The film takes place in Stamford, Connecticut, an average American town reeling from the grisly murder of a kind and popular priest. The police force, led by Chief Robinson (Cobb), have seven witnesses to the murder but not one clue to lead them to the killer. Facing public and media pressure, the police force scoops up a likely suspect, John Waldron (Arthur Kennedy), an ex-serviceman and vagrant with unlawful possession of a gun, and district attorney Henry Harvey (Andrews) assumes it's an easy conviction. But a deeper analysis of the facts makes this case more complicated than Harvey initially thought.
Received an Academy Award nomination for Richard Murphy's screenplay.
This film provides examples of:
- Amoral Attorney: Harvey is pressured to get a conviction, no matter what the cost, but he realizes that he believes more in justice than in putting someone in jail.
- Awesomeness by Analysis: Harvey pokes holes in all the circumstantial evidence and makes a good enough case that theres no trial, and John is able to go free.
- Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: Averted in a way: Robinson isnt a bad cop, but he does do some crooked things to get a conviction even when he has a bad feeling about it.
- Based on a True Story: Based on the real-life 1924 murder of a small-town Connecticut priest which is still a cold case.
- Blackmail: The building developer, Paul Harris, who works with Harveys wife decides to blackmail them because he needs Harvey to convict John in order to keep his business afloat.
- Cassandra Truth: No one believes John because of the seven witnesses that say they saw him shoot the priest.
- Courtroom Antics: Harvey invokes ''nolle prosequi'' and is able to show how the case is weightless and without real evidence even though he is the prosecutor.
- Harvey tests the gun in front of everyone (as the poster shows) to show that it was faulty and couldn't have been used to kill the priest.
- Da Editor: Taylor Holmes. And he wants to bleed out the police force for their inaction.
- Driven to Suicide: Paul Harris kills himself when Dave the reporter tells him he'll write about his blackmail in the newspaper.
- Enhanced Interrogation Techniques: Sleep deprivation is used on John to get a confession out of him. He's so tired and desperate for sleep that he signs the confession they shove in front of him.
- Excited Show Title!: Boomerang!
- Foregone Conclusion: The case was never solved, but the film suggests a deranged man did it, but he meets his death soon enough.
- Mistaken Identity: John is mistaken as the killer.
- Narrator: At the beginning, middle, and end in a documentary way even if its a fictionalized version of the events.
- No Party Given: We hear a lot of the "reform" party taking a blow because of this case, but there's zero mention of Republicans or Democrats.
- Police are Useless: They cant find the killer and eventually force a false confession out of an innocent man
- Suspect Is Hatless: The best the seven witnesses could come up with to describe the murderer was that he was wearing a dark coat and a light-coloured fedora. Pretty much describing any man in the late 40s.