It's Britain, 1953. Upon his return to work following a heart attack, irrepressible barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts, known as a barrister for the hopeless, takes on a murder case, much to the exasperation of his medical team, led by his overly regulated private nurse, Miss Plimsoll, who tries her hardest to ensure that he not return to his hard living ways - including excessive cigar smoking and drinking - while he takes his medication and gets his much needed rest. That case is defending American war veteran Leonard Vole, a poor, out of work, struggling inventor who is accused of murdering his fifty-six year old lonely and wealthy widowed acquaintance, Emily French. The initial evidence is circumstantial but points to Leonard as the murderer. Despite being happily married to East German former beer hall performer Christine Vole, he fostered that friendship with Mrs. French in the hopes that she would finance one of his many inventions to the tune of a few hundred pounds. It thus does ... Written by
[June 2008] Ranked #6 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Courtroom Drama". See more »
When Vole, in his cell, starts relating the story of how he and Christine met, the scene dissolves into a flashback while Vole is speaking. But as it begins to dissolve, Vole, still clearly visible, has stopped talking even as his voice-over continues its narration. See more »
Kings, prime ministers, archbishops, even barristers have stood in the dock.
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As the end credits appear on screen, an announcer's voice is heard: "The management of this theater suggests that for the greater entertainment of your friends who have not yet seen the picture you will not divulge to anyone the secret of the ending of Witness for the Prosecution." See more »
I first saw this movie about 15 years ago and loved it. I just watched it on VHS and was captivated all over again. Agatha Christie's story, Billy Wilder's screenplay and direction, and the four main leads all get it right. Charles Laughton is absolutely superb, and Elsa Lanchester is a perfect foil.
Agatha Christie's story has more twists and turns than a roller coaster and this provides a strong foundation for the movie. But the actors give life to the characters. I haven't seen the 1982 version, but I'll admit to a bias for Marlene Dietrich. She and Tyrone Power pull just the right punches.
It's a mystery, of course. But a top notch one. So if you want only to dabble in the genre, this is the one to try. (If you like mysteries, it goes without saying that you must see it.) Moreover, this is one B&W movie for people who don't like B&W movies.
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