The thing with Hitchcock is that, only with very special cases, I find a lot of his films run together. To state the obvious, he knew his craft and maximized suspense to its full effect. But given the similarities in situations and character types, I figure that a film like Shadow of a Doubt will eventually seep into my consciousness as just another solid effort, though not one that I hold close to the chest – like Vertigo or Psycho. However, Shadow of a Doubt does showcase a very compelling central performance in Joseph Cotten, along with an intriguing revision of what would eventually become a major thematic element in Hitchcock’s oeuvre- the doppelganger.
The sense of “another” has obviously been played with in films like Vertigo, Psycho, and Strangers on a Train, but here the relationship is a bit different. The relationship between Joseph Cotten’s Uncle Charlie and Teresa Wright’s Young Charlie extends beyond age difference. From the onset of the film, we gather the two are connected (they are, after all, in the same exact physical position upon their introduction, lying on a bed), but their disposition on the scale of good and evil is not pronounced. In fact, Hitchcock wisely opts to portray the two characters as bringing life to one another.
Of course, things go awry, and the distance that the two have upon the realization that one could, potentially, be a murderer is palpable. Unfortunately, amidst the alluring tip-toeing, there are so many supporting characters who serve to hinder the film’s growing momentum. Precocious children have always been a pet peeve of mine in film, and Shadow of a Doubt has a glaringly annoying child that made particular scenes unbearable. Furthermore, Hitchcock’s ambivalence towards women could not be more deliberate, here placing every woman besides Teresa Wright in a position of complete subordination to the film’s mostly male cast.