The Wrong Man (1956)
"This is Alfred Hitchcock speaking" slurs the famous director in the prologue while the shadowy silhouette of a man is cast upon a street. Even in this first shot, "The Wrong Man" proves the influence of "The Third Man", which had come out seven years prior. The shadows, the black-and-white magnificence—there's a lot of similarity there. Then again, there isn't the playful and emotion payoff that "The Third Man" has.
Hitchcock tells us himself in the first shot that this movie is based on a true story, which may be hard to believe...but hey, that's just how it is.
We open on the early hours of a morning in the summer of 1953, where Christopher Emmanuel "Manny" Balestrero (Henry Fonda) plays the bass in a band. This is one day that he'll never forget. Manny finishes playing, packs up his things, and goes about his business.
After a few quick pitstops, he returns home and talks with his wife, Rose (Vera Miles). She's been kept up all night because of her wisdom teeth, which are all impacted and will have to be taken out. She's spoken to the doctors and it will cost the couple $300, which is money that they just don't have. They talk about finances and loans before both retiring to their respective beds and going to sleep.
The next morning, which is actually the same morning, Manny has a great idea: get a loan of his wife's insurance policy.
Balancing his personal life—visits with his mother and music lessons for his two sons—with his financial problems, Manny has just enough time to run down to the insurance office and ask about the loan. When he arrives, he places all the women there in a particularly uncomfortable state of mind.
It's very easy to see why many people think (and could be right) that Hitchcock was terrified of women. He portrays them as stereotypical, easily manipulated, and always on the verge of a nervous breakdown (no reference to Almodóvar's film).
The women at the insurance office mistake Manny with the man who held them up a few months ago. They don't bother to think about why he would return and ask about his wife's insurance policy, giving them his name to work with; they are just placed in a frenzy.
When Manny arrives at his home, the police are there waiting for him. They don't even let him talk to his wife, carting him off to their precinct for further questioning.
After a few odd scenarios in which Manny is forced to walk into store after store so that the owners can get a good look at him, it becomes clear that Manny is the punch line to a very cruel joke.
Much like how Eastwood's "The Changeling" was based on a true story about a mistake, so is "The Wrong Man".
I'm not a Henry Fonda fan, I don't think he's that great of an actor, but the casting is perfect here because Fonda always looks guilty...it's just his face.
The deck is stacked against Manny, all hope soon fades from his life, including the loss of his wife's sanity.
"The Wrong Man", unlike most other Hitchcock movies, just isn't that interesting. There's nothing terribly suspenseful about it and the film comes across as very racist, viewing through 21st century lenses.
It's a courtroom drama that would inspire works like "The Shawshank Redemption" and the like. The wrong man is a common theme in Hitchcock movies, but here it is its most overt.
"The Wrong Man" suffers from a dreadfully dry script and overly dramatic acting. It's a cerebral movie, while trying to be cemented in heavy reality...it doesn't quite work.
Posted by Micah Jones