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Call Northside 777
USA 1948
Directed by Henry Hathaway
Running time 111 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars


Based on a true story, or as the less circumspect open credits have it “this is a true story”, Call Northside 777 is a legal thriller about a hard-nosed investigative newspaperman, P.J. McNeal (James Stewart), who is assigned a story about Frank Wiecek (Richard Conte) who was sent down 11 years previously during the height of the Prohibition era for killing a cop but whose dear old mother insists is innocent.

The film opens up well enough with a mixture of newsreel footage and location photography (it was apparently the first to be shot on location in Chicago) promising something with punch but soon slips into a plod as Stewart, in characteristic steadfast seeker-of-truth mode, becomes convinced that Wiecek was set up. Director Hathaway runs through every sentimental ploy that is available and meanders into B grade territory with long-winded explanations of bits of technology which might have been novel at the time but are now woefully dated, always seeming to come close to but never really engaging with his material.

FYI: The real-life McNeal, James P. McGuire, won a Pulitzer prize for his efforts.

DVD Extras: Audio Commentary by James Ursin1 and Alain Silver; a Movietone News report of the film's premiere; Theatrical Trailer.

Available from: Shock Entertainment

 

 

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