Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT (1956). Director: Fritz Lang.

After viewing an  execution in a prison, writer Tom Garrett (Dana Andrews) and newspaper publisher Austin Spencer (Sidney Blackmer) have a discussion in which the latter wonders if the dead man, convicted on purely circumstantial evidence, could have been innocent. While Spencer is very much opposed to the death penalty, Garrett is thinking more of what a great book it would make if the two of them conspired to make it look as if the latter were responsible for the unsolved murder of a show girl. The idea is to get the innocent Garrett convicted and then whip out photographs Spencer has taken of Garrett planting phony evidence. (It doesn't occur to either of them that by tampering with evidence and obstructing justice they would both be committing serious crimes.) The biggest problem is that the two men don't include Spencer's daughter Susan (Joan Fontaine), who is engaged to Garrett, in the loop. While the whole movie has to be taken with a grain of salt, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt moves at a brisk pace and is quite entertaining, offering a neat twist that most viewers won't see coming. Andrews' stoicism serves him well as Garrett, Blackmer is as good as usual, and Fontaine is simply outstanding in her strongly emotional scenes as Joan. Arthur Franz, Shepperd Strudwick, Barbara Nichols and Philip Bourneuf are also solid in supporting roles. Remade -- quite well -- in 2009.

 Verdict: Invigorating suspense film with neat finale. ***.

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