Wrong Number (1959)

It is one of those rare posts on my blog where instead of reviewing a book I review a film instead. What makes this film even more out of the ordinary is that it ties in with the monthly challenge hosted by Rich at his blog Past Offences, with this month’s chosen year being 1959. As the title suggests this film uses the trope of a character unintentionally overhearing suspicious conversation on the telephone, a trope that was used in the earlier film, Sorry Wrong Number (1948), (which I would like to see at some point). Characters overhearing details of a criminal’s devious schemes is something which does come up in crime fiction but this is one of those rare tropes which I think sometimes actually works better in the medium of film, especially if the conversation is being overheard on the telephone.

Image result for wrong number 1959 trailer

I love the incongruity of the film being rated a PG yet also having a notice further up saying: Not suitable for children.

Given that the film is only 58 minutes long the plot is quite simple:

“A telephone number dialled in error could prove the downfall of a ruthless criminal gang in this gripping Merton Park thriller from versatile British director Vernon Sewell […] A security guard is murdered during a mail-van robbery and one of the van crew overhears the killer’s name: Angelo. Before the murderer can phone his boss to confirm that the job has been successfully accomplished, the elderly Miss Crystal mistakenly dials the same number and hears a girl ask if it is Angelo speaking. The next day, seeing the newspaper headlines, Miss Crystal realises she may have a valuable clue – but can she remember the incorrect number she dialled…?”

Yet despite the short length I think this film was more than just an action focused story. The film quickly sets up the inner tensions of the criminal gang and most of the story is seen from their increasingly doubting and fearful point of view. Of course they soon begin to turn on each other and divide. My two favourite characters were the two women. One of them is a young female within the gang, played by Lisa Gastoni and she definitely wins the award for the most glamorous act of theft. The psychological tension within the gang is also partially centred on her, as there are two others within the group who desire her affections. The other female character I enjoyed was Miss Crystal, (played by Olive Sloane), who I felt was a good comic foil to the grimmer crime plot, though at times she was a little bit too dippy for my liking. The one thing this film needed to improve upon was Miss Crystal’s role in the story, as invariably it is too rushed, leaving her character ultimately underdeveloped, which I thought a shame given the potential of it. Furthermore, because of the short film time the ending is unsurprisingly hastily concluded, which unfortunately made the ending rather anti-climactic and limp. However, on the whole this was a nice quick film.

I haven’t been able to find a trailer for this film but here is a short clip from it that I found:

 

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About armchairreviewer

Qualified English teacher, with a passion for literature and crime fiction. On a random note I also own pygmy goats and chickens with afros (it doesn't get any cooler than that).
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3 Responses to Wrong Number (1959)

  1. Brad says:

    I like that, no matter how stressed the gang is, they all took the time to suit up nicely. I’ve never seen such sartorial splendor in a bunch of crooks! Fifty eight minutes strikes me as an awfully short length to accomplish what a film sets out to do, but it was exciting to be here for your debut as a film critic! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not quite my debut, as I have done the odd film review post, but it has been quite a while since the last one. Films under an hour as a rule tend to feel like they are lacking something, with the endings usually condensed into the last two minutes.

      Like

  2. Pingback: ‘The admiration that existed for all things American’: 1959 books | Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

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