Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956)
Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
Novelist Tom Garret (Dana Andrews) agrees to help wealthy publisher Austin Spenser (Sidney Blackmer), the father of his fiance, Susan ($Joan Fontaine) to plant evidence that will incriminate Tom in a murder and be sentenced to death, hoping to discredit capital punishment by revealing Tom's innocence. Beyond A Reasonable Doubt, the last American film of Fritz Lang, was made on a low budget, with poor production values and, unusual for Lang, not much visual style. Nevertheless, the film has considerable impact because of the narrative structure and mood and the expertly devised plot, in which the turnabout is both surprising and convincing. The film poses as a rather conventional "plight of an innocent man" story, but is filled with an array of involving, complex subplots and Lang utilizes an odd, but effective editing which focuses on seemingly irrelevant inanimate objects to create an uneasy, almost subliminal uncertainty about surface reality. The plot ending therefore is not so much of a surprise, but rather a shock of insight, that is emotionally and logically convincing. … More
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Critic Reviews for Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
Fritz Lang's direction does what it can to inject suspense and interest but the melodrama never really jells.
Lang's most austere film, reducing the characters to pawns arbitrarily shifted in demonstration of a fascinating theorem.
Once he's raised the standard social issues, Lang destroys them all with a shatteringly nihilistic conclusion.
While the purpose may be exemplary, the method the gentlemen employ is highly dubious as a practical exposition. And once it is revealed to prove their point, it should certainly put them in a pickle for conspiring to subvert justice and fool the courts.
It is a film of great economy and precision (it lasts only 80 minutes), with the terrifying inevitability of Greek tragedy and a pervading sense that man is his own worst enemy.
Audience Reviews for Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt doesn't add up to much more than proof that Fritz Lang's best years were definitely behind him. The premise of an author setting himself up to be framed for murder to prove the fallibility of circumstantial evidence begs for something to go wrong when the only person who can prove his innocence gets killed. Lang set up the plan well enough and the whole period before the too-little-too-late twist at the end kind of dragged, but overall Beyond a Reasonable Doubt was just generally dull. Dana Andrews was just kind of there and watching Joan Fontaine in this movie was like watching off-white paint dry in a Midwestern state. If you're a hardcore Lang fan you may be able to appreciate this movie on some levels but its mostly just a big dull pile of whatever.
Very clever film.
Extremely well done Noir with some great twists. Joan Fontaine's performance has a lot more depth then the typical Noir character (certainly skirt) and she does a great job.
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