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Author Topic: Beyond A Reasonable Doubt (1956)  (Read 2500 times)
cigar joe
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« on: February 07, 2013, 08:10:28 AM »

Thanks to TCM finally caught up with this -

directed by Fritz Lang  stars Dana Andrews, Joan Fontaine, Sidney Blackner, Arthur Franz and Philip Bourneuf



You think you know where this is going but it has an interesting twist though a bit too abruptly/clumsy executed. Barbara Nichols is good as a stripper & has a larger part than she usually has 6.5/10



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Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956)
Beyond circumstantial evidence is possibly folly?


Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is directed by Fritz Lang and written by Douglas Morrow. It stars Dana Andrews, Joan Fontaine, Sidney Blackner, Arthur Franz and Philip Bourneuf. Music is by Herschel Burke Gilbert and cinematography by William Snyder. Plot has Andrews as a writer who hatches a plan with his future father-in-law to expose the weakness in using circumstantial evidence to send suspects to the electric chair. The ruse is to plant "evidence" that will incriminate Andrews in a topical murder and see him sentenced to death. Then the two men will reveal their own photographic evidence to prove the folly of law and the death penalty. But it's a dangerous game to play, and fate and hidden secrets may have the ultimate say on the outcome?

It was Fritz Lang's last American movie, after wowing cinema fans with such excellent pictures like M, The Big Heat, Scarlet Street and While the City Sleeps, it's safe to say that Beyond A Reasonable Doubt is not the great swansong many had reason to expect. There's nothing particularly impressive about the camera work or photography, while the sets look distinctly under nourished. But veering away from our yearnings for technical smarts, film finds Lang determined to prove a bitter based point whilst enjoying dangling his protagonist above a fascinating pit of ifs and maybes.

The fascination comes from the court case that underpins the movie, as we observe the law unfurling its might, privy to the dangerous ruse perpetrated by Andrews' daring Guinea Pig. It feels cold in narrative, and most certainly that is intentional because the last fifteen minutes of film pulls the rug from under everyone and finally reveals its hand. It's then, as the end card appears, that the film comes full circle and delivers on the promise of a game of human chess. Where the winner is not innocence or guilt, but something that drives many a film noir picture, that which concerns the vagaries of fate.

The main cast players rightly play it sedately, with Andrews calm and understated, and Fontaine regal like and serene in dialogue delivery. Best turns come from the support slots, with Blackner most interesting as the newspaper publisher-come potential father-in-law-come the man who originated the idea for the "hoax", and Barbara Nichols who charms and entertains as the air head dancer who becomes a critical pawn in this particularly tricksy game of deceit and suspicion. It's never overtly film noir until the last quarter, and really it's a court room/legal drama sprinkled with some less than sparkly dust. Yet in spite of the undeniable contrivances that reside within the plot, this is still prime Lang for the way it observes the law and the human condition that said law brings out of the skin. 7.5/10

« Last Edit: February 07, 2013, 08:15:31 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2013, 03:14:21 PM »

just saw this on TCM.

I give it a 4/10

All along, I was thinking to myself that it was a pretty good story, though the film wasn't made all that great. But when that big twist comes at the end, it turns this into an awful movie.

Even if we can accept the idea that someone would get himself convicted just to prove a point about capital punishment - and even if he knows that it may ruin his relationship with the girl he loves; and even if the prospective father-in-law is willing to risk his daughter's happiness just to prove the point about capital punishment - there ain't no way in hell that the man would agree to bring suspicion on himself for a murder that he ACTUALLY DID COMMIT  Roll Eyes  that is as ludicrous a notion as can possibly be, and no suspension of disbelief works here. That a man can commit murder, get away without any suspicion, but then willingly put himself under suspicion just to prove a point about capital punishment - a murderer who suddenly becomes a crusader for some moral cause - is simply ludicrous.

To me, it seems that the screenwriter got just a little too cute.

Now, there is one way in which it would have made a lot of sense for Andrews to bring suspicion on himself: if he is using it as an excuse in case he is caught. In other words, if he is afraid that there is actually evidence of his crime, and that he will actually be caught and arrested for the murder; then subsequently his father-in-law's tells him of his plans for the setup, that could be a perfect cover-up: now he goes along with the setup, and just in case he is ever actually accused of the crime because the cops discover some REAL evidence, he can always say, "this was part of our setup all along." So if they would have mentioned that angle, then Andrews's decision to go along with the setup actually would have made a lot of sense. Heck, maybe you could even say it would have been brilliant.

But as it is, there is no suspicion on Andrews, and the possibility that he went along with the setup for the reason I mentioned above is never mentioned. So, the filmmakers would have us believe that Andrews kills the girl, then is convinced that capital punishment is wrong, so in order to make the point, agrees to bring suspicion on himself for a murder he committed and which no one suspects him of. Sorry, that is just ridiculous  Roll Eyes

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« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2017, 02:37:14 PM »

Just saw this. I agree this was a big letdown. Lang, Andrews, Fontaine...nobody was in top form here. All of them brilliant under the right circumstances, here they are not more than merely proficient.

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« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2017, 12:36:04 AM »

I saw this a couple of years ago. Decent enough film, but not too memorable. I seem to recall thinking that the ending would be quite different. Turns out that the ending was more of a let-down than anything. Personally, I prefer the ending which I came up for this film....ha ha.  Smiley

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« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2017, 09:30:49 AM »

I rate it a very thin 7/10. It's decent and somewhat enjoyable but as JR mentioned, lackluster performances and directing makes it a disappointing experience.

Still/obviously stands head and shoulders above the remake with Michael Douglas  Wink

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« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2017, 10:13:58 AM »

I never even saw the remake. I'm not a Michael Douglas fan. Now as for his father... Smiley

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