This is a solid, if unexceptional, film noir in the semi-documentary style favored by Twentieth Century Fox.
The story is based on a true incident. The setting is a smallish Connecticut town. There is an upcoming election that the incumbent reform candidates desperately want to win. One night a beloved Episcopal priest is shot down on the street in front of a number of witnesses. The killer quickly gets away. The media begins to have a field day criticizing the police force for failing to apprehend the murderer or even turn up any clues other than that the man was seen to be wearing a dark coat and light hat. The reform candidates and police are under incredible pressure to deliver the culprit. Prosecutor Henry Harvey (Dana Andrews), a friend of the reform party and potential candidate for governor, is as anxious as anyone to find a suspect.
Although a hot line turns up many false leads the police get nowhere until a drifter is picked up in a distant state. The man, an ex-GI named John Waldron (Arthur Kennedy), left town shortly after the murder and was found in possession of a gun of the same caliber as that used in the crime.
Waldrop maintains his innocence during an unrelenting interrogation and in face of identification by numerous eye witnesses and a report indicating that the fatal bullet came from his gun. He finally confesses in a state of total exhaustion.
Harvey comes to believe that Waldrop is innocent. Can he resist the political imperative to convict at any cost? With Lee J. Cobb as the Chief of Police, Karl Malden as a detective, Jane Wyatt as Harvey’s wife, Sam Levene as a crusading reporter and Ed Begley as one of the politicos.
There are no surprises here but a cast such as this is always worth seeing and Kazan does quite a competent job keeping the story moving. Fans of courtroom dramas might particularly like this film.
Boomerang was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay.
Trailer? or Montage of Clips?