Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956)

Not Rated  |   |  Crime, Film-Noir, Drama  |  5 September 1956 (USA)
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A novelist aided by his future father-in-law conspires to frame himself in the murder of a stripper as part of an effort to ban capital punishment.



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


Investigative reporter Tom Garrett is on leave from his newspaper job to work on his second novel. As Tom is having problems writing that second book, his boss and future father-in-law, newspaper publisher Austin Spencer, suggests he write a non-fiction book on capital punishment in their state instead. Both Austin and Tom have long believed that the state district attorney, Roy Thompson, has been able to manipulate juries into rendering wrongful guilty verdicts leading to the deaths of innocent people on death row. The plan would be to plant evidence leading to a guilty verdict of an innocent person in a murder case, Tom to be that innocent person. Austin and Tom would document all that planted evidence, and make it public after the rendering of the guilty verdict to reverse that wrongful verdict and hopefully lead to discussion of the merits of abolishing capital punishment. They decide that the fewer people that know about the plan, the better, which means not telling Tom's fiancée... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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


Crime | Film-Noir | Drama


Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

5 September 1956 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Jenseits allen Zweifels  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

2.00 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


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


Terry Larue: [about Garrett] How much do you know about that guy?
Dolly Moore: He's the best score I've made in a long time.
See more »


Remade as Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (2009) See more »


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 (Braintree, MA) – See 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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