Call Northside 777 (1948)

(On DVD, January 2008) Even sixty years later, James Stewart is still The Man: As the lead in this semi-documentary drama about a journalist working to free a man unjustly accused of murder, he’s the mesmerizing rock upon which everything else depends. His impassioned speech at the end of the film evokes memories of other great Stewart performances, but it also stands on its own. Six decades later, it’s easy to be amused by the dramatic devices in what must have felt like a techno-thriller back then: The lie detector, the photographic processes, the remote transmission process: yeah technology! But the film itself is solid: Even if the film shows its age, the characters are interesting, the rhythm compares well to other films of the time and the look at then-Chicago has its own charm. But most of all: James Stewart. The guy isn’t one of the greats for nothing.

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