Criminal Law (1989)

R | 112 mins | Drama | 28 April 1989

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HISTORY

A title card before the film's opening credits contains the following quote by German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche: "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you."
       According to a 21 Aug 1987 DV production chart, principal photography began 10 Aug 1987 in Montreal, Canada. A 19 Aug 1987 Var item stated that seven weeks of shooting was set to take place in Montreal before the production moved to Québec City for a final two weeks. Both locations were intended to stand in for the film's setting of Boston, MA. Various sources suggested that filming concluded in late Oct 1987, and the 24 Sep 1987 DV listed a budget of $5 million.
       A 28 Sep 1988 1988 Var review indicated that Criminal Law screened 15 Sep 1988 at the Festival of Festivals in Toronto, Canada prior to its domestic release in 1,160 theaters the following spring.
       The following acknowledgments appear in end credits: "This film was shot on location in Montreal and Quebec City."; "Le Syndicat des Techniciens et Techniciennes du Cinema Quebec; promotional products by MMI Product Placement"; "Thanks to: Paul Smith, Nike, Oscar de la Renta, Yamaha Digital Keyboards, Fostex"; and, "Special thanks to: the Government of Quebec and the Societe Immobiliere du Quebec, Cidem, The City of Montreal and the City of Westmount, and Anna St. Johns, Dorian Langdon, Roger Sherman, Tom Hall, Ellen Francisco, Toni ... More Less

A title card before the film's opening credits contains the following quote by German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche: "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you."
       According to a 21 Aug 1987 DV production chart, principal photography began 10 Aug 1987 in Montreal, Canada. A 19 Aug 1987 Var item stated that seven weeks of shooting was set to take place in Montreal before the production moved to Québec City for a final two weeks. Both locations were intended to stand in for the film's setting of Boston, MA. Various sources suggested that filming concluded in late Oct 1987, and the 24 Sep 1987 DV listed a budget of $5 million.
       A 28 Sep 1988 1988 Var review indicated that Criminal Law screened 15 Sep 1988 at the Festival of Festivals in Toronto, Canada prior to its domestic release in 1,160 theaters the following spring.
       The following acknowledgments appear in end credits: "This film was shot on location in Montreal and Quebec City."; "Le Syndicat des Techniciens et Techniciennes du Cinema Quebec; promotional products by MMI Product Placement"; "Thanks to: Paul Smith, Nike, Oscar de la Renta, Yamaha Digital Keyboards, Fostex"; and, "Special thanks to: the Government of Quebec and the Societe Immobiliere du Quebec, Cidem, The City of Montreal and the City of Westmount, and Anna St. Johns, Dorian Langdon, Roger Sherman, Tom Hall, Ellen Francisco, Toni Obee." More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
21 Aug 1987
p. 10.
Daily Variety
24 Sep 1987
p. 6.
Daily Variety
26 Jun 1989
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Apr 1989
p. 4, 55.
Los Angeles Times
28 Apr 1989
p. 19.
New York Times
29 Apr 1989
p. 16.
Variety
19 Aug 1987
p. 5.
Variety
28 Sep 1988
p. 17.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
John Daly and Derek Gibson present for Hemdale Film Corporation
a Northwood production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
3d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Cam trainee
2d unit cam
2d unit cam
2d unit cam
Steadi-cam op
Steadi-cam op
Key grip
Stills photog
Stills photog
Dolly grip
3d grip
Best boy
Generator op
Generator op
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dept trainee
FILM EDITORS
Post-prod supv
1st asst ed
2d asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set props
Asst set props
Set dresser
Asst set dresser
Asst set dresser
Asst set dresser
Asst set dresser
Scenic artist
Painter
Painter
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward mistress
Asst ward
Asst ward
MUSIC
Mus scoring mixer
Mus ed
SOUND
Boom op
Trainee sd
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Foley ed
Dial ed
Chief dubbing mixer
Dubbing mixer
Dubbing mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Asst hair
Asst hair
Asst makeup
Asst makeup
Spec eff makeup
Asst spec eff makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Casting
Canadian casting by
Canadian casting by, Elite Productions
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod coord
Loc mgr
Loc asst (Quebec)
Unit mgr
Asst unit mgr
Scr supv
Pub consultant
Mr. Oldman's dial coach
Legal adv
Legal adv
Legal adv
Dog handler
Gun handler
Picture vehicle coord
Transportation coord
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Craft services
Craft services
Catering
Prod secy
Auditor
Asst accountant
Prod attorney
Completion guarantor
Insurance
Motion picture banking
Motion picture banking
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Flight coord
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
COLOR PERSONNEL
Processing by
DETAILS
Release Date:
28 April 1989
Premiere Information:
Toronto Festival of Festivals screening: 15 September 1988
Los Angeles and New York openings: 28 April 1989
Production Date:
10 August--late October 1988
Copyright Claimant:
Hemdale Film Corporation
Copyright Date:
5 May 1989
Copyright Number:
PA413621
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
lenses and Panaflex® by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
112
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
29031
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Boston, Massachusetts, attorney Ben Chase skillfully cross-examines a female witness who claims she saw his client, wealthy socialite Martin Thiel, rape and murder a young woman. As Ben waits to hear the jury’s verdict, he is accosted by police detectives Jean Stillwell and Mesel, who accuse him of letting a murderer go free. When Thiel is acquitted, Ben celebrates by getting drunk. The next day, he learns that another woman has been murdered, her body marked with a calling card that strongly implicates Thiel. After the incident, Thiel telephones Ben to put him on retainer, anticipating that police will falsely accuse him of the second murder, and demands Ben meet him in a park at 11:00 p.m. When Ben arrives, he finds a statue of Jesus with a red hair ribbon tied around its neck. Hearing noise in the woods, he discovers a smoldering corpse of a young woman. Panicked, he runs to the nearest house and tells Ellen Falkner to call the police. Ellen recognizes the hair ribbon as belonging to her roommate, Janet. Ben is interrogated by Mesel, who informs him that Janet was also found with Thiel's calling card. Realizing he is guilty, Ben visits Thiel on his yacht and informs his client that he is doubling his retainer fee. Thiel agrees, confident there is no forensic evidence linking him to the killings. Ben returns to his office to find Ellen waiting for him. She demands to know how he can be defending the prime suspect in Janet’s death, but Ben explains his plan to turn against his client and prove Thiel is a ... +


