Alfred Hitchcock films I ever saw; I'm sure TO CATCH A THIEF (1955) was my first, but I think SUSPICION came second, even before seeing longtime favorites like NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) or REBECCA (1940). My childhood exposure to SUSPICION included a screening at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, probably as part of a huge RKO retrospective when I was a teen in the late '70s.
Truth to tell, although I've seen it multiple times I never liked SUSPICION that much, finding Joan Fontaine dull and the infamous ending hard to understand in light of the rest of the film. Consequently, I've avoided it for a number of years, to the point where my memories of the movie were quite vague. Having seen so many Hitchcock films in the intervening years, I decided it was time to give SUSPICION a fresh appraisal.
Fontaine is quite splendid in the role, even selling the viewer on her willingness to remain with her husband after learning the depths of his faults. As noted in a prior review, she inhabits her characters so fully that even her body language and voice tend to change from role to role. It's hard to believe the same actress played the childlike waif in THE CONSTANT NYMPH (1943) or the young, optimistic American bride from a boisterous family in FROM THIS DAY FORWARD (1946).
The film's problems, however, remain ever the same. First and foremost, other than appreciating the performances, it's not much fun to watch a marriage unravel because the husband constantly acts like a louse. In fact, it's downright depressing. Even when he does nice things, he enjoys toying with her and worrying her first. Bad enough that he's a ne'er-do-well gambler with zero sense of responsibility -- the moment when she learns from Leo G. Carroll that he's also an embezzler is heartbreaking.
I suppose the bottom line is this is a beautifully made film, within the confines of the script required by the Production Code, but it's tough to watch Fontaine's steadfast love disappointed at every turn. She deserved much better than she got.
The supporting cast is excellent. In addition to the aforementioned Carroll and Bruce, Fontaine's parents were played by Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Dame May Whitty. Isabel Jeans, Heather Angel, Auriol Lee, Reginald Sheffield, Aubrey Mather, Billy Bevan, and Lumsden Hare are in the cast. Perennial movie butler Leonard Carey plays, what else, a butler.
The screenplay was written by Samson Raphaelson, Hitchcock's wife Alma Reville, and longtime Hitchcock associate Joan Harrison. It was based on the novel BEFORE THE FACT by Francis Iles. The movie was shot in black and white by Harry Stradling Jr., with a score by Franz Waxman. The running time is 99 minutes.
I watched the 2004 DVD which comes with the trailer and a featurette. It's an excellent print but I found the sound levels unusually variable. The DVD can be rented from Netflix.
The movie is also available on VHS. Amazon Prime members can stream the film at no extra cost.
April 2016 Update: SUSPICION is now available on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive.
Previous reviews of Hitchcock films: MURDER! (1930), THE 39 STEPS (1935), SECRET AGENT (1936), YOUNG AND INNOCENT (1937), THE LADY VANISHES (1938), FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940), MR. AND MRS. SMITH (1941), SABOTEUR (1942), SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943), ROPE (1948), STAGE FRIGHT (1950), STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951), I CONFESS (1953), DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954), TO CATCH A THIEF (1955), VERTIGO (1958), THE BIRDS (1963), and MARNIE (1964).