Stanwyck is Incomparable in this Masterpiece of Isolation.
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 08/31/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In "Sorry, Wrong Number", Barbara Stanwyck turns in one of the many memorable performances that made her the Queen of Noir. Leona (Barbara Stanwyck) is the spoiled daughter of a pharmaceutical magnate, now a demanding invalid wife to Henry Stevenson (Burt Lancaster), who must live every moment to please her. One evening she overhears a telephone conversation between two men plotting a murder. Unnerved by the call, alone in her vast apartment, and increasingly worried when her husband doesn't come home from work, Leona uses the only means she has to communicate with the outside world: the telephone. She calls everyone she can think of to find her husband, but what she learns only makes her more anxious as to his fate and her own.
"Sorry, Wrong Number" is based on a popular radio play by Lucille Fletcher, who also wrote a novel based on the play and the screenplay for this film. Leona's confinement to her apartment, where her only means of figuring out what is going on is a telephone, is one of the most effective uses of isolation in cinematic history. Leona isn't a sympathetic character. But her physical and emotional isolation is so palpable that it's unnerving. She can't control what's happening to her. Her insular, dependent lifestyle has left her paranoid. So it's hard to say if anything is happening to her at all. Is paranoia with justification still paranoia? And who were the mysterious men on the phone talking about? Where is her husband? The fact that the audience doesn't know the answers to those questions any more than Leona does makes "Sorry, Wrong Number" a top-notch thriller and a masterpiece of empathy in the service of suspense.
The DVD: The only bonus feature is a theatrical trailer. Subtitles are available in English. Dubbing is available in French."
A Murder Mystery Milestone
William Hare | Seattle, Washington | 01/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster were two of the most dynamic stars in Hollywood history and together they generated fireworks in "Sorry, Wrong Number." Anatole Litvak directed this mystery classic along with "Snake Pit" and both were released in 1948. Both "Sorry, Wrong Number" and "Snake Pit" deal with psychiatric problems, a major winner during the period following Alfred Hitchcock's success in "Spellbound" three years earlier.
Based on a radio drama, the film revolves around Stanwyck overhearing a party line conversation concerning what she soon realizes is a plan to murder her that evening. The bed ridden woman then frantically pieces together all the information she can about the planned event. She becomes overwhelmed when she realizes that Lancaster, who is conveniently away on business, is part of the mix.
A surprise that emerges during all the investigation, which involves convincingly applied flashbacks, is Stanwyck's physical condition. She refers to herself as an invalid and lives the part, but Wendell Corey in the role of a doctor consulted by Lancaster reveals that Stanwyck's problems are psychological rather than physiological as her periodic "attacks" occur whenever her husband challenges the status quo.
The plight into which Stanwyck ultimately descends results from her strong-willed and spoiled manner as a young woman who sees Lancaster and plucks him from the arms of a woman from his own station in life who loves him. Her father, played by Ed Begley, is a Chicago pharmaceutical giant who initially balks over her intention to marry a man from a poor family who has lived his entire life in a small town and is a high school dropout. The unrelenting Stanwyck is used to getting her way and it proves to her ultimate disadvantage with Lancaster.
Some reviewers criticized the film by stating that Lancaster, a he man type, was miscast as someone who is pigeonholed by a rich woman and put in a showcase vice president's job working under her father with few responsibilities other than satisfying her. They missed the point of recognizing that the film's dramatic tension springs from the conflict within Lancaster, who is too strong and independent to function as a "toy boy" for a spoiled rich woman. Eventually he tells her, "I've learned to like this life but on my own terms." Stanwyck is then confronted with a monster of her own creation.
When Lancaster turns against Stanwyck it is with a vengeance as he convinces a chemist to unite with him to make money by siphoning off some of the company's drug supply and selling it to the mob for a huge profit. William Conrad plays the part of the mob boss with stern conviction.
The clock ultimately winds down for Lancaster as well as Stanwyck as they both become enmeshed in complicated mob machinations."
It's aged incredibly well
Emily Threlkeld | Houston, TX | 02/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was impressed that a movie made in 1948 still had such an impact on me, 60 years later.
The story centers around Barbara Stanwyck's character, a rich invalid. She's stuck at home one night, without her nurse, and her husband, played by Burt Lancaster, is late coming home. While trying to call his office, the phone lines cross, and she overhears two men plotting a murder.
This makes her incredibly uneasy. She calls her husband's secretary, who tells her about a woman who came to his office, then she calls the woman, then her doctor, then a man who works with her husband, growing more and more frantic with each phone call. Slowly she starts to piece together things about her husband that she never knew before.
You get more and more drawn in as the movie goes on. By the last five minutes, I was holding my breath and I had that tight little feeling in my stomach, not unlike the one I get when I'm on top of a hill on a roller coaster, about to rush down.
Sorry Wrong Number is everything a good suspense film should be. It builds up tension at a perfect pace and, at just the right second, the whole thing comes crashing down."
A Little Treasure for Fans of Suspense
Melinda Hart | Pittsburgh, PA | 10/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Despite the fact the film came out in 1948, it still holds up and even exceeds many of today's so-called thrillers in terms of storytelling and suspense.
There are a few things about this thriller that sets it apart from the rest. One is that it's believeable. Second, her process of investigation, trying to track her husband while also trying to get someone to do something about the murder plot is simply use of common sense instead of these extremely complicated ways of discovering plot points in the majority of today's films. She's an invalid and faced with that dilemma, they successfully distract us from the time as each call takes us back, giving an understanding of why she'll be murdered at 11:15.
By the time this film reaches its climax, we understand the pain and frustration of each of these characters, who are both the cause of the horrible event about to take place.
The climax would have failed had we not been set up properly. Without an understanding of both points of view, that ending never would have paid off because you wouldn't have believed in their remorse in the end.
By the time they realize the mistakes they've made, it's too late to right them and this little treasure of a film delivers one of best last lines ever in a movie. And who could forget Bowery 2-1000?
With so many films remade today including "The Haunting," "House of Wax" and "House on Haunted Hill," you wonder why somebody hasn't attempted to update this story. Very rarely does Hollywood acheive a successful remake, but if it's good stories they want (and those are usually the ones to make good box office returns) they should take notes from Sorry, Wrong Number. The only film I can think of that even resembles this film is "Cellular" and it doesn't hold a candle to this classic.
So, if you want to curl up on your couch on a cold, October night with a bowl full of popcorn, I recommend this little jem for a night of genuine suspense."