Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The best Hitchcock

After nearly fifty-five years of watching Alfred Hitchcock movies, I've decided that my favorite of his films is Shadow of a Doubt. And for a simple reason.

As much as I like noir, the ideal crime story for me contrasts the darkness of noir with the lighter qualities of everday life. The monstrousness and decadence of the streets becomes all the more monstrous with the contrast.

I don't think any fim I've ever seen does this as well as Doubt. In the two masterful performances of Theresa Wright and Joseph Cotton, you have the eternal struggle of good and evil. But you also have, and more importantly, a decent young woman losing her spiritual innocence, a far more subtle matter than simple good guys vs. bad guys.

Good triumphs over evil in the obvious way. Even if Hitchcock had wanted it otherwise, the movie code of that era wouldn't have permitted it. Evil loses but does it?

When Wright learns what her beloved uncle really is, she is changed forever. She must face a world that her innocence protected her from. In this sense, evil claims another victim. The world will never be as familiar or comfortable as it was before. ("After such knowledge--" as the poet had it and had it right.) And she will be forced to bear the burden of knowing what her uncle is--while nobody else in her family ever will.

I taped it last night and will likely watch it again tomorrow. It's that good.


Blogger mtmorgan said...

My personal favorite is TO CATCH A THIEF. Hitch is light on his feet here and suavely sentimental. It's got a perfect,dreamy 50's atmosphere and great chemistry betwixt Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. With HONDO, my favorite big screen entertainment from the decade.
Thinking for the moment of Cary Grant, I'm reminded what a great sendoff WALK, DON'T RUN was for him. He's fantastic in a surprisingly sweet and entertaining flick. Very 60's but in a good way. At least for me. His last moment of screen time is a swell, very touching moment with Samantha Eggar. I didn't like everything the guy did but his final moment in the sun was/is perfect.

5:11 PM  
Blogger Craig Clarke said...

Shadow of a Doubt has been my favorite Hitchcock film for some time, primarily due to its ability to tell such a dark story using such a light touch.

Casting Cotten (with that cherubic face) was the key to its success, because the audience is with Wright in not wanting to believe that her uncle could be capable of these things.

The more I see it, the more I like it.

6:43 AM  
Blogger TL said...

Ed, I'm partial to VERTIGO. It may not be his best, but it's one of his craziest. And who would have known what a perv Jimmy Stewart could be? I caught the last forty minutes of it again a few days ago. It's just an amazing movie. A big budget American art film disguised as a thriller.


5:49 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Foxwell said...

Ed, my favorite Hitchcock has long been Shadow of a Doubt. Remember from the earliest minutes of the film (when Uncle Charlie/young Charlie are filmed lying on their respective beds) that a distinct affinity is suggested between uncle and niece, and she tells him at one point, "I'll kill you myself," so young Charlie is not as innocent as you might think.

I've always thought of the film as "'Our Town' gone bad," as Thornton Wilder was involved with the screenplay.

4:44 AM  

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