Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Sep 5, 2004.

  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

    May 7, 2001
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    The Wrong Man

    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 1956
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 105 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Enhanced Widescreen
    Audio: DD Monaural
    Color/B&W: B&W
    Languages: English & French
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    MSRP: $19.97
    Package: Single disc/Keepcase

    The Feature:
    Next week is a big one for fans of legendary British director, Alfred Hitchcock. Warner Brothers is about to release a ten disc (9 films) boxed set entitled, The Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection. Among the new releases will be Dial M For Murder (1955), Foreign Correspondent (1940), I Confess (1953), Suspicion (1941), Stage Fright (1950), Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941) and a Two Disc SE of Strangers On A Train (1951). Also included in the set is the ultimate WB Hitchcock property, North By Northwest (1959) in a new style keepcase, and finally the featured film, The Wrong Man (1956). Individual titles will list for $19.97, while the two disc SE will list for $26.99 or the entire set lists for $99.92.

    The Wrong Man is unlike any other Hitchcock film ever made. It is a true story, a quasi-documentary based on the novel by Maxwell Anderson who also co-wrote the script. It is the story of a man who is wrongly accused of a crime, whose family and their freedom as a result, turns to shambles. Christopher Emmanuel “Manny” Balestrero (played brilliantly by Henry Fonda) is a devoted family man – a loving husband and father of two small boys. He is a musician, a bass player at the distinguished upscale Stork Club in New York City.

    He returns home one night after work to find his wife, Rose (played by Vera Miles) has been unable to sleep due to pain that she suffers from impacted wisdom teeth, but they don’t have the money necessary for the dental work. The next day, Manny agrees to stop off at the insurance office to borrow against the insurance policy they have taken out to cover Rose. Upon his arrival, several of the office workers identify Manny as someone who held them up last year and as a result, they notify police who bring him in for investigation. During a rather slipshod police interrogation, they finally reveal that he is the key suspect in a series of neighborhood robberies that have taken place over the past year and he has been identified by a number of witnesses as the perpetrator.

    Eventually, Manny makes bail but now must cover his tracks in an attempt to uncover witnesses that can clear his name. Unfortunately, Rose loses hope and slips into a deep state of depression and paranoia and has to be institutionalized. Without the funds necessary for a top notch criminal attorney and after learning a number of his alibi witnesses who have since passed away, Manny’s situation looks grim. Will he be able to clear his name in time before its too late…?

    Don’t look for a Hitchcock cameo appearance in this film. There isn’t one. Hitchcock felt the film was far too serious and thought the inclusion would be too distracting. Although the cameo was shot, it was edited. What he does appear in, is a short prologue to the film warning the viewer of the seriousness and the fact the film was based on a true story – it would be the only time the master would ever speak in one of his films. The recurring theme of the film was again, based on Hitchcock’s terrifying fear of being wrongly accused of a crime, a theme which would be central to a number of his films.

    Personally, I was incredibly moved by this film. No doubt, Henry Fonda was responsible. In a role that I found gut-wrenchingly disturbing, no other actor could have been as convincing as the everyday loving family man whose life is unjustly turned upside down as a result of several overzealous workers and a borderline shady police investigation. It is Fonda who makes this film so uniquely poignant and disturbing. His subdued façade, the look of contempt in his eyes as he faces the bleakness of his future, his desperate attempts to protect his family from the disparity that surrounded them – no one else could have delivered this the way Fonda does.

    The Feature: 5/5

    The film is presented in 1.85:1 enhanced widescreen and although there seems to be some confusion as to the original aspect ratio, the film looks terrific. The composition of the film looks fine and WB has done a wonderful job transferring this picture.

    So important for B&W films and their transfers, black levels were exceptional while whites couldn’t be any cleaner and crisp. The level of contrast and shadow detail was absolutely perfect and the measure of grayscale was wonderful.

    Image detail was truly amazing. Throughout the entire film the majority of the image was quite nicely defined, while as expected, many of the close-up shots of the female leads were slightly diffused. There was a moderate amount of fine film grain present throughout the entire film which resulted in a beautiful looking film-like image full of depth and dimensionality.

    As we might expect, there were slight traces of dirt and dust blemishes present but they only appeared sporadically. I noticed a few slight jumps and occasional scratches but nothing that ever became distracting. The image was rock solid and free of any shimmer or light speckle.

    Compression was handled perfectly and there were no signs of any distracting edge enhancement.

    There were a couple of scenes that looked rather spotty (one in particular when Manny is in the kitchen helping out with the dishes), but these moments are few and far between and the majority of this film looks absolutely wonderful. Great job…!

    Video: 4.5/5

    Another example of a soundtrack, while not overly flashy, does what needs to be done flawlessly.

    First off the DD Monaural track is as clean as we would ever hope for, with no hiss or any popping or crackling. The entire track sounds very natural and the track never became even slightly edgy or fatiguing.

