Shadow of a Doubt

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A 1943 oldie from Alfred Hitchcock. It's pretty good.

Young Charlotte ("Charlie") Newton is in kind of a funk. She's bored with her early-1940's Northern California middle-class family. (Although everyone seems nice enough. Her father, for example, is played by Henry Travers, and we all know he's an angel.) But she snaps out of it soon enough when Uncle Charlie, after whom she was named, shows up in town after years of world-travelling. Surely he'll add some sparkle and vigor to her humdrum ho-hum life!

Not so fast, young lady. Nearly everything goes wrong from the very start. We viewers have already seen Uncle Charlie acting suspiciously. Pretty soon a couple of detectives show up with a thin cover story in order to investigate him. He tears a story out of the local paper so nobody else will read it. He gives young Charlie a ring—that's been inscribed to someone else. And he's revealed to have a nasty temper and occasional episodes of sociopathic babbling. Could Uncle Charlie be—gasp—a serial killer?

No spoilers here.

But I had questions: How did those detectives show up in Santa Rosa so quickly after Uncle Charlie's arrival? And what led young Charlie to penetrate their cover story? And how does one of them fall for young Charlie so quickly, after a few short encounters?

Those are just quibbles. I enjoyed the suspense, as well as the characters. The Newton family is especially well-drawn, and there are a few comic asides. Most notably, Mr Newton and his friend Herbie (played by Hume Cronyn), both mystery fans, discuss the best ways to murder each other; they turn out to be clueless about the reality in front of their noses.

Last Modified 2012-09-29 6:45 AM EST