A bass player at the New York City’s Stork Club, Manny Balestrero requires money urgently to pay for his beloved wife’s wisdom teeth extraction. However, when he approaches the Life Insurance Company to take a loan, he is mistaken by the staff to be the armed robber who had previously looted their office, and is promptly taken in to custody by the police.
Running Time:
105 min
Release Date:
22 December 1956
Directed by:
Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by:
Alfred Hitchcock
Written by:
Maxwell Anderson
Angus MacPhail
Based on:
The True Story of Christopher Emmanuel Balestrero by
Maxwell Anderson
Henry Fonda
Vera Miles
Anthony Quayle
Harold Stone
Charles Cooper
Music by:
Bernard Herrmann
Shot by:
Robert Burks
Edited by:
George Tomasini
Distributed by:
Warner Bros.

What’s Hot

  • For the very first time, Hitchcock himself announces at the beginning of the film that the story is real and unlike his other films this has a procedural/documentary feel to it and there are no filmy thrill elements inserted into the script. The simple yet revolutionary theme makes the film downright gripping as the protagonist gets caught up in the rigid fist of the Judiciary system.
  • Henry Fonda shows his class by underplaying the titular role of the sincere family man who is wrongly imprisoned. His sequences with his two young boys are heart-warming and his defeated demeanor when convicted, are sparkling.
  • The role of his doting wife, played excellently by Vera Miles, adds fuel to the sentiment and makes us root unabashedly for the protagonist. Her desperation when trying to prove an alibi for her husband and the resulting depression are scenes that melt one’s heart.
  • The detectives also play their parts well, adhering to the rules. The scene where they take Manny’s handwriting sample is top notch. The scene of the trial with the disinterested jury adds to the authenticity of the movie.
  • The use of stark close-ups of the witnesses when they think they recognize Manny as the robber, and of Vera Miles’s face to illustrate her inner emotional turmoil, are classic Hitchcock. The black and white medium gives a noir effect with the images of the prison bars delivering an ominous claustrophobic feel. This interesting trial noir had a considerable impact on Jean-Luc Godard who dissects the film in the book ‘Godard on Godard’. An excerpt is available here.

What’s Not

  • People expecting a Hitchcock-esque film filled with thrilling moments will be in for a surprise here as this is more of an experimental docu-realistic attempt from the master of suspense.



Verdict Stamp

An underrated classic from Hitchcock, dealing with the profound distress undergone by a family, when the man of the house is mistakenly taken for a notorious robber.