Sunday, August 14, 2016

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt ( 1956 )

"Put them all together they spell M-U-R-D-E-R!" 

The jigsaw pieces seen on the poster to Beyond a Reasonable Doubt certainly capture the essence of this film - it's a puzzler. Fritz Lang directed a marvelous little thriller that keeps its audiences delighted in trying to out-guess the various twists and turns in the plot....right up until the electrifying finale. 

Sidney Blackmer portrays a publisher who is opposed to capital punishment, and so, to publicly expose the frailty of circumstantial evidence involved in most cases, he persuades his future son-in-law, novelist Dana Andrews, to be framed in the murder of a stripper....with the intention of providing proof that all the evidence used in the case was planted. However, things go dreadfully wrong and Andrews finds his life on the line when he really is accused of the crime.

"It's a weird, crazy idea, but that's the reason it intrigues me."

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt was fairly well received by critics upon its initial release and has since become a minor noir classic, in no small part due to the popularity of Fritz Lang. This film turned out to be his final Hollywood production and he left for Europe before it was even completed, leaving Gene Fowler Jr. with the task of editing it down to 80 minutes. 
The film has all the elements you would expect in a noir - moody monochrome tones, a disentranced protagonist, a few seedy locales, and numerous plot twists. Even the now requisite nightclub singer is thrown in for good measure. 

Joan Fontaine, who appeared in very few noirs, gives a good performance as Andrew's fiancee, distraught at the thought that her sweetheart may very well end up in the electric chair for a publicity stunt gone awry. However, it is Dana Andrew's performance that really makes the plot believable. He was going through some personal problems at the time of filming but he didn't let that interfere with his performance quality. Also cast is Arthur Franz, Barbara Nichols, and Sheppard Strudwick ( certainly one of the busiest character actors of the 1950s ). 

This post is our contribution to The Film Noir Blogathon being hosted by The Midnite Drive-In. Be sure to check out this link for more reviews of classic film noirs. 

6 comments:

  1. It's a dandy alright! A nail biter of a finish. Dana Andrews had that world weary look so suitable for film-noir.

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  2. I enjoyed Fritz Lang in what I've seen. Which isn't a heck of a lot, but it's all been good. Haven't noticed if my library has this one, but I'll look. Good review, thanks for playing along.

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  3. Man, here's another one I haven't seen! And with Dana Andrews, too. Sheesh! I'm really slipping.

    The plot twists sound intriguing. Thanks for introducing me to yet another film! :)

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  4. The first time I saw it--as a teenager--I never saw the twist coming. Would love to see it again...it's been ages.

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  5. I haven't seen this one in years, but I remember Dana being very good indeed in it.

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  6. I've just installed iStripper, so I can watch the hottest virtual strippers on my taskbar.

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