Los Angeles Times - 04/03/2005
"[A] great career move for Stewart....Tautly directed..."
Sight and Sound - 03/01/2006
"[N]otable as one of the first crusading, factually based dramas about a miscarriage of justice."
Description by OLDIES.com:
When a classified ad grabs the attention of Chicago Times editor Brian Kelly (Lee J. Cobb), he sends ace reporter P.J. McNeal (James Stewart) to dig up new evidence in the 11-year-old case of a cop killer. It appears that Frank Wiecek (Richard Conte) has taken a fall, and been wrongly imprisoned for the murder. Although hard-nosed McNeal is initially skeptical, he eventually believes that Wiecek was, in fact, a patsy. And although McNeal hits one dead end after another, the avid newsman never gives up the search for justice for the innocent Wiecek.
In this documentary-style drama based on a true story, a reporter tries to prove that a man in prison for murder has been wrongly convicted. A great performance by Stewart as the persistent journalist.
The mother of Frank Wiecek, a prisoner convicted for killing a cop, offers $5000 for information leading his release of her son. She believes the jury erred and that Frank's innocent. Reporter McNeal, who's been assigned to write a human-interest story on Wiecek, telephones her to get the scoop. McNeal's relentless investigation uncovers new clues that ultimately proves Wiecek's innocence, and returns him to freedom after eleven years of imprisonment.
Call Northside 777
Movie Lover: Dee Holmes from
JACKSONVILLE, FL US -- December, 15, 2010
If ever there was an almost perfect FILM-NOIR film, this is it! Anything with Jimmy Stewart in it (with the exception of a Thin Man film in the '30's), will sell popcorn and coca-cola. He is the consummate actor, if ever there was one.
Call Northside 777
Movie Lover: Margaret Steffens from
Two Rivers, WI US -- January, 8, 2008
I saw it on TV years ago--it was very interesting how the investation was done and the thought process the show went through to finish the story
Call Me Anytime
Movie Lover: Georgio Spelvini from
NYC -- September, 26, 2006
"Call Northside 777" leaves me smacking my lips with the chiaroscuro visuals. The additional commentary on the DVD by James Ursiniand and Alain Silver is insightful and adds to the full enjoyment of the film and how it was created.
While at the same time discouraged at the after-taste of a story that serves to re-affirm the basic tenets of the post-war nihilism, where no one is guilty in a world where basic survival practices fall short of an ideal value system.
The 1948 film directed by Henry Hathaway released by Twentieth Century-Fox has plenty to admire and the visuals, acting and script elements all contribute to its appeal.
Based on an actual event the whole story supposedly dramatizes documented facts, much of which is leading to a point with no resolution, and leaves us wondering about the truth.
The script by Jerome Cady and Jay Dratler feature many technological advances like the new-fangled lie detector test that Richard Conte is strapped to. The featured bit of technology is a photography wire machine that allows James Stewart to expand a part of a newspaper photo as evidence.
The commentary track is a great resource for some of the back-story about why the star James Stuart did the film, and the fact that he was 40 years old- over the hill for leading men of his day.
But the substantial content of the story of a man accused of killing a police office and sent to jail for 99 years still remains problematic.
The key issue that releases the accused, played by Richard Conte, is a small fact that proves that the finger woman had actually seen the accused before she fingered him- a fact that the police denied. This is what allowed the release of the man from prison after 11 years.
The overriding "refrigerator" question is: who are the key culprits in the story?
We never locate the real killer, but are lead to the institution that brought the man to trial and imprisoned him - the justice system and all the bureaucrats that are intent on keeping the newspapers from delivering any negative stories on the police and the law department that imprisoned the man.
"Call Northside 777" is a groundbreaking film because it doesn't promise that it will find the criminal.
The visual elements in the film support completely the nature of the story obscuring faces, and hiding details. And the documentary footage used to open the film further adds to the feeling of the "true story" feeling of the film.
The film is filled with dangling facts about who did what and when. Even the small thing that frees Wiecek is only a detail about when the key finger person said she was near him.
"Call Northside 777" is a great look at the murky world of innocence and guilt and how the law enforcement powers contribute to malfunction of the system.