7.0/10
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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 in the murder of a stripper as part of an effort to ban capital punishment.

Director:

Fritz Lang

Writer:

Douglas Morrow (story and screenplay)
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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 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 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

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

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

Tom Garrett: [to Spencer] It's a weird, crazy idea, but that's the reason it intrigues me.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in JFK (1991) 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

 
Last but by no means least for Lang!
17 November 2004 | by The_VoidSee all my reviews

For his final Hollywood film, Fritz Lang decided to expose the pitfalls of capital punishment for circumstantial evidence. For this film, Lang has kept it simple; with the entire movie focusing on the central premise and not a lot of anything else going on. Filmmakers can sometimes saturate a film with lots of sub-plots, and it can have a huge detrimental effect on what the film is trying to achieve. By keeping it simple, Lang gives himself time to fully explore the implications of his plot and the film is made more compelling because of this. The story follows Austin Spencer; a person of stature that is continually campaigning against circumstantial evidence being used as a means to send someone to the electric chair. His efforts are unsuccessful, until he has the bright idea to have a man sent to death row on circumstantial evidence, only to be pardoned at the last minute by means of the evidence to prove his innocence being brought to light. Enter Tom Garrett; Austin's son in law to be, and the man that agrees to frame himself for murder...

This is perhaps Lang's best assault on the American justice system; he has created a story that is interesting and very plausible and it works a treat in that it gets you thinking about the fact that with this kind of law; someone really could be killed for something they didn't do. Of course, the chances of someone risking being put to death to expose this are unlikely, but then again; it's only a movie, so you can expect to suspend your belief a little for a point to be made. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt also features one of the most finely tuned plot twists that I've seen in a movie. Lang shows us everything about the plot; from the first ideas, to the setting up, all the way to the trial and because of this; the final twist comes as a complete surprise. It's been done and done a million times since this film, but despite this; Beyond a Reasonable Doubt still has the power to shock the viewer.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is one of the highlights of Lang's illustrious filmography. It has an unfairly low IMDb rating, and I hope that you will not use that as a means of deciding whether or not to see this film. It is efficient story telling at it's best and this is one of the highlights of the film noir era.


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