105 minutes, U.S.A., 1956, Black and White, 35mm

As the title suggests, this is an unusually direct version of a familiar Hitchcock theme. He famously told interviewers that a film should not be a slice of life but a slice of cake; The Wrong Man is more like the former, a meticulous low-key reconstruction using the authentic New York locations of a real-life story of mistaken identity leading to imprisonment. Both Henry Fonda as the bewildered victim and Vera Miles as his wife play in self-effacingly austere style. It would, however, be wrong to make the film sound dull; its rigour evokes Robert Bresson.

Hitchcock went straight from it into the trio of quite different films that mark the high point of his career: Vertigo, North by Northwest and Psycho. It’s as if he somehow needed to get the ‘slice of life’ idea out of his system first.

Screening as part of The Genius of Hitchcock: Part One (December 9th – 30th).

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