Friday, October 29, 2010

Call Northside 777

Call Northside 777 is a noir based on the true tale of Frank Wiecek, who was wrongly convicted for the murder of a police officer in Chicago. After nearly a decade in jail, his mother placed a classified ad in the local papers promising a reward for anyone who could provide evidence that would overturn her sons conviction. When reporter Jim McNeal is given the assignment of checking on the human interest side of the story, he ignites all of Chicago and begins quest to clear Wiecek while being opposed by the entire Chicago police force.

The only downside to Call Northside 777 is the confusing title. The phone number seems to have little to do with the movie, and been slapped on as a remnant of an era where titles didn’t always relate to the films they belonged to (I Wake Up Screaming is another film that comes to mind in terms of titles). This film is a gem – fantastic performance by Stewart, a inspiring true story I’d never heard of, and a marvel of writing and line delivery that was an identifier of the era in Hollywood. Needless to say, from start to finish, I was impressed.

I could immediately tell that I am a child of technology, as when I was watching this film, taking place in the 1940’s the thought of doing investigative reporting where your most high tech tools were a lie detector test and photo enlargement was confounding. All that popped into my head was the wonders of DNA testing and how the invention of photoshop could have killed McNeil’s new evidence. It was much harder to be an investigative reporter before the internet and cell phones.

Based purely on the fact that I didn’t know this film existed before I purchased it as part of the Fox 75th Anniversary lineup, I’m guessing it’s quite under viewed by today’s audiences. I think that should be changed. And so, I encourage you, give Call Northside 777 a watch.

Director: Henry Hathaway

Laura: What's the matter, won't the pieces fit together?
McNeal: Some of them, but they make the wrong picture.
Laura: Pieces never make the wrong picture. Maybe you're looking at them from the wrong angle.

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