Alfred Hitchcock draws upon real-life drama for this gripping piece of realism [from the Life magazine story The True Story of Christopher Emmanuel Balestrero by Maxwell Anderson]. He builds the case of a NY Stork Club musician falsely accused of a series of holdups to a powerful climax, the events providing director a field day in his art of characterization and suspense.
Subject here is Manny Balestrero, the bass fiddle player whose story hit Gotham headlines in 1953 when he was arrested for crimes he did not commit. In a case of mistaken identity, he was not freed until the actual culprit was found during his trial. Not, however, before the musician, a family man with a wife and two young sons, went through the harrowing ordeal of being unable to prove his innocence.
Hitchcock drains the dramatic possibilities with often frightening overtones, as the spectator comes to realize that the very same could happen to him, if he fell into such a situation. The musician, played with a stark kind of impersonation by Fonda, is positively identified by several of the holdup victims, and other circumstances arise which seem to prove his guilt.