|Apr 20 2023
He was honest. Everyone else made the mistake.
An array of posters were made for Alfred Hitchcock's crime drama The Third Man, which was titled in Italy simply Il ladro—“the thief”—but we've chosen this unusual mugshot based promo because it encapsulates the film nicely. The tired look on star Henry Fonda's face says it all. He's mega-screwed. There are probably other movies that took the mugshot route with their poster art, but we can't remember seeing any examples. For Il ladro, the mugshot poster was part of a series of photo promos taken from various frames in the film, but today we'll just share the one above. Also, below you'll see two more Italian posters painted by Luigi Martinati. It's rare that we prefer photo art to paintings, but this case, because of the subject matter of the film, is one of those exceptions.
Said subject matter is the true tale of Emmanuel Balestrero, an everyman who is falsely identified as an armed robber. This leads to his arrest, ordeal in jail, trial, and retrial. The movie hails from a more naive time, before Americans realized that when the police come asking questions the only answer you give is: “Am I under arrest?” And if the answer is yes, the next thing you say is: “Lawyer,” and that's all you ever say. It's crucial never to talk, because in the U.S. cops are allowed to lie to you, claim there are witnesses that don't exist, or that there's evidence they don't really have. That isn't legal in England, Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries. But Fonda doesn't know any of that, and ultimately that's largely why he ends up behind bars.
After he makes bail he and co-star Vera Miles pound the pavement investigating the false accusation. We doubt that happened in real life, but that's the movies for you. Their amateur sleuth bit works fine narratively. There's a psychological digression that's less compelling, but was included because it was part of the true story. On the whole, though, we like the movie. And we like Hitchcock's style here during his middle phase (he began directing in 1922 and finished in 1976), before high concept thrillers like Vertigo and Rear Window—though those are also good. Here he keeps it mostly basic, and the result is a harrowing drama, which is hard to bear as Fonda is slowly railroaded, but is extremely well put together and compellingly acted. The Wrong Man premiered in the U.S. in 1956 and reached Italy today in 1957.
ItalyIl ladroThe Wrong ManHenry FondaVera MilesAnthony QuayleAlfred HitchcockEmmanuel BalestreroLuigi Martinatiposter artcinemamovie review