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on 28 October 2011
A newspaper publisher (Sidney Blackmer) and a writer (Dana Andrews) concoct a plan to show the inherent flaws of capital punishment by planting false evidence at the scene of a crime suggesting that the writer is guilty of murder. Once the writer is convicted of the murder, the publisher will provide evidence of the writer's innocence. Of course, due to unforeseen circumstances something goes horribly wrong. Directed by Fritz Lang, it's an intriguing little thriller but it doesn't carry the weight of Lang's other (better) 1956 film, WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS also starring Andrews. It's ironic "twist" ending can be easily guessed at but it's expertly made nonetheless though Lang doesn't seem much interested in the subject matter. Still, I suppose that won't stop the Lang auteurists from seeing something in it that isn't there. Neither Andrews nor Joan Fontaine as his fiancee seem very present in their scenes but some of the supporting cast, in particular Barbara Nichols, Robin Raymond and Joyce Taylor as three strippers manage to make an impression. This was Lang's last American film before returning to Germany. The cast includes Arthur Franz, Edward Binns, Shepperd Strudwick and Dan Seymour.

The DVD via Expsure cinema is a bit on the soft side, lacking clarity and contrast but still watchable. No doubt Exposure did the best they could with the material available to them. It's presented in a full frame (1.33) aspect ratio.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 October 2011
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
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 June 2015
For his final American film (made in 1956) Fritz Lang returned to a number of his pet themes around the human condition and, more specifically, the vagaries of the judicial system, providing a fascinating watch in the process. Based on a story (and with a screenplay) by Douglas Morrow, Lang weaves a multi-stranded (and twisting and turning) narrative as Dana Andrews’ ex-journalist turned novelist, Tom Garrett, in collaboration with Sidney Blackmer’s 'father-in-law-to-be’ and newspaper publisher, Austin Spencer, finds himself accused of murder as the pair’s inventive plan to expose the ease with which the judicial system might miscarry backfires. And, although (for me) Lang (eventually) rather overdoes the plot twists here, the film’s analysis of police and judicial procedures and its underlying anti-capital punishment theme (both 'pet subjects’ harking back 25 years to M) make for highly engaging viewing. The film’s noir-like look is also impressively conveyed (with some stunning use of light) via William Snyder’s black-and-white cinematography.

Morrow’s intricate plot, in which the film’s expansive cast of characters are frequently either professionally or personally interdependent, also allows for a perceptive exploration of potential institutional corruption and exploitation, as journalists have privileged (and influential) access to both the police and judiciary. Acting-wise, Lang’s film is solid rather than spectacular, with Andrews and Blackmer putting in nicely restrained turns, whilst Joan Fontaine’s daughter to Spencer (and Garrett’s intended) is quietly impressive as she is kept in the dark regarding the pair’s intriguing ruse. Also worth a mention are Robin Raymond and Barbara Nichols’ pair of brassy showgirls, Terry and Dolly, who are key to Garrett’s plan to be ‘framed’ for murder and who provide the film’s comedic thread (Nichols impressively played a near identical role in the classic film Sweet Smell Of Success).

The court procedurals are always engaging as Garrett maintains a degree of calm assurance as the innocent man accused – a theme which also calls to mind one of Lang’s most frequent comparators, Hitchcock. The film keeps twisting to the end and even though the final 'fatalistic hairpin’ is perhaps one too many (and less convincing than those preceding), Beyond A Reasonable Doubt represents another worthy film in the Lang oeuvre.
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on 29 July 2011
I've always liked crafty thrillers and thoroughly enjoyed this one. I didn't know Fritz Lang had made films like this, so now I'm on the lookout for his others.

I can't see why the previous reviewer didn't like the quality as it looks very good on my large LCD TV. Considering the film's obscurity, a few print scratches are quite acceptable and I'm very glad that someone bothered to issue it properly on DVD.
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on 6 March 2013
This film is superbly crafted, draws you into the story, and doesn't let up with it's pace and ingenuity. The quality of the print is good and the DVD is nicely packaged too. This film is well worth watching, you will not be disappointed with the outcome, either with the film or your purchase.
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on 16 January 2012
I would highly recommend this film for the old black & white movie lovers. An interesting story with a twist
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on 10 November 2011
If you thought the court system was not up to scratch how would you go about testing it? Perhaps an in-depth investigative report? Maybe a letter to your local MP in the hopes they will examine the situation on your behalf? Very few of us would choose to pretend we murdered a person, but this is exactly what Tom Garret does in `Beyond a Reasonable Doubt'. Tom does this in the hopes of proving the death penalty is fallible; take the blame for a murder and reveal the truth after he is sent down. But the road to stupidity is paved with good intensions.

I'm a fan of Fritz Lang's noir period, but `Reasonable Doubt' is the turkey in his collection. This is simply due to the premise of the story being so extraordinary and farcical. Who in their right mind would risk getting themselves killed? There are far easier ways to tackle the death penalty, especially when your father in law (to be) runs a paper. There is a twist that tries to explain some deeper motives, but this is left far too late and leaves you even more flabbergasted.

The film is also not helped by some wooden acting; Dana Andrews is earnest, but shallow as the hero Tom and the love interest, played by Joan Fontaine, is so wooden I repeatedly mistook her for a piece of the set. Perhaps the actors knew they were in a farfetched story that held no weight, so decided to coast their performances. The entire thing feels flat and more than a little bit ridiculous. Only really worth watching for core noir fans looking for something to be a little bemused and amazed by.
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on 9 July 2016
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt had potential but lacks a sense of urgency. The twists were unexpected but they weren't executed as well as they should have been by the director. Kudos to Joan Fontaine for attempting to elevate the film but she's dragged down by Dana Andrews who seems to be going through the motions.
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on 25 July 2011
Just watched "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" on my TV (32 inches HD) and it looked OK. Not mediocre, but not too good either. It was a little on the soft side, overly bright and interlaced, with quite a few instances of combing. The print itself was not in the best of shapes, but certainly watchable. I doubt very much though that anyone seeing this on a bigger screen will get a good image. This transfer is very inferior to "While the City Sleeps" by the same company.
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on 5 July 2013
I have made the point in other reviews and elsewhere that a piece of art has to withstand repeated encounters without palling too much in order to rank well.
With this movie I guess once you have watched the final scene you'll not be too fussy about returning to it. In a sense I am contradicting myself here for I think with a one off showing the film deserves at least three stars. My main question is, why give the Joan Fontaine part to that talented actress?
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