The Wrong Man DVD Review

DVD reviewed by Peter West

DVD released by Warner Brothers

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Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Writing credits: Maxwell Anderson and Angus MacPhail

Starring:
Henry Fonda as Manny Balestrero
Vera Miles as Rose Balestrero
Anthony Quayle as Frank O'Connor
Harold Stone as Lt. Bowers
John Heldabrand as Tomasini

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The Story:

Prior to the start of the film is a brief introduction by Alfred Hitchcock stating that every word of this story is true.

A bass player in the band at the Stork Club nightspot, Manny Balestero (Henry Fonda) has a pretty average existence. His wife is in need of some dental work and Manny goes to his insurance company to take out a loan on his wife's life insurance policy to pay for the bill. His arrival disturbs the clerks there, who say he looks like a man who robbed the office twice before. Before Manny can walk through his front door, he is whisked away to the 110th precinct station for questioning. Being constantly told a innocent man has nothing to fear, Manny does his best to cooperate with the officers.

Manny is driven to the scene of some other crimes by the same suspect and even though some of the identification is iffy, Manny is then put in for a lineup for the insurance company clerks to identify him. Two eyewitnesses pick him out and Manny is then booked for the crimes and put in jail to await arraignment. A steep bond is placed and Manny's family comes through in posting the bail. From then this is a study of how does one clear there name when there is overwhelming testimony against him.

Fonda in his role as Manny is righteously outraged for his arrest and Vera Miles who plays the role of Manny's wife Rose falls prey to the pressures of a battle she thinks they can not win. While not a box office hit, The Wrong Man is one powerful film of a man who the system has wronged!

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The Picture:

Presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic aspect ratio, it's somewhat overmatted though (IMDB has it listed as originally being 1.66:1). This does not really detract from the film as Hitchcock's genius of camera angles and close-ups is not affected by it. The picture is probably as good as we can expect from a 1956 film, while it's not in the same league restoration wise as let's say Citizen Kane, it is excellent. My rating 4/5

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The Sound:

A Dolby Digital mono track highlights the film. Original Music by Bernard Herrmann is powerful and dark. I've never had a mono track ever set off so much bass through my subwoofer before. It really brings a feeling of the inner suffering Manny is going through while being accused of crimes he did not commit. My rating 4/5

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Extras:

A twenty minute or so documentary on the film and a theatrical trailer are the only extras on the DVD. The documentary like all in the Hitchcock Signature Collection is pretty interesting. The trailer is in fair shape. My rating 3/5

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Summary:

I was aware of Fonda's performance in The Wrong Man as being one of his best, however I had no idea that the film was directed by Hitchcock. I'm sure glad that I had the chance to review this DVD or otherwise this great movie may have escaped me. This movie is unlike anything I've seen Hitch direct previously. There's absolutely no humor in it at all. Hitch purposed skipped his normal cameo feeling it would detract from the serious nature of the film. When Hitchcock was a young boy, his father gave him a note and asked him to bring it to the local police station. The note instructed the officer to lock up young Hitch for 5 minutes, which the officer complied with. This effected Hitchcock throughout his life and many of his films deal with a man that is wronged or falsely accused. Hitchcock also cast original eyewitnesses who gave testimony against Manny reprising their real life roles in the case.

Nobody could have been cast better to play Manny than Henry Fonda. His face shows the indignation of being falsely accused without losing his integrity or inner good. This further cements my opinion of Fonda's great contribution to our culture. While time and the sensationalism of today's media my have weakened the impact of Manny's story, this is one film you should watch for the performances of it's two great stars. Vera Miles a Hitchcock regular is fantastic as Rose, Manny's devoted wife who slips into mental illness from the pressure of the Manny's plight. This is by far, Hitchcock's darkest film and Hitch talks to us the whole time while we watch it without saying a word himself. My overall rating 4/5

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