This dramatization of a factual incident opens in a quiet Connecticut town where a kindly priest is murdered while waiting at a street corner. The citizens are horrified and demand action from the police. All of the witnesses identify John Waldron, a nervous out-of-towner, as the killer. Although Waldron vehemently denies the crime, no one will believe him. District Attorney Henry Harvey is then put on the case and faces political opposition in his attempt to prove Waldron's innocence.Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When Harvey is offered a sandwich by his wife, he never takes a bite. The reason is obvious, as the sandwich had become so stale during the various takes that when he drops it you can hear the sound when it hits the plate. See more »
Kazan between A Tree Grows in Brooklyn & On the Waterfront...reason enough to see
In some ways this is an intensely well made and satisfying film, and when you have Dana Andrews in the lead role combined with Elia Kazan directing, and throw in first rate character actor Lee J. Cobb, you have something worth watching.
It's nice early Kazan, but it stumbles at times, and never lifts off, never gels. Here's why.
First of all, it's based (very closely) on fact, and sometimes the facts are dramatic but not necessarily good drama. Hamlet, if it were straight documentary truth, would probably shock more and enchant less. And so here, we start with a horrifying crime which takes the viewer quite by surprise. Then, in a continuing voice-over documentary style, we are launched on a huge manhunt. Facts are gathered, suspects suspected, policework unleashed, all acted and congealed very intelligently. A large twist occurs (with something of a stutter, dramatically), and then we are in a different kind of drama, a courtroom battle, with Andrews playing the unlikely role of prosecutor looking for the actual truth in a case rather than a conviction.
And then the court battle ends, and the movie sort of drizzles to a stop. And you might well say (as I did), "How like life." Or something equally unexciting. It's not a like a neo-realist hyper real movie, using amateur actors and so on. No, it's just an adapted true life crime story that might have been something more. For two sides to this coin, I'd first mention Kazan's own "On the Waterfront" which uses a real life kind of scenario but turns it into a dramatic masterpiece. And then some harder hitting reality movie like "The Phenix City Story" (1955) shows what a dramatic version of the truth, unchanged, might look like.
Of course, Kazan and crew are experts, and this is no dud. Andrews, if he is your taste, is in great form, really, within his shifting role. And the supporting cast does wonders, as cops, and as regular people, which this movie is ultimately about. Recommended, yes, but with expectations in line with, uh, reality.
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