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Anatomy of a Murder
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Anatomy of a Murder More at IMDbPro »

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42 out of 68 people found the following review useful:


Author: Minty-5 from Sydney, Australia
10 January 2000

I'd made up my mind in less than ten minutes about "Anatomy of a Murder". It did not have the ongoing twists like "Witness for the Prosecution", character oriented or plot driven. Nor was it a movie with the compelling, issue ploughing story line like "To Kill a Mockingbird". At the same time, it lacked historical interest, but the incredibly dramatised realism of "Judgement at Nuremberg".

Instead, I thought, a film with a two and a half hour run time, and I hate sitting in front of movies running longer than two hours as it is!

I found it, but it took me a while to realise the one great asset this movie had. Jimmy Stewart.

Without a doubt, this engrossing movie about rape, murder and law evoked memories of a Jimmy Stewart seen twenty years earlier in "Mr Smith Goes to Washington". The small town, humble, idealised man who triumphs over the hard headed city men. In a sense, almost the "It's a Wonderful Life" of 1959 with no angels, no attempted suicides, no wonderful, sentimental, reminding message of what life is about.

One of the best things about the movie is the Duke Ellington score. The brass jazz sounds against the actual darkness of the plot completely and totally surprised me, it being so different to the usual dark sombre tones, screeching string instruments trying to stir suspense in the audience.

Supporting cast is great. Lee Remick, Eve Arden, Arthur O'Connell and George C. Scott all put in great performances. But I enjoyed Jimmy very much as the fisherman, lively, wise cracking lawyer.

Otto Preminger directed "Laura" fifteen years earlier. Seems a bit like similar plot lines. Beautiful woman caught up in murder, men lusting after beautiful woman, continual plot turns and all the rest. But Preminger directed this film well.

What did I find by the end? I found some of the the sarcastic suspense in Jimmy and the film, similar to Billy Wilder's "Witness for the Prosecution". The drama was just as alive as it was with "Judgement at Nuremberg". I found myself pulled in as much as I was with "To Kill a Mockingbird". In short, I really recommend this film to everyone who enjoys a few thrills and suspense.

In fact, I liked it so much, I'm going to read the book.

Rating: 9/10

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Absolutely first-rate courtroom drama, fascinating all the way

Author: Camera Obscura from The Dutch Mountains
8 January 2007

It's hard to think of any film that can surpass Otto Preminger's superb courtroom drama. Having seen this film countless times now, I'm hooked, each time I see it. Usually I find most courtroom dramas not all that fascinating. Most of them work up to the point they enter the courtroom, after which most of the sparkle disappears.

That's definitely not the case in this film. The writing is just as riveting (I don't think it's dated, and in a way, every film is dated) as it was back then and the film is greatly boosted by a fantastic cast led by Stewart in perhaps the best role of his career and that says something. It's a long film (160 min) but I never even notice the lengthy running time. It could go on for two hours more as far as I'm concerned.

The film is set in Thunder Bay in Northern Michigan, a town that lives mainly of tourism and the nearby army base. Stewart plays Paul Biegler, an easy-going small town Michigan lawyer at the dawn of his career, who likes to spend his spare time going fishing and play a tune on the piano once in a while to relax himself. One day, he is called by a young woman (Lee Remick) to defend the case of her husband, an army lieutenant (Ben Gazzara), who is accused of murdering the rapist of his beautiful seductive wife. He decides to take the case, but the prosecution calls in reinforcements from Lansing in the person of big-city prosecutor George C. Scott, who claims it's a case of cold blooded murder. The unfolding of the story with captivating new insights after each new witness and several surprising twists and turns will have you glued to your seat.

The courtroom theatrics are outrageous and they would probably never be allowed in a real courtroom, as the two lawyers try everything, even the lowest tricks in the book, to make their case. The cross-examinations are riveting and at times very funny. Preminger mainly uses long takes without too much cross-cutting and close-ups and in every take there's something droll, like the courtroom scene where George C. Scott continuously tries to block the view between Stewart and Remick, when he questions her on the stand. Strangely enough, when Stewart bursts out in protest about this behaviour, it becomes even funnier, when the two lawyers start bickering at each other in high fashion.

Arthur O'Connell is simply fantastic as Stewart's alcoholic sidekick, and Eve Arden is equally memorable as his cynical lace-tongued secretary hoping to receive her long-due paycheck with this case. Real-life judge Joseph N. Welch is a marvel to watch in his role as Judge Weaver. Welch got most famous in real life, because he stood up against communist witch hunter senator McCarthy during the Army hearings and told him on live television, "Have you no sense of decency, sir?"

Duke Ellington provided the score and also makes a brief appearance behind the piano in a nightly bar scene.

This is as good as it gets, extremely well written, superbly acted, directed, scored, every minute of it is supremely entertaining. A completely winning combination.

