Starring: Henry Fonda, Vera Miles, Anthony Quayle
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
A jazz musician, Manny (Fonda) finds himself accused of robbing an insurance firm. When he’s arrested, he does everything he can to cooperate with the police, which only makes them more convinced that he’s guilty. The massive pressure to prove his innocence starts to affect his wife (Miles), who is admitted to an asylum. Can Manny prove his innocence, or does the system mean that you’re guilty til proven innocent?
Based on a real case, this film is a highly entertaining and often heartbreaking story of an every day couple caught up in the system. It has a different feel than other Hitchcock films. It’s a small, personal story, and the film style reflects this. It has a more homely, documentary feel to it’s camera work, unlike Hitchcocks later, more cinematic films.
The heart of this story is the struggle of the innocent man, accused of a wrong he didn’t do. The price of this accusation is high, the loss of his good name, the fear of going to prison, and the loss of his wife’s mental health. It’s a story of an event that could happen to anyone, to us the viewer, and the single mindedness of the police who want to convict him. Though Manny does manage to get through the ordeal and his innocence is proven, he’s not the same man he was at the start of the film. And his wife never entirely recovers her mental health.
The film is frightening because we know it’s based on the truth, and we know that innocent men do go to prison. It’s a tense film, with the fragile and beautiful Miles and the vulnerable and honest Fonda making masterful use of their performance abilities. Hitchcock loves a story of the wrong man, a guy accused and on the run, and would return to it often through his career, but in this film we see why it frightened and interested him so much, and why we should we frightened too. The justice system, as we know now, has often lacked justice throughout history. But in the 50’s, an age of wholesomeness and escapism, this film was challenging and honest. And still packs a punch today.
See It If: a must for all Hitchcock fans, this film will satisfy the cynic and true story lover in all of us. Tragic.