Christopher Emmanuel Balestrero, "Manny" to his friends, is a string bassist, a devoted husband and father, and a practicing Catholic. His eighty-five dollar a week gig playing in the jazz combo at the Stork Club is barely enough to make ends meet. The Balestreros' lives will become a little more difficult with the major dental bills his wife Rose will be incurring. As such, Manny decides to see if he can borrow off of Rose's life insurance policy. But when he enters the insurance office, he is identified by some of the clerks as the man that held up the office twice a few months earlier. Manny cooperates with the police, as he has nothing to hide. Manny learns that he is a suspect in not only those hold-ups, but a series of other hold-ups in the same Jackson Heights neighborhood in New York City where they live. The more that Manny cooperates, the more guilty he appears to the police. With the help of Frank O'Connor, the attorney that they hire, they try to prove Manny's innocence. ...Written by
DIRECTOR CAMEO (Sir Alfred Hitchcock): Narrating the prologue. This was the only time that he actually spoke in any of his movies. See more »
When Manny is put in the jail cell for the night, a man asks for and takes his tie. In the morning he is wearing the tie again. See more »
This is Alfred Hitchcock speaking. In the past, I have given you many kinds of suspense pictures. But this time, I would like you to see a different one. The difference lies in the fact that this is a true story, every word of it. And yet it contains elements that are stranger than all the fiction that has gone into many of the thrillers that I've made before.
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Based on the true story of a quiet family man falsely indicted for armed robbery, "The Wrong Man" may not be in Hitchcock's top echelon, but it contains many of the master's touches and deserves to be better known. What is so unusual for Hitchcock is that he filmed it in a somber documentary style (in keeping with the non-fictional source of the story). He even cut out his traditional cameo, and there is not a flicker of wit anywhere, either in dialogue or image. But the film effectively explores some of Hitchcock's favorite themes (like how easily our seemingly secure lives can be disrupted) and it is marked by some masterful visual touches. Note how effortlessly Hitchcock can film a scene inside a car, seeming to expand the space. I also liked the expressionistic camera movements to suggest Fonda's emotions in a jail cell. Most memorable of all is the dissolve that reveals the real culprit. Francois Truffaut held Hitchcock to task for tainting the pure documentary style of this movie with these more cinematic flourishes, but without them, I think it would have been way too grim to watch (it's pretty grim as it is). Henry Fonda gives a fittingly unshaded performance in the title role. And Bernard Herrmann's score is subtly effective, especially in the title sequence.
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