The Warner Archive January 2016 Blu-ray release of the Kafkaesque 1956 Hitchcock docudrama "The Wrong Man" continues a series of reviews of exceptional Archive releases from the not-too-distant past. Hitchcock forgoing his usual Stan Lee style tongue-in-cheek cameo for a highly-stylized introduction is the first indication that this largely shot on location one is different.
The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer (which the BD includes) for "Man" features the monolgue that is discussed below. It also highlights the suspense and (also mentioned below) soundtrack.
This opening monologue stating that The Master of Suspense is shifting his focus from tales of murder and mayhem to the real-life story of the titular "innocent" Stork Club musician Christopher Emmanuel "Manny" Balestero (Henry Fonda) is another indication of a deviation from the norm. "Psycho" co-star Vera Miles playing Balestero spouse Rose and composer of the peerless "Psycho" theme (and other music of that film) Bernard Herrmann doing his thing here provide a sense of business as usual.
A coincidental sense of continuity is that "Man" is one of three recently acquired Archive releases that includes a new DVD of the (soon-to-be-reviewed)1966 Doris Day romcom "The Glass Bottom Boat" in which Day sings her signature song "Que Sera Sera" that she premieres in the 1956 Hitchcock thriller "The Man Who Knew Too Much."
The larger theme is a combination of a concept that makes Hitchcock so great and a related "it could happen to you" element of the work of Franz Kafka that Hitchcock often emulates. The Hitchcock formula for success includes moving terrifying events from the creepy mansion on the hill to the house next door. The source of fear this time is being wrongfully accused of a crime getting you wrapped up in a legal system that often is defended on the basis that it is the best alternative out there.
Readers are asked to consider the following discussion of "Man" both in the context of imagining themselves in the shoes of Manny and regarding the larger issue of the "Me Too" movement. The SINCERE disclaimer regarding this is that the discussion of "Me" is not intended to suggest anything other than the harm IF an accusation is false. No opinion is being expressed regarding the validity of ANY "Me" claim.
Men and women in power often abuse their positions and most claims of abuse by Hollywood power brokers are undisputed. Further, determining the truth in disputed cases involving 30 year-old events can be very challenging; this is not to mention one man's innocent hug being another woman's sexual assault
The other side of the coin is that "Me" is subject to abuse by someone who wrongfully targets a person with a solid decades-long reputation that is worth millions of dollars and that allows him or her to walk the streets without being the subject of active scorn.
In typical Hitchcock style, "Man" begins depicting the then ordinary life of Manny before it spirals out of control. He is happily jamming in the New York landmark that employs him, takes the subway home, checks in on his peacefully sleeping young sons, and then goes into his marital bedroom to learn that the pain of four impacted wisdom teeth are keeping Rose awake.
The everymanny sense of the main character continues with him and Rose discussing their poor fiscal health and options for funding the dental procedure that she requires. Their fateful decision the next morning to borrow from the life insurance policy on Rose triggers their nightmare.
Manny goes to the insurance company office later that day thinking that inquiring about the value of the policy as collateral for a loan is going to be routine. The reality is that a woman who works there mistakenly recognizes him as the man who robbed the business months ago.
A subsequent police report puts NYPD Blue on the trail of Manny; being a nice guy and believing that his innocence is his get out of jail free card prompts our innocent to fully cooperate with the detectives who literally knock on his door.
The cringing by viewers begins with the detectives questioning Manny without reading him the well-known Miranda rights that the U.S. Supreme Court establishes 10 years later. Their criminally negligent behavior continues with conducting numerous blatantly suggestive witness identification procedures that include having Manny walk through robbed stores without informing him of the purpose for doing so.
This leads to arresting Manny without even telling him of his rights to an attorney and to remain silent as the cell door slams. The detectives additionally still are telling their suspect that he has no cause for concern if he is innocent.
Hitchcock and Kafka fully merge in this black-and-white film as the shadow of the cell bars falls across the face of a terrified Manny. This leads to a memorable scene as he sits still while the camera spins around him in a manner reminiscent of several "Psycho" shots.
Audience sympathy grows for Manny as defeat repeatedly is snatched from the jaws of victory. This includes the highly improbable thwarting of every effort to establish what should be a solid alibi. This likely raises the thought of many viewers in this age in which many of us live alone and that DVRs and/or On Demand video (not to mention highly portable cell phones) are in virtually that PROVING that we are "home watching television" on a "night in question" may be very difficult.
The additional element that attracts Hitchcock to the story is the toll on Rose. The overall experience and the related thoughts cause her great angst with effects that last well beyond the truth coming out.
Archive supplements the film with the making-of documentary "Guilt Trip: Hitchcock and the Wrong Man." Peerless film historian Robert Osborne and genuinely acclaimed film director Peter Bogdanovich are among the talking heads who provide insight regarding this compelling docudrama