Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (3 stars)

One of the most solid leading men of the 1940's and 1950's, Dana Andrews was an actor who, sadly, never seemed to get the recognition and appreciation he deserved.  Classic Movie Man, however, is doing his small part to bring Mr. Andrews a bit of recognition---he is hosting the Dana Andrews blogathon on Saturday, July 28th.  As one who places Mr. Andrews firmly among her top 20 favorite actors, I am thrilled to take part in the event and to have the opportunity to bring one of this terrific actor's lesser-known films to the attention of others.  Please visit the Classic Movie Man's blog (HERE) to take part in this event yourself or to read the film reviews and thoughts of the other participants.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, a 1956 Fritz Lang film, is a crime-drama starring Dana Andrews and Joan Fontaine.  Some sites classify this as film noir, but I think it's only mildly noir.  It's mostly crime/mystery.

The movie begins with the execution of a man who had been convicted solely on circumstantial evidence.  After witnessing the execution, newspaper publisher, Austin Spencer, an opponent of capital punishment, becomes quite concerned about the possibility of convicting and executing innocent men.  Together with his son-in-law to-be, reporter-turned-novelist, Tom Garrett (Dana Andrews), Spencer devises a scheme in which an innocent man will be arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death, all based solely on circumstantial evidence.  Upon conviction, the scheme will be revealed, showing the prosecuting attorney, the court, and the entire public the danger of capital punishment.

After reading in the newspaper about the unsolved murder of burlesque dancer, Patti Gray, Spencer and Garrett's plan is put into action, with Garrett being the man who will be suspect.  The two men plant Tom's lighter (a gift from his fiance, Susan) at the scene of the crime; additionally, a lady's stocking is planted in his glove compartment, and traces of the kind of makeup Patti used are rubbed on the seats of his car.

After learning that the murdered woman was last seen with a man wearing a gray tweed coat and a top hat, Tom makes sure that is how he is seen.  He begins frequenting the club where Patti worked, coming on to one of her fellow dancers, and eventually, as hoped, that woman begins to suspect that Tom was the man she saw Patti with the night of her murder.  The police are called in, and Tom is arrested and sent to trial.

Upon Tom's conviction, Austin is supposed to reveal the truth, which had been completely documented with photographs of every bit of evidence the men planted.  However, things don't work out as planned, but I won't say more than that so as not to give away anymore of the story.  I will say that there is a totally major twist, which I never saw coming.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is a very interesting, exciting film, and up until the very end, I was going to give it 4 stars.  However, in the end, I decided to go with 3 stars (more like 3.5), as I thought the final few minutes were a bit of a letdown.  I think it was just wrapped up too quickly; there could have been a bit more depth.  Even though I was disappointed in the strength of the ending, though, I definitely enjoyed this film and fully intend to watch it again sometime.  Though Joan Fontaine gets second billing, as Andrews' fiance, she has almost nothing to do.  She is hardly more than a beautiful face in a couple of scenes.

The film is out on DVD, plus it is on the TCM schedule for Monday, October 22nd, at 4:45 p.m. (ET).  Try to catch it if you can.  Dana Andrews is always worth watching!

Happy viewing!!