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This dramatization of a factual incident opens in a quiet Connecticut town where a kindly priest is murdered while waiting at a street corner. The citizens are horrified and demand action from the police. All of the witnesses identify John Waldron, a nervous out-of-towner, as the killer. Although Waldron vehemently denies the crime, no one will believe him. District Attorney Henry Harvey is then put on the case and faces political opposition in his attempt to prove Waldron's innocence. Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A solid drama with a strong final court scene and interesting political comment
In a small town in Connecticut, Father Lambert is a pillar of the community and, when a man shoots him dead and runs off the shockwaves are felt far and deep. The political pressure is on when the "people" start appealing to the Mayor to catch the man responsible. As always, the sh*t rolls downhill and State's Attorney Henry Harvey finds himself with a few weeks to avoid taking the blame for the failure to bring someone in. When the police bring back John Waldron from Ohio they break him and he signs a confession. Harvey prepares a strong case despite Waldron maintaining his innocence, meanwhile the political games around the case build.
Based on a true story, this film opens with a narration that "this could happen anywhere" etc in the way that films used to often do. Regardless of where it happened the story is still good. On one level this film is about the murder and it follows the court case of the man charged with the murder. This is interesting for the majority without ever really catching fire but the final 20 minutes in court provide one good scene (maybe not the famous court scene from JFK but it is still engaging to watch Harvey ripping his own case down from the top. Intertwined with this is an enjoyable criticism of political manoeuvring within the idea of "justice"; it isn't as sharp as I would have liked but I was surprised that it was there at all considering the period.
The cast are mostly good but it is Andrews that runs things here. He is a slow starter but he convinces when in a moral mire and works well as he pulls out the stops to producing a zippy and engaging conclusion. Aside from him no other performance really stands out that well Begley is particularly disappointing as the material deserved more than he delivered. The cast does feature some famous faces including Cobb, Malden and Levene but it is Andrews show as he leads it well.
Overall a good film from Kazan with a solid case at the core while also having enjoyable threads about political game playing (which in fairness was probably stronger than I thought, but I've been into The Wire recently so in this area everything pales by comparison).
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