review for The Unknown Man on AllMovie

The Unknown Man (1951)
by Craig Butler review

The Unknown Man has an interesting message, but the manner in which it is presented makes for some significant believability problems. For instance, it's hard to believe that a lawyer with no criminal trial experience would be able to get his client off in the way he does in Man. It's equally hard to believe, given the kind of man this lawyer is, that he would then turn around and frame his client for a murder that he himself has committed. And finally, it's hard to believe that the lawyer would then set himself up to be murdered by that same client. All of this is in the service of a message about law and justice and the necessity of a man remaining true to himself, but it only serves to jumble that message up. It doesn't help that much of the plot is convoluted and that the dialogue, which often is quite good, is just as often quite poor. Man does have a very good central performance from Walter Pidgeon, which helps to smooth things over; Pidgeon is not ideal casting, but he manages to keep the audience interested and involved. Barry Sullivan is even better, and Ann Harding does a lot with what she is given. Man might have been a better film if the writers had kept things a little simpler, but it's worth a look for crime fans on the lookout for something they haven't seen a dozen times.