Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
Dana Andrews, Joan Fontaine, Sidney Blackmer, Philip Bourneuf,
The time is ripe for Lang’s last, low-budget noir, on the subject of capital punishment and a D.A. “trying to reach the governor’s chair on the bodies of executed men.” A crusading newspaper publisher hatches a plot to prove that, on purely circumstantial evidence, an innocent man might be executed. Ace reporter Dana Andrews willingly lets himself be set up as the prime suspect in the murder of a stripper, to the horror of his fiancée (Joan Fontaine, amusingly overdressed in this grim mise-en-scène). A stocking planted here, a cigarette lighter there, a floozy “eyewitness,” and Andrews finds himself facing the Chair, smirking the good smirk—until the proof of his little game fails to emerge and free him. But that’s only the twist we expect to occur. Lang is less concerned with capital punishment than with showing that we are neither guilty nor innocent beyond a reasonable doubt.