Then he’s told to dictate a copy of the robbery note in print, not cursive script, which most people would naturally write in. When he misspells the word drawer as draw, as did the real robber, the lazy cops feel they’ve all but solved the case. Manny is booked, and a series of humiliating scenes where he is systematically deindividuated, denigrated, and dehumanized begins. He is let out on $7500 bail, when family, friends, and co-workers rally about him, but does find a lawyer who will believe in him. Yet, two of the three people who could provide an alibi for his whereabouts the day of the first robbery, when he and Rose vacationed at a hotel, turn out to have died in the interim. A third, a boxer, cannot be located. There is also the toothache angle that is not followed up on.
There is then a rare Hitchcockian courtroom scene, but Hitchcock ends the scene with a mistrial, when one of the jurors acts out. Meanwhile, Rose inexplicably cracks. Has she always had problems? Does she feel that her inadequacies have driven Manny to crime? We do not know, and Hitchcock does not say — which is a wise choice. But Vera Miles is simply not a strong enough actress to convey the emotional complexities needed for the depressed and paranoid character.
It’s admirable for the film to not limit the family’s sufferings to Manny, but an actress with more psychological gravitas would have been better. As great a technical director as Hitchcock was, one can only imagine how much more interesting a film this would have been in the hands of an Orson Welles, for its manifest Kafka-esque qualities.
Despite his WASPish looks, Fonda pulls off his non-leading man role with aplomb and suitable bewilderment. The Roman Catholicism of Manny is also an odd addition to the film from the usually apolitical and areligious Hitchcock, so shots of Manny’s rosary beads when booked, and of his crucifix at his trial, stand out. So does a bravura sequence where, in despair, and after being told to pray by his mother, Manny looks at a painting of Jesus, we cut to his face, and then we dissolve to a shot of the real robber (Richard Robbins) walking down the street to rob another store. The robber’s face fills in the frame occupied by Manny’s.