In Boston, Massachusetts, attorney Ben Chase skillfully cross-examines a female witness who claims she saw his client, wealthy socialite Martin Thiel, rape and murder a young woman. As Ben waits to hear the jury’s verdict, he is accosted by police detectives Jean Stillwell and Mesel, who accuse him of letting a murderer go free. When Thiel is acquitted, Ben celebrates by getting drunk. The next day, he learns that another woman has been murdered, her body marked with a calling card that strongly implicates Thiel. After the incident, Thiel telephones Ben to put him on retainer, anticipating that police will falsely accuse him of the second murder, and demands Ben meet him in a park at 11:00 p.m. When Ben arrives, he finds a statue of Jesus with a red hair ribbon tied around its neck. Hearing noise in the woods, he discovers a smoldering corpse of a young woman. Panicked, he runs to the nearest house and tells Ellen Falkner to call the police. Ellen recognizes the hair ribbon as belonging to her roommate, Janet. Ben is interrogated by Mesel, who informs him that Janet was also found with Thiel's calling card. Realizing he is guilty, Ben visits Thiel on his yacht and informs his client that he is doubling his retainer fee. Thiel agrees, confident there is no forensic evidence linking him to the killings. Ben returns to his office to find Ellen waiting for him. She demands to know how he can be defending the prime suspect in Janet’s death, but Ben explains his plan to turn against his client and prove Thiel is a serial murder. Later, Ben visits Stillwell and offers to risk his career to help her incriminate Thiel. Ben begins his investigation by visiting Theil’s mother, Dr. Sybil Thiel, at her home office. As Ben waits, he wanders into Thiel's bedroom and finds a secret passage. Before he can explore it, however, Sybil arrives, and asks him to leave the room. Sybil informs him that Thiel was in his bedroom both nights the women were killed, and could not have exited the house without her seeing him. That night, Ben sneaks back onto the grounds the Thiel mansion, where he finds a tunnel underneath a pavilion. He follows the path and finds Thiel waiting in his bedroom. To cover his actions, Ben claims he is doing research for the case and informs Thiel that the tunnel is damning evidence. Thiel laughs in reply. Later, the pavilion catches fire. When Mesel arrives at the scene, he finds the tunnel and arrests Thiel. At the police station, Thiel tells Ben he burned the building so that they would be “partners.” Once he pays bail, Ben orders Thiel to go to his summer vacation house and keep a low profile. Meanwhile, Ben visits Stillwell and warns that the tunnel is not admissible evidence in court, as Mesel did not have a warrant to enter the property. Stillwell agrees, and informs Ben that Mesel has filed a complaint against Ben with the district attorney, claiming he has been set up. That night, Ben learns that Mesel has interviewed Ellen, who promises Ben that she told him nothing. After taking her home, Ben drives to Thiel’s summer house, where Thiel offers to take him on a rowboat ride through a nearby swamp. While on the water, he shares his belief that he was spared at birth to be an "avenger for the innocent." When Thiel turns his back, Ben contemplates killing him with an oar, but cannot go through with it. Noticing Thiel’s birthmark, he remembers that that Sybil is a gynecologist. Later, he returns to the house to interview Sybil, who reveals that she had attempted to have her pregnancy with Thiel aborted. Ben also learns that Thiel walked into his mother's clinic during an emergency abortion when he was just eight years old. That night, Ben visits Ellen and makes her a romantic dinner. He asks her if Janet had an abortion, and she confirms it. The next day, Ethan Parks charges into Ben’s office declaring he has entered a motion to seal off Sybil’s medical files. Parks warns that if the victims were patients of Thiel’s mother, he will surely be convicted. Ben tells Parks that Thiel is guilty, but none of the dead women appear in Sybil’s files. Meanwhile, Ellen hunts down Janet’s former boyfriend, Hal Keeler, and learns where Janet received her abortion. Ellen goes to the clinic pretending to be a patient and discovers Sybil does pro bono work there. After leaving a message for Ben, Ellen sneaks back into the clinic and hides until it closes. There, she finds the victims' files and telephones Ben with the news. Suddenly, Thiel attacks, but Ellen fights back and runs to the front door. Thiel sneaks out and rushes home, where he kills his mother and sets fire to the house. He then telephones Ben, chastising him for his betrayal, and sets up another meeting. The next day, Ben and Stillwell inform Mesel of recent events. Ben offers himself up as bait, agreeing to meet Thiel while wearing a wire, and Mesel reluctantly agrees. However, as Ben leaves, Thiel arrives and shoots Mesel before dragging Ben into an adjacent room. Screaming, Thiel explains that he was taking revenge on behalf of the victims' aborted babies. Thiel encourages Ben to act on his convictions and hands Ben his gun, insisting that he must be stopped or he will kill again. As Stillwell appears in the viewing gallery with her weapon drawn, Ben empties the pistol into the air and walks away. Thiel smashes a glass water pitcher and rushes at Ben, forcing Stillwell to shoot him dead. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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