A serial killer has been killing beautiful women in New York and the new owner of a media company offers a high ranking job to the first of his senior executives who can get the earliest scoops on the case.
A young orphan is sent to the village of Moonfleet, in Dorset, England to stay with his mother's former lover, who has the facade of a gentleman but is a leader of a gang of swashbuckling bootleggers. The duo went on a treasure hunt.
Mae Doyle comes back to her hometown a cynical woman. Her brother Joe fears that his love, fish cannery worker Peggy, may wind up like Mae. Mae marries Jerry and has a baby; she is happy but restless, drawn to Jerry's friend Earl.
British hunter Thorndike vacationing in Bavaria has Hitler in his gun sight. He is captured, beaten, left for dead, and escapes back to London where he is hounded by German agents and aided by a young woman.
Tom Garrett's a reporter on leave from his job. As Tom's having difficulty writing the book, his boss, publisher Austin Spencer, suggests he write a non-fiction book on capital punishment, The pair set out to frame Tom for a murder he didn't commit in order to eradicate capital punishment.Written by
why BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT is Lang's best US film
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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