    Most importantly, the dialogue was always exceptionally bold and clear throughout the entire film and was never lost during the wonderful Bernard Herrmann score which complements the mood and atmosphere of the film perfectly. His choice of music and style is used very skillfully with the use and emphasis of standup bass as well as the sometimes grating muted trumpets as Manny goes through the incarceration process. Great stuff.

    A great soundtrack to augment a great film.

    Audio: 4/5

    Special Features:
    The disc is complemented with two special features starting with:
    [*] Guilt Trip: Hitchcock And The Wrong Man. This is a super little feature with a number of participants including, Peter Bogdanovich, Robert Osborne, Richard Schickel among others. Appropriately, the feature starts with a discussion by Bogdanovich and informs the viewers the story behind Hitchcock’s biggest phobia, a fear of being wrongly accused of something – a theme at the heart of many of his films. Also discussed, unlike many of his other films is the seriousness of The Wrong Man as well as the casting choices of Fonda and Miles. There is also a detailed look with art director Paul Sylbert, at the various sets that were created for the film. Richard Schickel discusses the topic of Catholicism and the role it played in the film. Too bad it wasn’t longer, but a superb feature with a number of tidbits relating to the film. Duration: 20:16 minutes.
    [*] The Theatrical Trailer is also included which is in pretty reasonable shape. Duration: 2:33 minutes.

    This defines quality over quantity which contains a superb featurette.

    Special Features: 4/5

    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**

    Final Thoughts:
    The Wrong Man is a film unlike any other Hitchcock film and typifies the hopelessness and desperation of an average man wrongly accused. If anyone ever tells you Hitchcock never made a serious film noir, point them in the direction of The Wrong Man – a film which is a great, if not better than, example of any other “railroaded” film ever produced. And finally, as if we need any evidence of Henry Fonda’s greatness, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a better performance as he personifies a decent family man fighting for his life.

    An absolutely mesmerizing film given a first rate presentation and complemented with solid special features makes this disc a must have. From what I have seen of the Hitchcock Signature Collection thus far, I am absolutely amazed. So far the set has even surpassed my greatest expectations.

    Overall Rating: 4.5/5 (not an average)

    Highly Recommended…!!!

    Release Date: September 7th, 2004
  2. Roger Rollins

    Roger Rollins Supporting Actor

    Jun 19, 2001
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    Looking forward to buying this box on Tuesday, and the only one in the bunch I've never seen is THE WRONG MAN.

    It always seems to be overlooked in Hitchcock's body of work, and Herb's (as usual) excellent review has excited me to watch this one first (if I don't cave in for another viewing of FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT which is one of my top Hitch pix).

    Thanks again Herb, for a stellar review!
  3. Steve...O

    Steve...O Producer

    Dec 31, 2003
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    Thanks again Herb.

    This Hitch box set is the best of both worlds. Some of my personal favorites are finally on DVD and most of the handful of Hitchs I've never seen are also included. "The Wrong Man" falls in the latter category (as do "I Confess" and "Stage Fright").

    Hopefully these lesser known Hitchcock features will finally get the respect they're due thanks to this wonderful set.

    And to think I got the whole set for only $62 and change from Amazon (and STL). I almost feel like a thief for getting it so cheap!!

  4. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist

    Feb 8, 1999
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    Robert Harris
    By 1957 projected aspect ratio would have been 1.85:1. Most likely filmed open matte.

  5. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

    Jul 27, 2004
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    I agree with Mr. Harris and have no idea why there would be any confusion as to its aspect ratio.

    I've now seen several of this batch and am really pretty much thrilled with the transfers. I've always been partial to I Confess and The Wrong Man, two of Hitchcock's most interesting films. I am less enamored of the extras than Mr. Kane, specifically because they all feature the same group of participants and I must say I find most of the people really irksome, especially the somnambulistic Peter Bogdanovich and Richard Schickel, whose voice simply grates on me like fingers on a blackboard. The inclusion of Robert Osbourne baffles me, as well. But, sometimes there is a morsel of interesting information that comes through, along with a few bits of information that seem dubious.

    Major kudos to Warner Brothers on this set.
  6. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

    Nov 3, 2003
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    Cave, Roger, cave! I can't wait to see Foreign Correspondent again, it's been a few years, and I frickin' love that movie. Wrong Man is very good, and I've only seen it once, so I definitely look forward to that new disc as well, but there's not much I enjoy more than Foreign Correspondent. That's going in the player the first chance I get when this set comes in.
  7. Bryan Ri

    Bryan Ri Screenwriter

    Jan 31, 2004
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    NYC Area
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    This is one I have never seen before, but I must say it's looking like a blind buy. Thanks a lot Herb! [​IMG]

    Might as well through I Confess in there too. Possibly Stage Fright....

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