This weekend I caught James Stewart's CALL NORTHSIDE 777 for the first time. Stewart plays a journalist looking into whether a man was wrongly convicted of murder 11 years previously. The film was based on a true story and filmed in semi-documentary style at many of the actual locations in Illinois.
The movie reminded me of another film I recently enjoyed, Richard Widmark's PANIC IN THE STREETS. In each film someone outside the police force is unexpectedly thrust into the role of detective and finds himself hunting for critical witnesses in an unsavory part of town. Each was filmed on location in realistic settings, and each featured non-actors in small roles. The polygraph examiner in CALL NORTHSIDE 777, for instance, plays himself.
The movie provides an interesting peek into the time it was made, particularly in its focus on technology such as polygraph testing, miniature cameras, and wire transmittal of photographs. Stewart's wife, played by Helen Walker, smoking in her (twin) bed in the middle of the night was another brief moment particularly reflective of the film's era.
James Stewart is always a pleasure to watch, and this film was no exception. He was supported by Lee J. Cobb as his editor and Richard Conte as the convicted murderer. The movie was directed by Henry Hathaway. It was filmed in black and white and has a running time of 111 minutes.
CALL NORTHSIDE 777 is available on DVD as No. 2 in the Fox Film Noir series. Extras on the DVD include a commentary track along with a trailer and newsreel about the film's premiere.
This film is also available on video; the trailer and premiere newsreel are included on the video.