Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Nigel Bruce & Dame May Whitty
Released by: Warner Archive
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
From Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock (The Man Who Knew Too Much, Strangers on a Train), Suspicion stars Joan Fontaine (Rebecca) as bookish Lina McLaidlaw who’s swept off her feet by the dashing Johnnie Aysgarth (Cary Grant, North by Northwest). Overwhelmed with affection and married hastily, Lina slowly learns the truths of her new husband’s dishonesty and potentially murderous agenda with the newlywed fearing she may be his next victim. Sir Cedric Hardwicke (The Ten Commandments), Nigel Bruce (Limelight) and Dame May Whitty (Mrs. Miniver) co-star.
Adapted from Anthony Berkeley’s (under the pseudonym Francis Illes) novel Before the Fact, Suspicion presents a romantically conceived tale, tensely elevated to soaring heights as a girl in love suspects her one and only is out for blood. Playing against type, the charismatic Cary Grant slides his way into frame as the worry-free and financially irresponsible Johnnie Aysgarth whose good looks and fast talk only take him so far when shards of his true self are slowly revealed to his hopelessly in love new bride Lina (Fontaine). Moving into a mammoth estate, Lina learns that not only is Johnnie jobless but gets by routinely borrowing large sums of money in order to gamble his way into actual fortunes that never last. In order to put his wife’s worries at bay, Johnnie takes employment with his cousin as his loveably buffoonish buddy Beaky (Bruce) visits the couple and innocently informs Lina of Johnnie’s untruthful way with words. Before long and without Johnnie’s knowledge, Lina learns of his job loss due to embezzlement of funds shortly before a family tragedy strikes. While Lina grieves over the loss of her father, Johnnie grows frustrated at their dismal inheritance leading a real estate opportunity to bloom with Beaky. As lies and deceit mount in the wake of yet another questionable death, Lina begins to suspect her husband will do anything to stay financially stable… even murder.
Rightly earning Joan Fontaine an Academy Award for the only Hitchcock lensed performance to earn such an honor, Suspicion is gracefully directed with Grant and Fontaine’s irresistible love story warming viewers’ hearts. While Johnnie consistently lies and increasing disappoints Lina, Grant’s wit and obvious infatuation with his onscreen wife make his wrongs forgivable. Shifting its tone to a tensely orchestrated thriller, Johnnie’s obsession with mystery novels and untraceable poisons convinces Lina that her next glass of milk may be her last. Rattled by nerves and a heart-pounding, high speed car sequence in its waning moments, Suspicion throws itself through the windshield with a wholly underwhelming conclusion that preaches the cons of wrongly suspecting others instead of delivering a gutsier conclusion found in its original source material. While its ending may be uneventful, Suspicion captures a cocktail of effective atmosphere, sound performances from its leads and remains as technically polished as anything helmed by Hitchcock during this era.
Presented in 1080p, screened in its 1.37:1 aspect ratio, Suspicion looks sumptuous with deep blacks and natural grain permeating its runtime. While the lavish settings and intricacies of set pieces including, Lina’s heirloom chairs, appear nicely detailed, textures in costume choices and the film’s monochrome photography are beautifully communicated. Accompanied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is wonderfully handled with any signs of crackling distortion absent. With the exception of Franz Waxman’s (Stalag 17) evocatively simple score, the track is rather simple in its range but, handsomely treated. Furthermore, special features include, Before the Fact: Suspicious Hitchcock (21:36) which offers a valuable critical analysis of the feature with insight from Author Bill Krohn, Film Historian Robert Osbourne, Filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich and others while, the film’s Theatrical Trailer (1:41) rounds out the supplements.
In a particularly marvelous decade for the auteur, Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion, although suffering from a rather dull finale, ranks highly for its genre blending prowess and award winning turn by Fontaine. Masterfully restored, Warner Archive treats another of cinema’s greats with the expected quality and care film enthusiasts have come to expect.