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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
    English - Hearing Impaired, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish

    Guilty By Suspicion

    20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 101 mins . M15+ . PAL


    The politics of fear can encompass many elements: mass hysteria, patriotic fervour, demonising of former allies and, of course, re-election. As eerily familiar as it all may seem, I’m sure you’ll agree its ghastly business. In 1947, the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) began their now infamous investigations and hearings to rid America of the Communist menace (‘We don’t want people like that here’). Once accused by this committee, the only way to clear your name of its pink tag was to blow the whistle on your own associates and pass the buck on to someone else. To say that this fostered widespread betrayal and insecurity should go without saying. So ruthless were Senator Joe McCarthy and his HUAC attack dogs, that failure to identify ‘fellow comrades’ resulted in blacklisting, persecution, surveillance and, in some cases, imprisonment. Never mind that in many instances their only crime was to attend a peace rally or even a food relief meeting, the colour red apparently had many shades. The obvious and most publicised step for the committee to take was to cut the infiltration off at its most likely, creative source – target: Hollywood.

    Guilty by Suspicion begins in the year 1951 with fictional Hollywood director David Merrill (Robert DeNiro) returning from a film shoot in Paris to a Hollywood that has been turned on its head under the weight of allegation. Our moody protagonist soon finds that he has in fact been named as a Communist and in order to clear his name and save his own career, he must name his associates and ruin theirs instead. After his initial disbelief, Merril decides to defy the Committee and try to eke out a living regardless. He discovers, of course, that HUAC has far-reaching contacts and that finding work, even as a film repair assistant and even on the East coast, is virtually impossible without bringing his co-workers into disrepute. In time, the pink pariah realises that his stand may destroy more than just the shaky ethical pedestal on which he stands.

    In his directorial debut, producer Irwin Winkler (Rocky, Raging Bull) manages to convey a feeling of helplessness and frustration and is fortunate to be supported by a strong cast who give the film an integrity that it may have lacked with lesser mortals at the helm. As expected, Robert DeNiro is blistering in the lead role, but he is ably supported by Annette Bening, Chris Cooper, George Wendt and even a meaty cameo by Martin Scorcese as a director who is forced to flee the country to escape the Committee. The recreation of a carefree, golden age Hollywood gripped by fear is an impressive one and great attention to detail is given to the look and politics of the era. If anything, which such a pervasive cloud hanging over the lives and careers of all concerned, it is a wonder that David Merril takes so long to pick up on what is going on. It is a little hard to believe that one of Hollywood’s favourite sons could be so naïve. Where the film really hits its straps though is in the recreation of the HUAC trials that are so exhilarating and so white-knuckle frustrating that it will be all you can do not to put your boot through the television.

    Guilty By Suspicion shows DeNiro at the top of his game and is a tastefully handled treatment of a dark chapter of America’s past that they would sooner forget and rather not repeat. History has shown the HUAC trials to be a hysterical reaction to an overblown threat. The beauty of hindsight is that it always gives us the opportunity to benefit from it.

    After all, it could never happen here, could it?


    As far as the transfer goes, there isn’t much to complain about. There is no evidence of MPEG or video artefacts and, for the most part, the picture is as solid as a rock with very little shimmer. Since Guilty By Suspicion owes so much to its actual appearance, clarity of picture is always a blessing and the colours and definition on this release are more than adequate. Given the film’s shadowy nature, many of the scenes are quite dark and it is here that the real test lies. Blacks are crisp and the colours, though never garish, are consistent and realistic.

    Presented in widescreen format with a ratio of 1.85:1, Guilty By Suspicion is 16:9 enhanced and is an attractive transfer indeed.


    Like most films, Guilty By Suspicion would have benefited greatly from surround sound. Well, we get none of that here, but fortunately the Dolby Digital 2.0 track is still remarkably rich. The sound design for the film is excellent and, in the trial scenes in particular, the general hubbub and disarray sounds wonderful and helps to add to the overall confusion and outrage. Other sounds featured throughout the film come across nicely and, for a stereo soundtrack, this manages to convey the mood very well and put the viewer in the hot seat. Overall, this disc contains a serviceable transfer that is more than apt.


    Sorry, not even a theatrical trailer.


    US history doesn’t get much more fascinating than it does around the middle of the 20th century and Guilty By Suspicion gives a wonderful depiction of life in post-war America. Though never destined to break box-office records, it still remains an intriguing study of an intriguing era and if anybody on the planet needs a gentle reminder of why Robert DeNiro became the everyman’s favourite actor in the first place, this should help jog your memory.

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      And I quote...
    "A cautionary tale from the land of the free…"
    - Peter O'Connor
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