The Wrong Man

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Christopher Bligh

Plot: What’s it about?

In the mid-1950’s, Alfred Hitchcock was at the top of his game. Unlike many filmmakers, Hitchcock at this point didn’t resort to the new widescreen processes to shoot his films and relied on the straightforward film technique that suited most of the films that had come before (A few years later, he would shoot a few films via the VistaVision process). Throughout those years, Hitchcock had covered a wide variety of genres although he had never covered a film based on a true story. In 1956, he got to do so with a documentary feel and a touch of jazz, telling a story of mistaken identity and it’s consequences especially if the finger is pointed at The Wrong Man.

Manny Balestrero (Henry Fonda) lives a happy life. He a musician who loves his work, he has a loving family and he never worries himself about the roadblocks of money. He sees himself borrowing more than he owns. One day on a trip to a bank, he looks to borrow a few more bucks. Little does he know one of the workers is sure he robbed this particular bank before. With this accusation, the bank calls the police on Manny and brings him in for questioning. During this time, his wife Rose (Vera Miles) slowly becomes mentally unhinged.

For many years, viewers that were Hitchcock fans regarded this effort as one of Alfred’s lesser efforts. This viewer, however, feels the opposite. Once again, Hitchcock shows as a filmmaker he could just about do anything and makes sure he gets his cameo out of the way at the very start of the film before any credits appear. From the opening credits to it’s melancholic end, this is a solid piece of dramatic filmmaking. It’s pretty evident it’s not a case of who done it? as a case of who will come forward if ever.

The main focus of the film, however, is the case of how one individual can stand accused and what the effects are around him and the people that are close to him. As Manny, Henry Fonda doesn’t exactly have an ethnic look to pass for a Manny, but of course his first name of his character is Christopher (great name) and he gives a solid performance as a musician that is flawed financially and that it’s one tiny thing that causes him grief in the end.
Vera Miles, who originally was cast for Vertigo, plays Manny’s wife and her performance is a transformation of one woman’s worry undoing her slowly but surely.

The audience knows that Manny is the wrong man and any other movie would’ve focused on the search more than the characters. One other underrated plus to this movie is the occasional score of Bernard Herrmann, who appears at the start of the film after the credits have ended. It doesn’t show up entirely throughout the movie like his other scores have, but it’s the piece that’s played at the beginning credits that lingers with the viewer from start to finish. It’s catchy, it’s jazzy, it has a nice ring to it and it’s entertaining enough and so is the film with it’s straight forward style and it’s solid performances by the film’s two leads.

Video: How does it look?

The Wrong Man is given it’s first wide treatment in 1.85:1 anamorphic and the results for the most part are very good. The picture quality is sharp and has an occasional speck or two and there is little evidence of print shake here. The clarity is pretty solid as the print doesn’t have too many streaks and remains clean through the majority of the picture. The look of the film is mostly shot at night and rarely in the day and the blacks are not too overly apparent in this picture. A primo job by Warner overall.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Wrong Man has an English Mono track and for all it’s audible limitations, it remains a good track. It’s not the prime disc to demonstrate your home theater system with being that most of the surround activity is limited to the center channels and there is occasional music courtesy of Bernard Herrmann, but for the most part it’s directed mostly at dialogue. The sound comes out very clear and not too much to raise your television’s volume at as the dialogue is distinctive and balanced nicely in the middle with the rest of the film. This disc also has a French Mono track along with English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Along with the film’s solid theatrical trailer, the disc has a featurette entitled Guilt Trip: Hitchcock and The Wrong Man. It’s a twenty minute piece with many film historians like Robert Osborne and directors like Peter Bogdanovich discussing the film both from the origins, to the finished product to the overall results. It’s rare to get a fluff piece out of Laurent Bouzereau’s body of work and luckily that rarity was not here as he gives another solid featurette documenting a film that might not have been received greatly at its time of release but is a film that is ripe for a present day following.

Overall, less is more as The Wrong Man has the right choices being not only a very good film but in turn a solid DVD that comes well recommended.

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