Shadow of a Doubt…About Loose Ends

Alfred Hitchcock is a master of suspense as well as a wonderful director; that part of the 1943 movie Shadow of a Doubt isn’t in question. But an unfortunate loose end is. Hitchcock didn’t write this screenplay, so we can put him aside as having committed no crime. Whew!

Actually, this movie was very good, and if you get the chance to see it, it’s worth a watch. Classic suspense. I have only one complaint: an unfortunate loose end.

We’ve got a situation in which Charlotte, nicknamed Charlie after her Uncle Charlie, is deathly bored at home. So of course when Uncle Charlie comes to visit, she’s all excited. He’s that interesting, well-traveled, generous type of uncle who likes to spoil his nieces and nephews. But Uncle Charlie starts acting very oddly, and unfortunately for Charlie, she catches on to his strange behavior a little too quickly, even pointing it out to him and guessing at what secret he might be hiding.

At some point during the movie, as suspicions rise about Uncle Charlie’s possible link to major crimes (no spoilers here!), deadly things start to happen to Charlie. By this time, Charlie is sure she knows the truth about her uncle. So when a stair breaks as she’s going down it, and then the family car is left running in a closed garage with no key in the ignition and she gets trapped inside, it all seems a bit coincidental with Uncle Charlie’s behavior and attitude.

Here’s where the loose end jumps in. Charlie’s mother—and Uncle Charlie’s sister, Emma—pauses after the car incident and realizes that Charlie’s “accidents” aren’t a coincidence and could’ve killed her. This is a super important moment since she has recognized a pattern: “I just don’t understand it. First the stairs, and then the…” The car drives away while she’s still contemplating.

Well, Emma’s realization gets completely dropped and never picked up again. Why bother having her recognize these non-coincidences unless she’s going to do something about them or draw a conclusion that affects the story? There are two ways this could have been fixed:

  1. Eliminate her realization. I’m sure the writers put it in there in the first place because…why wouldn’t Emma put two andEmma's moment of realization. two together? But at the same time, she has been proven relatively simple throughout the movie, taking everything at face value, never asking for details, and heavily relying on her daughter to make decisions instead of making them herself. In that way, it’s plausible that she really wouldn’t connect the dots, especially since she loves Uncle Charlie so much.
  2. It was stated a few times that if Uncle Charlie left and went home, Emma’s heart would be broken. Solution number two could be the following: when Uncle Charlie announces he’s cutting his visit short, instead of Emma predictably becoming very upset (which is also illogical since she clearly recognizes a pattern to her daughter’s near-death experiences), she could show no reaction or even agree that it’s a good idea, then pointedly look at her daughter to prove she’s in the know. That would lead cleanly to the final scene with Uncle Charlie…watch the movie and you’ll know why. 

Know anyplace looking for old movie critics? Because I’m ready to take my critiques GLOBAL! No? For now, I’ll just keep posting them here.

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3 comments on “Shadow of a Doubt…About Loose Ends

  1. […] via Shadow of a Doubt…About Loose Ends […]

  2. raisingdaisy says:

    A surprisingly big oversight by Mr. Hitchcock! It drives me crazy when there are any loose ends in movies, and I always wonder how they made it through all the previews and double-checks and no one noticed. Interesting, and your suggestions for fixes would work perfectly. 🙂

    • Thanks, Daisy! It drives me crazy too when I see something like that, and it’s great to be able to put my solutions up here and see what people think. I can’t imagine how no one caught it!

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