The Wrong Man (1956) DVD May 9, 2010 21:32:36 GMT -5
Post by Erik Rupp on May 9, 2010 21:32:36 GMT -5
Alfred Hitchcock had wanted the rights to the true life story that The Wrong Man is based on for quite a while, and when he obtained those rights he made sure that his film was as accurate as possible when telling the story.
Amazingly, The Wrong Man is one of the most Noir of Hitchcock's films. He often flirted with Film Noir, but with The Wrong Man Hitchcock went with a visual style that really fit the story - a story tailor made for Film Noir. The film is shot in stark black and white, and the angles and lighting used by Hitchcock seem to be very much influenced by the work of the great John Alton (among others, bringing Hitchcock back to some of the techniques he used in the 1930's). Shadows are prominent in the movie, and there is a dark, downbeat look to the film. The Wrong Man is a visually stunning film in a very simple way. There are no great camera tricks, just perfectly lit scenes that let the sparse light highlight the actors and key parts of the set.
As for the story itself, it centers around a nightclub musician named Manny Balestrero, a man making just enough of a living to put food on the table and provide a decent home for his family - but not much else. Balestrero needs money for dental work for one of his kids, so he goes to see if he can get a loan on a life insurance policy he has. It becomes a true life case of wrong place, wrong time. The office he visits has been robbed recently, and the employees swear that it was Balestrero. They all agree - it was him! Balestrero is nonplussed as he doesn't understand how they could believe that he is the robber, and he seems to have a belief that the system will work and his innocence will be proven.
But that belief wanes more and more as the film goes on and the eyewitnesses who can verify that he was upstate when the robbery occurred turn out to be dead. He is thwarted at every turn - he can't prove that he wasn't in the area, but on the other side are a handful of eyewitnesses who swear that he is the man who robbed the office.
As all of this is going on Balestrero's wife, Rose, begins to lose her grip on reality. She begins to show signs of mental instability before finally suffering a complete breakdown, requiring her to be admitted to a mental hospital.
The story is fairly simple and straightforward, but the key points are dramatic enough to keep the film interesting. Henry Fonda gives a great, low key performance in the film, and Vera Miles is excellent as his wife. Her slow deterioration is handled perfectly. The rest of the cast is outstanding as well, as all of the supporting players seem to be perfectly cast in their roles.
Despite Hitchcock's near disowning of the movie after it's disappointing box office results (it is pretty dark and somewhat grim), this is actually one of his career highlights.
As for Warner Brothers' DVD they managed to get it as right as Hitchcock did. The new documentary on the making of the film is quite good, and the picture quality of the film itself is well above average. The shadow detail (very important in a film shot like this) is outstanding, and the overall sharpness and clarity of the image is first rate.
This is the perfect Hitchcock film for fans of Film Noir, but even if you aren't a fan, or just aren't all that familiar with Film Noir don't let that turn you away. The Wrong Man is a great film, regardless of what term is used to describe it.