Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I've briefly mentioned the Fox docudrama Boomerang! a couple of times in the past. It's back on the TCM schedule at 7:15 AM tomorrow, so now is a good time to do the movie justice with a full post.

The scene is Bridgeport, CT, some time in the past. (The movie is based on a real-life incident that happened in Bridgeport in the mid-1920s; to be honest I don't remember if the movie actually mentions the location or the date that it's set.) A popular local priest is walking through the town, where he gets shot in public, in full view of lots of witnesses! However, eyewitness testimony is actually not as accurate as the movies would normally have you believe, so for a while the police are at a loss. This is a problem for party boss Ed Begley. It turns out that he's got a land deal before the local government, and it ties in with the murder only peripherally, but importantly. The public is clamoring for the priest's killer to be brought to justice, and if that doesn't happen, the current adminstration will be voted out of power, scuppering his land deal. So a wide dragnet is thrown out by police chief Lee J. Cobb, which eventually nets a former army veteran, Arthur Kennedy.

The case against Kennedy, however is only circumstantial. He was wearing the same sort of clothing that the eyewitnesses saw the killer wearing, and ballistics claims a gun in his possession matches the one that fired the bullet found in the priest. It doesn't help that Kennedy is a drifter, as a lot of ex-army members at the tim had difficulty finding stable work (see Paul Muni's character in I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang), who just happened to be in Connecticut at the time the crime was committed. So the police interrogate him -- and interrogate him -- and interrogate him some more -- until he finally confesses.

The case is then given to the district attorney (Dana Andrews) to prosecute. He investigates the evidence, and comes to a shocking conclusion: Kennedy may not be guilty after all! This is a problem for a lot of people, including the DA's wife (Jane Wyatt), who it is revealed lent Begley money not knowing just how corrupt he was. So the DA is faced with a dilemma, in that he wants to see justice done, but he's got a political establishment and a public who want a different sort of "justice" to be done.

As I said before, this is based on a real case, as hard as that may be to believe: we still have lots of cases where an easy-to-hate defendant is faced with a public braying for "justice", and politically ambitious porsecutors willing to go to great lengths to ensure a conviction. If Boomerang! has a flaw, it's that it comes across as too good to be true and triumphalist, implying that everybody will get justice, just like Arthur Kennedy's character. I don't think we should criticize the cast for this, however, as they're all quite good. In addition to the ones I've mentioned, watch for TCM Star of the Month Karl Malden in a small rold as a police detective. You can't miss his nose.

When I first mentioned Boomerang! several years back, I suggeested it wasn't available on DVD, which waould probably have been based on the lack of a link at IMDb to Amazon selling it on DVD. In fact, there was one available at the time, and it's still available for purchase.

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