Monday, February 7, 2011

The Wrong Man (1956) Review

The Wrong Man

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Year: 1956
Country: USA

Master of horror and suspense Alfred Hitchcock has done it again. He has created another intoxicating ride, full of twists and turns that will keep the audience on the edge of their seat. This time, unusual for a Hithcock film, he bases his story in a real life incident, but that doesn't mean it isn't as exciting as his other ficitional work is, because we have in here a very good addition to the epic filmography of one of the best directors who has ever lived.

Henry Fonda stars as Christopher Emannuel "Manny" Balestrero, a common man who works as a musician in the Stork Club in New York City. He isn't the wealthiest man in the world, in fact he's been running through some economic difficulties, but he always tries to follow the path of good. When his wife, Rose, has some dental troubles, Manny goes to the insurance office to borrow some money. But there the people recognize him as the man who had previously assaulted the place. The police is called and Manny is arrested. Witnesses recognize him as the man who has previously assaulted several stores, and Manny is cited to trial. With the help of his family and his attorney, Manny will have to try to prove his innocence, even if no one believes him, even if every circumstance seems to be against him.

Before Psycho, Vertigo or North by Northwest, Hitchcock still had a good run of great and chilling movies. Who can forget Rear Window, something close to a masterpiece, an account of mystery and suspicion. Or Shadow of a Doubt, one of Hitchcock's best early American films. And of course, The 39 Steps, a British spionage thriller with an unaware man implicated in international conspiracy. And then we have this, The Wrong Man, a tale of innocence and justice, a legal thriller dealing with themes of mistaken identity. Hitchcock certainly knew what he was doing when he did this.

The film's cast is all around wonderful. With stars of the caliber of Henry Fonda, Anthony Quayle and Vera Miles you know the performances will be great. Fonda, as usual, steals the show, completely imporsonating that man, innocent but being judged as guilty. He fully reflects the man's concerns and preoccupations. You can see on his expression how he's worried about his family and about his own well being too. Anthony Quayle, also, delivers a pretty strong performance as Manny's lawyer. You can believe the man's a lawyer, he seems to know what he is talking about. And Vera Miles is excellent as Manny's wife. Her concern, her guilt and her eventual madness is very clearly expressed by this wonderful actress.

There is no need to mention the great direction, but I will anyway. Of course, Hitchcock's direction is top notch. He captures the character's feelings to perfection, he can set an excellent thrilling mood and he can certainly get the audience to the edge of their seat. He leads all their actors to their great performances. And who can forget the cameo? In this film, as in most of his others, Hitchcock has a cameo apperance, but this one might be the most easier to spot. And why is that? Because he is the first person to appear on screen, he even says his name. He serves as an introductor to the film, and this cameo might be his most unforgettable one.

But the film isn't perfect. The screenplay is very well written, balancing character and suspense. In spite of this, there were moments that it didn't seem to know where it was going, as if the screenwriters got stuck in one part or another. It wasn't anything serious, but it did seem a little bit unfocused. Also, the film lacks the punch of other superior Hitchcock films, like Vertigo or Psycho. And there were a few characters who could have used a little more developing. But overall, the screenplay was fairly good, despite a few minor issues.

Hitchcock is a master of suspense. His thrillers have captured the audience and kept them guessing until the end. And this film is no different. Full of great performances, moody direction, interesting characters and a satisfying story, this is a film to rememeber. And while it might not be one of his greatests, and it may seem out of focus at one or two scenes, the film promises to satisfy the viewer.
My recommendation: Go see it, especially if you're a Hitchcock fan.
My score: 83%


  1. I really need to see more of Hitchcock's work, I've only seen his most well known Psycho, Vertigo, North By Northwest and The Birds...
    I also like Henry Fonda so I might check this one out!

    Great review CACB!

  2. Thnxs Jack. While you are at it you may also want to check Rear Window, Shadow of a Doubt and Dial M for Murder ;)

  3. Thanks for the tip, I have Rear Window but haven't seen it yet and I've heard the other two are excellent so I'll check them out as well!

    BTW you mentioned not being able to comment on my blog, I would really need to know the details, it's quite important, you can contact me on RT or send me an email (you'll find my address by clicking on my blogger profile and then on contact!) I hope it's not to much of a bother, I just need the feedback!

  4. Good, it seems to have been fixed now. I posted a comment on the blog explaining what had happened. It seemed to have been frozen but now is apparently working

  5. great review! your first caption is how i started one of my Hitchcock reviews (not published yet) :) He truly is a master at what he does.