by Jim Ridley
You could spend pretty much the entire Hitchcock retrospective under way at The Belcourt following the recurrence of doubles and doppelgangers from film to film. His terrific 1943 thriller Shadow of a Doubt is one of the director’s most chilling explorations of an unleashed id forcing the superego’s hand.
Teresa Wright is Charlie, the apple-cheeked hometown girl who awaits the arrival of her beloved uncle and namesake Joseph Cotten — unaware that he’s the serial killer known as “the Merry Widow Murderer.” As Hitchcock tightens the sick semi-psychic bond between the Charlies — notice how he introduces them in nearly mirroring shots — he contrasts the girl’s growing awareness of the ripe, all-too-real evil infecting her cozy Americana with the oblivious pulp-murder fascination of the mystery-nut townsfolk (the marvelous comedy team of Henry Travers and Hume Cronyn).
In one of his best roles, the suave, smarmy and terrifying Cotten shows he could’ve played Harry Lime as effectively as he did Holly Martins. (If the clip above doesn't raise the hair on the back of your neck, you won't mind if we call the authorities.) The Thornton Wilder-Sally Benson-Alma Reville script compensates for some loose plotting with psychological nuance, wit and suspense to spare, while Hitchcock’s menacing visuals anticipate the nightscapes of noir.
As for the rest of The Belcourt's retro, continuing through Jan. 17, smack anyone you hear complaining about a lack of viewing options when Rebecca, Suspicion, Notorious, To Catch a Thief, North by Northwest and Spellbound have all been showing in the same week. Click here for dates and show times.
CORRECTION, 12:25 p.m.: Shadow of a Doubt is playing not tonight but tomorrow and Thursday. Today is Spellbound and the Cary Grant double feature of Suspicion and To Catch a Thief. Our apologies.