Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

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Released 26-Sep-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Making Of-(34:47)
Gallery-Production Drawings
Gallery-Art
Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (1:23)
Booklet
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1943
Running Time 103:23
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (75:32) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Alfred Hitchcock
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Teresa Wright
Joseph Cotten
MacDonald Carey
Patricia Collinge
Henry Travers
Wallace Ford
Hume Cronyn
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Dimitri Tiomkin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
German
Dutch
Swedish
Danish
Norwegian
Finnish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   And so we get to the most intriguing of the films of Alfred Hitchcock. Why intriguing? Out of of the films he made, this is the one he considered to be his favourite. Yet of all his great films, this really is not the most likely to have been so chosen. Nonetheless, when the master picks a film as his favourite, then the expectations are somewhat heightened and the interest piqued. And this does really pique the interest, for quite why this is the maestro's pick is a little difficult to fathom at times. There does not seem to be much here to suggest anything special, and certainly the film is not in the same category as Rear Window or Psycho from The Hitchcock Collection Volume One.

   This is typical small town United States in abundance, being set in in Santa Rosa in California. Not only is this typical small town USA but the Newton family are a typical American family: slightly nutty father Joseph (Henry Travers), devoted homemaker Emma (Patricia Collinge) and beautiful, intelligent daughter Charlie (Teresa Wright), along with minor sprogs Ann (Edna May Wonacott) and Roger (Charles Bates) and unusual family visitor Herbie Hawkins (Hume Cronyn), who seems to have nothing but crime on his mind. So a typical American family in a typical American small town. So what is the big deal? Well, being typical means that life is typically boring and Charlie is not too thrilled about it. In fact she is so unthrilled about it that she is looking for ways to spice up life a little. She is about to get her desire with spades. For her uncle, Charles Oakley (Joseph Cotton), is about to descend upon the family for a stay. Now Uncle Charles is a bit of a mystery man, and at the moment he is well blessed with money and with two obvious police types trying to inconspicuously keep tabs on him. Obviously it is too easy for a man to evade tails in a place like New Jersey and heading off to small town USA on the other side of country is going to make it really tough to do so, but Charles does exactly that. His niece is overjoyed to see him, as is his elder sister, but a dark cloud starts to descend over Charlie's feelings for her uncle. His strange behaviour with a newspaper is a good starting point, especially when Charlie discovers what the story he was hiding was all about. Things get a little darker when two obvious police types turn up to interview the family at random for some form of poll. Of course, handsome Jack Graham (MacDonald Carey) is soon smitten by Charlie and vice versa. But Charlie is not quite so sure about her uncle after what she is told and wants nothing more to do with him as suspicions rise as to his true nature. But there is a twist in this tale, with a second thrown in for good measure, and you really will need to watch the film to find out what they are.

   Whilst it might sound rather mundane, the story is actually quite nicely crafted. The setting is well chosen as the means of establishing familiarity and complete ease with the situation of the Newton family, but as that dark cloud descends the familiarity and ease becomes questionable and uncomfortable. It is a very decent set up for the twist, and the effective counter twist, which is quite well-handled by Alfred Hitchcock. Indeed, the film tends to leave you wondering where this tale is going as it builds to something obvious, then pokes you in a different direction. Apart from the story, the other reason why it is so effectively executed is due to the performances. Teresa Wright does a good job in her portrayal of the naive young optimistic lady, slowly coming to terms with something she does not want to believe and in the process having her ideals turned almost completely around. She is however probably outshone by Joseph Cotten in a very deceptive performance, one that looks effortless and a little shallow, but one that is anything but. His ability to turn the mood in an instant and do it so perfectly is essential to the selling of the way the story unfolds. The rest of the cast is good but not terrific, but that is not entirely unexpected as the two central characters are really the whole point of this film. The appearance of MacDonald Carey does serve to confirm that yes he did actually do something other than Days Of Our Lives.

   This is a slightly stronger film than the previous two reviewed from the box set in all honesty (Rope and Saboteur), and as you analyse the film a little more it becomes a little clearer as to why Hitch had his views of it. It does an effective job of taking the familiar and comfortable, making the viewer familiar and comfortable with it (almost revelling in the mundane nature at times), and then derailing those feelings in a major way. A worthy enough film but not quite in the gem category, although this view is clearly at odds with those of the voters on the Internet Movie Database who have this film ranked at 215 in the Top 250 Films of all time at the moment.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, being Full Frame format, and it is obviously not 16x9 enhanced.

