You thought you saw Judge Daryl Loomis with the hammer, but you didn't see nothin'.
They've got nothing on him…except murder!
In the early days of television, it seemed like every episode existed to teach some sort of lesson. To whom, I have no idea, but you'd always find Dennis Mitchell or some other kid doing something stupid only to have the parents stage some elaborate plot to teach him or her the right way to act, but always in a safe and pleasant manner so that everybody can have a good chuckle at the end. It was a dumb but common way to write television back in those days, but those kinds of dedicated ham-fisted stories are kind of rare in the movies. Sure, there are lessons, but there's at least a little bit of an actual movie behind it. Not so with Circumstantial Evidence. Like an overlong pilot for a series nobody ever wanted to see, this film is boring, trite, and not worth watching. And yet here I am writing about it.
Little Pat Reynolds (Billy Cummings, Oregon Trail Scouts) is a good boy, but is always getting himself into trouble. When he gets caught breaking boxes outside the general store one day, the owner yells at him and slaps him across the face. When his father, Joe (Michael O'Shea, The Model and the Marriage Broker), here's about it, he goes down there, threatens him, and the two fight. The old man falls, hitting his head and killing himself, but witnesses swear they saw Joe hit the guy. Now, sitting and waiting in jail to die, his son and mentor Sam Lord (Lloyd Nolan, Peyton Place) hatch a scheme to prove to those eye witnesses that what they think they see might not actually be what happened.
It's unclear what director John Larkin (Quiet Please: Murder) was trying to accomplish with Circumstantial Evidence, but entertainment certainly wasn't particularly high on his priority list. It seems like the message what was important here, like a producer told Larkin that his job was to explain to moviegoers the definition of circumstantial evidence. If that was the case, then he performed his job admirably, with all the subtlety and finesse of Reefer Madness.
Really, though, the movie is awkward all the way around. Joe's past is incredibly unclear; he's definitely some kind of ex-hoodlum, but what happened and why he's in this sleepy little town is left unspoken. Billy Cummings was clearly not equipped to carry an entire movie on his young shoulders. His entire direction appears to have consisted of "yell your lines," since that's all he does, but it's not as though the script lends itself to insightful readings. Boring and essentially worthless, there's absolutely nothing here worth recommending.
Circumstantial Evidence comes to DVD as part of the Fox Cinema Archives collection and the results are on par with what we generally get from the on-demand service. The standard def 1.33:1 full frame image is average, with decent contrast and a minimum of damage for a movie that has seen no restoration. The sound is similar, with little background noise and no hiss or pops, but little in the way of dynamic range, either. There are no extras on the disc.
The best thing I can say about Circumstantial Evidence is that it's short, but that's hardly a virtue when it's such a painful hour to sit through. The overbearing amount of child acting is bad enough, but when the adult performers are such a small improvement over them, it's clear that even the best story would fall apart under this weight. Unfortunately, the story isn't particularly good in the first place, so I can see absolutely no reason to watch this movie.
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