The Unknown Man

  • 1951
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Crime

Heavily plotted and plodding, this features long courtroom sequences that prove a sure cure for insomnia. Sullivan is a district attorney who is giving a commencement speech to a group of graduating law students. Instead of saying the usual things, he decides to relate a story about his good friend, the late Pidgeon. While Pidgeon's son (Anderson) is seated...read more

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Heavily plotted and plodding, this features long courtroom sequences that prove a sure cure for insomnia. Sullivan is a district attorney who is giving a commencement speech to a group of graduating law students. Instead of saying the usual things, he decides to relate a story about his

good friend, the late Pidgeon. While Pidgeon's son (Anderson) is seated in the graduating class audience, Sullivan sends the movie into flashback. Brasselle is a young man accused of murder. Pidgeon takes his case and wins the boy his freedom, but he has the nagging feeling that Brasselle may have

been guilty after all. His worst fears are proven true when he finds the missing murder weapon, a knife that is part of a cane owned by Brasselle. Now that Brasselle has already been tried and acquitted, he cannot be tried again and Pidgeon is at a loss as to what to do. He seeks the counsel of

Franz, a powerful local figure and head of the crime commission. What he doesn't know is that Franz is the man behind the crime, having instructed Brasselle to commit the murder because the dead man was about to blow the whistle on a large crime ring. Pidgeon is incensed when he uncovers the truth

and kills Franz. However, Pidgeon is smart enough to make it look as though Brasselle is the killer, and when the young man is caught and accused of the murder, he naturally turns to the lawyer who got him off on the first charge, even though he was guilty. Now that he's accused of a crime of

which he is innocent, his defense should be a piece of cake. But Pidgeon makes certain that Brasselle is tried and convicted for Franz's death and the young man is faced with execution. However, Pidgeon is overcome by guilt and goes to DA Sullivan to tell him what's happened. Sullivan suggests

Pidgeon keep mum. Brasselle will die for the wrong crime but he is, in fact, a killer, so what's the difference? And Franz, as part of the original cabal, was just as guilty of murder as the man who used the knife. Now that Franz has been killed, he has paid for his crime. Pidgeon doesn't see it

that way, though, and goes to visit Brasselle in jail. He tells Brasselle what he's done, and deliberately leaves a knife near Brasselle so the young man can kill him--which, of course, he does, thus completing the circular movement of the story. Pidgeon has, in effect, committed suicide by

allowing himself to be killed by Brasselle, who now has a legit reason to be put to death.

Had enough? There are huge holes in the story, like how did Pidgeon sneak a knife into a maximum security area of a prison? And how did Sullivan keep his job after encouraging the suppression of justice? Harding, as Pidgeon's wife, doesn't have much to do, while Lewis Stone is seen in his familiar

role as a judge. In small roles, look for Dabbs Greer, who later enjoyed a career in TV, and Jimmy Dodd, who will be best recalled as the leader of "The Mickey Mouse Club."

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Heavily plotted and plodding, this features long courtroom sequences that prove a sure cure for insomnia. Sullivan is a district attorney who is giving a commencement speech to a group of graduating law students. Instead of saying the usual things, he deci… (more)

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