review for The Wrong Man on AllMovie

The Wrong Man (1956)
by Patrick Legare review

Alfred Hitchcock's effort to remain true to fact-based source material is the only thing that prevents this gritty picture from rising above his middle-tier thrillers. Based on a story Hitchcock found in Life magazine, The Wrong Man is a pseudo-documentary version of the director's favorite theme: an innocent man blamed for a crime. Henry Fonda stars as the poor guy who finds himself the prime suspect in a series of robberies. The actor is solid in the role, but co-star Vera Miles (who later appeared in Hitchcock's Psycho) steals the show in the tragic role of Fonda's wife, who cracks under the stress of the false accusation and must be committed. The Wrong Man was a critical hit, but a commercial failure, and it would have benefited significantly if Hitchcock had taken some dramatic license to fire up the film's final act. Instead, the director went strictly for authenticity, going so far as to cast lesser-known actors and even people who were actually involved in the real-life case. He also shot many scenes on-location in Queens and Manhattan. The mental institution scenes were lensed in the actual building with the real doctors playing themselves. Bernard Herrmann's biting score adds a terrific additional dimension to the suspense -- as it does in every picture he collaborated on with Hitchcock. The director's cameo comes in the form of an introduction to the story that is reminiscent of his appearances at the opening of his TV show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He shot a more discreet cameo that would have been placed in the film's opening reel, but it was cut to avoid detracting from the film's documentary feel.