In many ways Shadow of a Doubt is Hitchcock’s most mundane film. Compared to his more signature works, there’s not too much style in this a straight forward, less paranoid and pre-heavy psychology thriller but it’s still one of his best. Even the director himself called it his favorite American film. I love Joseph Cotten, and here he has as much charm as ever which makes the darkness of his character, Charlie even more sinister. A widow killer on the run, he is also a much loved Uncle to an all American small town family, with whom he decides to lay low with. The strong willed and lovely daughter, also named Charlie, admires him the most and feels a special bond with her dapper Uncle, but this also means she can see through his lies and slowly uncover his dirty, violent secret as much as she wished she could deny it.
One of the several writers that worked on the story before Hitchcock and his wife wrote the script was Thornton Wilder, author of Our Town who no doubt was a perfect match for the seemingly comforting small town setting. This idyllic and recognizable place is shaken by the introduction of evil. But as Uncle Charlie himself says “Do you know the world is a foul sty? Do you know, if you rip off the fronts of houses, you’d find swine?” – not all that America held dear at the time was as pristine as it looked. In fact, the character of Uncle Charlie was based on serial killer named Earle Nelson, a real life monster that was actually far more horrendous than his fictional counterpart.