating a solid piece of comedic entertainment. The cartoon is quite hilarious and definitely worth watching. The catchy song used in the cartoon, named after the cartoon itself, actually became a minor hit at the time. Like another Disney classic which I wouldn’t dare to mention, it really gets stuck in your head.