The film [from the novel Death in the Deep South by Ward Greene] pulls no punches, indicting lynch law and mob fury with scalpel-like precision.
The locale is the Deep South. A young business-school student is assaulted and murdered in the institution’s building on Confederate Memorial Day, after classes are out. Only circumstantial evidence is available to the district attorney (Claude Rains) and the two most likely guilty individuals are a Negro janitor (Clinton Rosemond) and a young Yankee professor (Edward Norris) at the school.
The d.a., driven by unswerving political ambition, and taunted by a news-hungry reporter (Allyn Joslyn), decides by a hair’s breath (‘Anyone can convict a Negro in the South’) that the young teacher, recently transplanted from the North, is the better bait.
Finally a w.k. lawyer (Otto Kruger) goes South to defend the indicted man. In the punch-packed courtroom scenes, the film really implants its wallop.
The cast, while not boasting any names of much marquee magnetism, is uniformly fine. Rains especially stands out.