Movie Critique # 362: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

Stars: 3 / 5

Recommendation:  With obvious disconnects, the plot is still strong enough for one to want to watch it. 

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is a 1956 American film noir starring Dana Andrews, Joan Fontaine, Sidney Blackmer, and Arthur Franz. This was the last American film directed by Fritz Lang. The synopsis of the plot reminded me of a Telugu (South Indian Language) and spiked my interest to watch it. And thus my review. The whole plot is based on the need to prove by a newspaper publisher that the concept of circumstantial evidence is inadequate and that capital punishment should be removed.

Austin Spencer (portrayed by Sidney Blackmer) wants to prove that circumstantial evidence in the law can be misused and is an inadequate support for either defense or the prosecution. He enlists the help of his daughter, Susan's (portrayed by Joan Fontaine) fiancee Tom Garrett (portrayed by Dana Andrews) to create a false scenario and a trail of false evidence and eventually trap the district attorney - DA Roy Thompson (portrayed by Philip Bourneuf) in his plot. Tom is supposed to plant clues of a murder that will lead to his arrest and find him guilty. When the guilty verdict is given, Austin is to come forward with the real evidence and about their ploy and free Tom thus creating a doubt on the circumstantial evidence and also make a fool of the District Attorney. That's when things turn to worse for Tom which is what the rest of the plot turns out to be.

Interestingly enough a film that had such a strong concept and even was remade after 50+ years of its release, it actually was a box office failure. After watching the film I realized why it was so. For instance, in the beginning of the film the entire discussion between Arthur Spencer and Tom Garrett about framing Tom for a murder happens on the same day the murder had happened and Spencer had already published in his paper too. However when evidence was produced, there are facts that the director shows which looks like happened prior to the day of murder but the beginning plot doesn’t support so. There is a clear disconnect there. And quite a few places during the trial and after there are some serious disconnects. However, the film wasn’t that unfortunate to have failed horribly.

I enjoyed it thoroughly it being a failure at box office and despite the obvious disconnects. Not a whole lot of waste of time if you want to watch it.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) The plot for this 1956 film is loosely based on the 1946 American film The Man Who Dared. I hadn't watched this film though.

2) True to my suspicions, the Telugu film - 1983 hit classic Abhilasha ( = Desire) - was indeed made based upon a plot from a Hollywood movie. But it was not this movie though. It was based on the 1946 American film The Man Who Dared.

3) However this 1956 thriller was remade into a 2009 thriller with the same name starring Jesse Metcalfe, Michael Douglas and Amber Tamblyn with a little bit twist to suit the time period.

4) Philip Bourneuf portrayed the role of District Attorney Roy Thompson in this film. However I remember him in three or four of Perry Mason series. 

5) Note how this bar owner creates a rustic air conditioning for himself. Genius isn't? ;) I remember seeing something like this in my childhood when I visited towns and villages back home. 

6) Here is a trailer of the film that almost reveals the entire plot.


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