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New Zealand 1980
Directed by
John Laing
113 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Beyond Reasonable Doubt

This murder mystery/courtroom drama concerning the real-life wrongful conviction of New Zealand farmer Arthur Allan Thomas (John Hargreaves) for the murder of his neighbours, Harvey and Jeanette Crewe has the limitations characteristic of a low budget independent production of its day but it is still strong enough in subject matter and realisation to hold one's interest. What keeps one engrossed is the sheer bloody mindedness of the police as they set about framing a convenient victim and the valiant efforts of the defence, backed by the accused's family, to vindicate their client.

David Hemmings gives a commanding performance as the obsessive Inspector Hutton who effectively framed Thomas whilst generally the cast (many of them including Hargreaves, who are Australian) are very serviceable in their roles although Diana Rowan as Thomas's wife is a rather marginal presence. Director Laing has no qualms about painting the people keen to convict Thomas in the blackest of colours (the judge at the second trial is positively Dickensian in his bigotry) which if unsubtle actually makes the film quite entertaining although disappointingly it makes no attempt to suggest who the real murderer was, abandoning an early suspect, the murdered woman's father who simply evaporates from the story and only vaguely pointing to another neighbouring farmer.

The book by British journalist David Yallop on which the film is based (Yallop also wrote the script) was crucial in getting Thomas pardoned after 9 years in jail.

DVD Extras: A 1980 TVNZ documentary on the making of the film

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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