Self Awareness and Noir Parody in Shadow of a Doubt
Hitchcock is famous for having metacommentary and dark humor in his films. A perfect example of this is the scenes in Shadow of a Doubt with Joseph Newton and his neighbor, Herb.
Herb & Joseph mirror the behavior of Hitchcock’s audience, who witness horror and suspense from the comfort of a screen. They are both men who live quietly and comfortably in suburbia who obsess over mystery novels.
In their post-dinner conversations, Herb makes it clear that his ideal murder story is convoluted and leaves behind a trail of clues. Joseph is more practical; he would murder someone by hitting them with a blunt object and quickly disposing of the body.
In this moment of comedic relief, Hitchcock pokes fun at his own style of filmmaking and how the plot will thicken in Shadow of a Doubt.
For example, why would Uncle Charlie keep the article about the “Merry Widow Murderer” if Young Charlie could take it so easily? Why would Uncle Charlie give Young Charlie Thelma Schenley’s ring when it could be used as evidence against him?
Uncle Charlie’s sloppiness is not logistical, but it follows movie-world logic and makes the twists more intriguing to an eager audience.