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Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956)

Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | November 1956 (UK)
A novelist aided by his future father-in-law conspires to frame himself for the murder of a burlesque dancer as part of an effort to ban capital punishment.

Director:

Fritz Lang

Writer:

Douglas Morrow (story and screenplay)
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1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Dana Andrews ... Tom Garrett
Joan Fontaine ... Susan Spencer
Sidney Blackmer ... Austin Spencer
Arthur Franz ... Bob Hale
Philip Bourneuf ... Dist. Atty. Roy Thompson
Edward Binns ... Lt. Kennedy
Shepperd Strudwick ... Jonathan Wilson
Robin Raymond ... Terry Larue
Barbara Nichols ... Dolly Moore
William F. Leicester William F. Leicester ... Charlie Miller (as William Lester)
Dan Seymour ... Greco
Rusty Lane ... Judge
Joyce Taylor ... Joan Williams
Carleton Young ... Allan Kirk
Trudy Wroe Trudy Wroe ... Hatcheck Girl
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Storyline

Investigative reporter, Tom Garrett's on leave from his newspaper job to work on a novel. As Tom's having problems writing the book, his boss and future father-in-law, publisher Austin Spencer, suggests he write a non-fiction book on capital punishment in their state, instead. Both men have long believed the states DA, Roy Thompson, has been able to manipulate juries into rendering wrongful guilty verdicts leading to the deaths of innocent people. In an effort to prove it, they decide to plant evidence which would lead to a guilty verdict of an innocent person in a murder case; Tom's to be the nnocent person. To cover their backs, the pair document all of their planted evidence, and plan to make it public after the guilty verdict's rendered. They tell their plan to no one; not even Tom's fiancé (and Austin's daughter), Susan. But, their plan hits a snag, when they forgot to account for 2 items, and this is enough to place Tom's life in real danger. Now, with time running out, saving ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Put them all together they spell M-U-R-D-E-R ! See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Film-Noir

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

November 1956 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Jenseits allen Zweifels See more »

Filming Locations:

Chicago, Illinois, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The last film that Fritz Lang made in the USA before returning to Germany. See more »

Quotes

Austin Spencer: [to Garrett] You get engaged to my daughter, and all you can think about is capital punishment?
See more »

Connections

Featured in Private Property (1960) See more »

Soundtracks

Beyond A Reasonable Doubt
Sung by The Hi-Los (as The Hi-Lo's)
Music by Herschel Burke Gilbert
Lyrics by Alfred Perry
See more »

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User Reviews

why BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT is Lang's best US film
3 January 2009 | by Howard_B_EaleSee all my reviews

Sometimes, in the world of 1940s-1950s film noir, we are given a film so transparently impossible and contrived that we can see ourselves giving up on watching it half way through. But is extremely rare that we are faced with a film where the very response the viewer is having holds the key to the success, rather than the failure, of the film.

Such is the case with BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT, which has - to its credit - been completely misunderstood by many. When we reach the film's conclusion, we realize that even the title of the film itself is a joke, perhaps the ultimate prank on the viewer. Yet to offer analysis of the film would be to destroy its main and most sinister motive; you can't "explain away" the glaring plot holes and contrivances without revealing the twist the film takes in its climax, and to do would rob the viewer of a genuine experience. So... I won't.

Suffice it to say, BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT is far more than it seems and is nothing without the sum of its parts, in total. Lang tackles the story of a person who creates a fictitious role for himself in order to, essentially, pull a fast one on the legal profession for personal gain (or, as it appears on the surface, someone else's). In the world of film noir, of course, we know that such a character won't get away with it, but when Lang depicts the tragedy the viewer knows will come, he majestically turns the entire premise on its head. As a result, it's a cold slap in the face - a devastating critique of the complicity of the audience in following along, hungrily, with such contrivances in cinema.

Every part of the film fits perfectly by not fitting at all. Even the visual style of the film is a cold, rarely pleasing one, almost daring you to suspend your disbelief just a little bit longer without even granting the pleasure of emotionally charged close-ups at key moments. The editing is brutal and jarring, cutting away practically mid-sentence and moving to a similar conversation elsewhere.

As a swan song to his Hollywood career, BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT does to the audience what Billy Wilder does to the industry in SUNSET BLVD. - biting the hand that feeds. The result is a total masterpiece.


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