Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Shadow of a Doubt comes sneaking up on you, albeit not from behind. Allegedly considered by Hitch as his best film, it has that element of uncontrollable disturbance placed into the neatest and most orderly surroundings. Early on, the Wright/Cotten relationship is amazingly vibrant and suggestive, it makes the film more layered than it ultimately acts upon. Unfortunately, the censors of the time would never have allowed a film to go down that road, but the incestuous suggestions are there for the viewer to interpret. Hitchcock discusses the presence of a potential serial killer in the midst of prosperous, untroubled small-town America, and his contrastive analysis is perceptive and thought-provoking. The film is a powerful and nuanced character study with impressive human insight, especially through the two Charlies. And Joseph Cotten's character has a delicate duality to him that was quite pioneering in Hollywood at the time. Ultimately, Shadow of a Doubt isn't as seductive or absorbing as Hitchcock's very best films, but it has room for some delicate humour as well, particularly through a magnificent Hume Cronyn who easily steals this, his first film.