    This is a generally sharp transfer throughout, with just a few odd lapses here and there to cause a bit of chagrin. There is especially a period between 72:00 and 73:00, during the bar scene, where the image is noticeably diffuse. These odd lapses tend to detract somewhat from the overall transfer. Like quite a few of the films in this box set, detail is at best only good, let down by some background work that looks decidedly false. Shadow detail is quite decent in this transfer, reflecting the slightly brighter tone of the film, and even during the night-time scenes there is little to complain about in this regard. There is again some grain present throughout most of the transfer, but nothing that really detracts too much from the enjoyment of the film - and that certainly does not impinge upon the clarity of the transfer in any serious way. There did not appear to be any problems with low level noise in the transfer.

    In comparison to Saboteur, this is a much better looking transfer, not suffering at all from being overly dark. Whilst I would still have preferred a little more depth to the black and white tones here, this is not too bad a colourscape. The grey scales are reasonably well defined and there is little evidence of murkiness here at all.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. The only really noticeable film-to-video artefact in the transfer is some cross colouration issues throughout the film, especially during the period between 36:00 and 37:30 in the pinafore worn by Charlie Newton. There is also some really minor aliasing at a few points in the transfer, but nothing really noticeable. Film artefacts are very prevalent in the transfer and the odd snowstorm here or there is just a little too obvious to ignore.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 75:32. It took them a little while to get it right, but this one is just about spot on! It comes during a black scene change and would have been completely undetectable had it not been for a slight interruption to the sobbing from Charlie Newton.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!

    Well, you must be getting a bit fed up of me saying that there are two soundtracks on offer on the DVD, and that they are an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack and a German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack. And of course you do by now know that I only listened to the English soundtrack.

    The dialogue comes up well in the transfer and is generally easy to understand, funnily enough probably sounding the best of the "older" films included in the box set. There did not appear to be any serious audio sync problems in the transfer.

    The original music score for the film comes from Dimitri Tiomkin, but this is not the best I have heard from him. At times it sounds rather clichéd and some of the music is reminiscent of other music, both film and recorded that I have heard (but cannot necessarily immediately place where - which is the really annoying thing). Personally, I find it a little heavy-handed in its support of the film, but this probably suits the lack of subtlety that Americans seem to prefer in their films.

    The soundtrack is well up to the standard of the soundtracks set by the other DVDs in the box set and nothing at all to complain about. A rather nice mono sound is offered here, not at all strident and almost mellow in its tone that suits the style of the film very well, albeit probably unintentionally. Apart from some rather obvious extraneous distortion in the sound at 3:41, this is free of any distortions or other blemishes.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Another consistent extras package matching those offered with the other "new" films in the box set.

Menu

    In common with the other non-widescreen releases in this package, these are not widescreen presented and are not 16x9 enhanced, although the main menu does come with the normal audio enhancement. The common style in the menus is maintained here, continuing the decent if not spectacular look of the menus.

Featurette - Beyond Doubt: The Making Of Hitchcock's Favourite Film (34:47)

    In common with the efforts on the other DVDs in the package, this is a nicely put together effort featuring interviews with predominantly some of the cast members involved in the film, supplemented by the obligatory behind the scenes photographs and extracts from the film. As such it does contain some spoilers and therefore is best watched after watching the film. Presented in a Full Frame format, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The video transfer is a little shimmery, with some consistent albeit minor aliasing issues throughout. There are also some noticeable cross colouration issues. An interesting enough effort, especially as the interviews are predominantly with Teresa Wright and Hume Cronyn.

Production Drawings

    These come from Production Designer Peter Boyle and total some 37 drawings of various aspects of the production. Whilst their relationship to the film is fairly obvious from the title stills between each group of drawings, a bit more annotation or even commentary would not have gone astray. Nothing wrong with the technical aspects in this collection.

Gallery - Art

    Comprising 50 stills of publicity and behind the scenes photographs together with poster work for the film, they are of course all unannotated. As ever the technical quality is quite decent.

Theatrical Trailer (1:23)

    This is actually the re-release trailer and not the original trailer. Accordingly, it is a bit more of a traditionally styled trailer in contrast to the different styles that Alfred Hitchcock himself had for his films. The technical quality is not much to write home about and it is particularly plagued with film artefacts. It is presented in a Full Frame format, is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version misses out on:     The Region 4 version misses out on:     There is nothing different enough to sermonize over one being better than the other.

Summary

    Shadow Of A Doubt is another good film from the maestro, notably for being the first truly American film that Alfred Hitchcock made. It was not the first American film from Hitch of course, but it is arguably the first to be devoid of any sort of British influence. The film has been given a decent enough transfer although it does show its age just a little. In comparison to some of the gems in this package, it could be easily overlooked but does not deserve that sort of fate.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Thursday, July 05, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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