DirectorFritz Lang ScreenplayDouglas Morrow CountryUnited States
WriterDouglas Morrow (story) Release dateSeptember 13, 1956 (1956-09-13) (US) CastDana Andrews (Tom Garrett), Joan Fontaine (Susan Spencer), Sidney Blackmer (Austin Spencer), Arthur Franz (Bob Hale), Philip Bourneuf (Roy Thompson), Edward Binns (Lt. Kennedy) Similar moviesThe Executioner's Song, Capital Execution, Execution of Czolgosz with Panorama of Auburn Prison, Looper, War Horse, Fallen
TaglinePut them all together they spell M-U-R-D-E-R !
Beyond a reasonable doubt movie trailer
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is a 1956 film noir directed by Fritz Lang and written by Douglas Morrow. The film stars Dana Andrews, Joan Fontaine, Sidney Blackmer, and Arthur Franz. It was Lang's second film for Friedlob, and the last American film he directed.
1956 beyond a reasonable doubt trailer dana andrews
Austin Spencer (Sidney Blackmer), a newspaper publisher, wants to prove a point about the inadequacy of circumstantial evidence. He talks his daughter's fiancee, Tom Garrett (Dana Andrews), into participating in a hoax, in an attempt to expose the ineptitude of the city's hard-line district attorney. The plan is for Tom to plant clues which will lead to his arrest for the murder of a female nightclub dancer, Patty Gray. Once Tom is found guilty, Spencer is to reveal the setup and humiliate the District Attorney.
Tom agrees to the plan, not knowing that unforeseen events will put a snag in the scheme. Spencer dies in a car accident before he can testify, and photographic evidence intended to clear Tom at his trial is burned to an unrecognizable state. Tom is found guilty and placed on death row in prison. A written testimony by the dead man is found in time to prove the two men's intentions, and Tom is to be pardoned.
However, a slip about the late woman's real name to his fiancee Susan (Joan Fontaine), leads him to confess. Patty Gray, the murder victim, is actually Emma Blucher, Tom Garrett's estranged wife, who had reneged on her promise to divorce him in Mexico. As this was preventing Garrett from marrying Susan he murdered Emma. Garrett's pardon is cancelled in time to prevent the double jeopardy rule coming into effect, and the film closes with him being led back to his cell. We are given to assume that his execution goes ahead as scheduled.
Dana Andrews as Tom Garrett
Joan Fontaine as Susan Spencer
Sidney Blackmer as Austin Spencer
Shepperd Strudwick as Jonathan Wilson
Arthur Franz as Bob Hale
Philip Bourneuf as DA Roy Thompson
Edward Binns as Lt. Kennedy
Robin Raymond as Terry Larue
Barbara Nichols as Dolly Moore
Dan Seymour as Greco
Rusty Lane as Judge
Joyce Taylor as Joan Williams
Carleton Young as Allan Kirk
Joe Kirk as Clothing Store Clerk
Charles Evans as Governor
Wendell Niles as Announcer
Keith M. Booker states that Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is "perhaps the bleakest of his [Lang's] American noir films". Dennis L. White describes the film as having "considerable impact, due not so much to visual style, but as to the narrative structure and mood and to the expertly devised plot, in which the turnabout is both surprising and convincing." Stella Bruzzi, author of Men's Cinema: Masculinity and Mise-en-Scene in Hollywood, felt that the film plot was "overly schematic" and "motivated by a paradox", affecting "an invisible, transparent style while, at the same time, being all about surface and performance". She adds that Lang "deploys an ostentatiously unintrusive 'classical' style", which he "purposefully reduces down to its minimalist bare necessities". Writer James McKay notes that Fontaine as Susan Spencer is "a little bit more forward than we normally expect, in a role that requires her to do all the running where her man's concerned".
Film critic Dennis Schwartz wrote a mixed review, but appreciated Lang's efforts, "Cheerlessly written with many plot holes, implausible contrivances and legal absurdities by law school graduate Douglas Morrow, though ably directed by film noir maven Fritz Lang (M/While the City Sleeps/Scarlet Street). Lang's last American film is a low-budget twisty courtroom drama about the dangers of capital punishment that ends up being about something more intangible--the unpredictability of fate ... But in this subversive film a perverse atmosphere of subliminal uncertainty prevails over the established surface reality, and the surprise ending comes as more of an emotional shock than as a real surprise--allowing the filmmaker to pass on his cynicism and disillusionment over the human condition. The stark, alluring and unconventional film is worth seeing for the ingenuous way it resolves the brain-teasing dilemma it raised."