(Some spoilers) This atmospheric piece has all the hallmarks of a neorealist film within the conventions of a crime story. It is about one Mario Hari (Michel Jourdan) an unemployed worker who is wrongly accused of murdering a woman and who is defended by lawyer Roberto Martini (Massimo Girotti), who doesn't believe, for much of the film at least, that his client is innocent. The hapless man has a girl, Gina, and a child by her. The long-suffering woman (played by the marvelous Giulietta Masina before her great films with Fellini) and her hapless man get married while he is being detained in prison awaiting trial. She is the only one who truly believes in his innocence. Martini had been asked by a friend of Gina, Lucia (Marina Berti), to take the case, which he does with reluctance. As a by-product Lucia and the lawyer fall in love.
During the course of the movie, events come to light pointing to the man's being a victim of circumstance with no direct links to the murder, and, of course ultimately the true culprit is found when he kills someone else. We have fairly standard stuff here, even tedious and predictable. What gives the film a nice edge is the use of the many gritty location settings, the interesting secondary characters such as the old Neapolitan vagabond Cali', who asserts he saw Mario near the scene of the crime at the time it occurred. And of course the presence of Giulietta Masina is a great asset.
Director Carlo Lizzani was closely aligned with the Italian neorealist cinema at its start. He began as a film critic, wrote a history of the Italian cinema, was assistant to Roberto Rossellini on Germany YEAR ZERO and assistant to other directors until he made his first film as director, ACHTUNG! BANDITI, in 1951. The photography was by Gianni Di Venanzo, who would go on to shoot Antonioni's LA NOTTE and L'ECLISSE as well as Fellini's 8 ½.
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