July 9, 2018  (Web Review)

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

Warner, 80 min., not rated, Blu-ray: $21.99

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

Fritz Lang’s final American film is a 1956 budget-starved production starring Dana Andrews as a novelist who teams up with a crusading newspaper publisher (Sidney Blackmer) to stage his own “guilt” in a murder investigation by fabricating and planting circumstantial evidence. All of this is part of an elaborate anti-capital-punishment protest—until an untimely accident destroys all evidence of his innocence, leaving him facing the death penalty. Joan Fontaine costars as his fiancée (and, not so coincidentally, daughter of the publisher) who takes up his cause and embarks on a desperate search for any evidence to exonerate him. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt doesn’t have the poetry or intensity of Lang’s best American films, but it is an often interesting and compelling production that makes an odd bookend to Lang’s 1930s dramas of social protest, boomeranging back with a weirdly cynical twist. The film is presented in the cut-rate widescreen process branded RKO-Scope, a version of Superscope that simply masks off the top and bottom of the 35mm film frame and blows up the image to fill the screen, resulting in a soft, degraded picture. A strong optional purchase. (S. Axmaker)