Synopsis by Hal Erickson
The British-filmed The Dreyfus Case has long been overshadowed by the more elaborate The Life of Emile Zola (1937), but, judged on its own merits, the earlier film weaves a pretty lucid account of an unfortunate chapter in French history. In 1894, army captain Alfred Dreyfus (Cedric Hardwicke) is accused of spying on behalf of foreign powers. He is found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment at Devil's Island penal colony. Author Emile Zola (George Merritt) is apprised by relatives of Dreyfus that the condemned man may have been framed. He publishes his famous condemnation of military justice, and is eventually hounded out of France for his efforts to exonerate Dreyfus. But the case is reopened, and after several false stops and starts it is revealed that Dreyfus had been set up to cover for the crimes of another officer--simply because as a Jew, Dreyfus was considered expendable by the antisemitic higher-ups. He is released and fully restored to rank, but the debate rages on in France as to whether or not justice has truly been served. At the time The Dreyfus Case was filmed, the events depicted were only some thirty to forty years in the past, and there were those who still believed Dreyfus guilty; thus, the film, despite its care not to trod on toes, was not widely distributed in France--and not shown at all in countries where anti-Jewish sentiments prevailed. When originally released, the film bore the simpler title Dreyfus.
accusation, anti-Semitism, army, conviction, courtroom, criminal, doubt, espionage, fame, frame-up, France, freedom, General, imprisonment, investigation, island, Judaism, justice, life, name-clearing, return, soldier, treason, trial [courtroom], writing