Camera Obscura --- 10/10

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9 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

A masterpiece of irony

Author: doghouse_r from Kifissia, Greece
1 May 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The sly old German, Preminger, proves a hard nut to crack today as in 1959 when the film was first issued. This is a denunciation of the trial-by-jury system, and apparently continues playing on today's viewers the same tricks it played its original ones. A gin-drinking, tough, cold blooded beast of an army veteran, beats his wife black when he catches her cheating with the local barman, shoots the offender and forces her to swear on the rosary (she's a guilt ridden Catholic because she's divorced, and clings eagerly to her creed's symbols) to lie to the authorities, claiming she's been raped by her lover, so her brute of a husband manages to obtain an "exception" as "temporarily insane" (an 1885 case is unearthed to sustain the claims of his defense) and get away with the murder. Which he does, helped by a former prosecutor (Stewart) whose place is been held by "an inferior mind" today and needs to prove to the others and himself he's not finished. Helped also by a judge whose lenience is established once he understands the defense attorney to be an equally passionate fisherman as he. Time and again the jury is advised to "disregard" what they have heard, whenever – and it is very often – the defense systematically overrules court procedure and creates impressions that favor the accused – indeed this is a recurrent instance during that long trial. Everybody (but the average viewer!) is from a certain point on quite sure that the decorated soldier (excellent Gazzara) is guilty as charged, that his wife (equally excellent Lee Remick) is a loose morality woman, indeed a charming little harlot, that the murder has been one of cold premeditation and everybody is lying. But the system is such that impressions carry the day. This is a masterpiece of concealed realities and guilty consciences. As the defense lawyer and his "assistant" (his crony, a sympathetic old drunkard, as keen for success as is Stewart's lawyer) bless and praise juries while waiting for the verdict, as Stewart's faithful and likable secretary longs for victory only because she needs to see her long overdue paycheck made out to her, from the fee her employer is due to collect, Preminger is going all out to denounce the fallibility of the system in the most understated and at the same time the most deafening manner. I am amazed so few seem to realize this and lay instead the (great) value of that masterly directed, played and photographed film only to it's faithful, humorous, well paced and exciting depiction of the trial. This is a definite masterpiece of irony and hidden contempt, a movie angry as it is soft spoken and caressing both the public's sensibilities and the system's watchdogs – apparently very stern during the late 50s.

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

My favorite movie

Author: Marsha-11 from Chicago, IL
4 August 2000

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

***Possible slight spoiler***

This movie still ranks as my all-time favorite. Let me admit now - I am a lawyer, but I saw this movie long before I became one. I love it for several reasons. Yes, of course, it takes liberties with the law, but it also admits to many of the courtroom tactics/theatrics that are still in use today, and admitted to them at a time when people still liked to think of the law as a noble profession.

The performances in this movie are incredible - Jimmy Stewart is the very picture of subtle humor and cynicism. Lee Remick and Ben Gazzara are perfect. But I'd like to point out two oft-overlooked performances that really shine. Arthur O'Connell's portrayal of Parnell develops beautifully over the course of the film as he comes to believe in himself again. My favorite character is Maida, played by Eve Arden. She's wry, she's funny, she mothers Paul and Parnell, and it's clear to everybody that not only couldn't they survive without her, but she's also the smartest one of them all.

I could spend a great deal of time on territory others have covered - the soundtrack, the filmmaking, the courtroom scenes, the performances. But instead, I'll focus on my favorite thing. The story is my favorite. Not because it was groundbreaking or shocking - but because of its point of view. Everything you see and know in the movie is through the eyes of Paul Biegler. Through the entire courtroom battle, all the interviews with the Lt. and with Laura Manion, every strategy scene, straight through to the end, you only know what Biegler knows. You never see the usual "flashback" scene to what "really" happened that night, and it would cheapen the film if you did. Biegler never knows if the outcome of the film is the "right" one, or if anyone told the truth at all. This same POV means that you never see any aspect of the events that lead to the trial - the murder, the alleged rape, etc. Nor does the viewer ever meet Barney Quill, thus never allowing the viewer to base an opinion of the events on Quill's "character" - just the same way as Paul Biegler cannot.

That POV aspect is the thing that makes this film my favorite of all time. It's why I've seen it dozens of times, spent a year tracking down the videotape (before they rereleased it) and have the poster hanging in my living room. See it. Trust me.

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Preminger's Anatomy of a Rape Murder

Author: theowinthrop from United States
5 December 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

ANATOMY OF A MURDER was Otto Preminger's attempt to relate a subject hinted about in motion pictures, but rarely gone into great detail. The subject was rape and it's consequences, and how the rape victim frequently found herself under attack in our law courts when the issues of the case hinged on her moral innocence or guilt.

The story takes place in the upper peninsula of Michigan, near a resort town. There is a military base nearby, and Ben Gazzara is a lieutenant there married to Lee Remick. It is the second marriage for both of them. Remick is extraordinary pretty, and her best features are highlighted by the tight fitting casual clothes she wears. She also is aware of how attractive she is to other men than her husband.

One night, while Gazzara is sleeping after dinner, Remick goes to the local bar for some fun (austensibly drinking and playing pinball). She is playing it with the bar owner, who subsequently gives her a car ride home. Except for her pet dog, nobody witnesses what happens in the car - her story is that the man raped her twice, and she ran home and told her husband. Gazzara, one hour later, goes to the bar and shoots the owner five times.

Was there a rape? The police made a cursory examination, and find that while there are some signs of a struggle, there is no trace of sperm. Remick's panties are missing, but they may just have been hidden by her. She did have some bruises (including one of her eye), but they could be due to a beating from anyone else. Gazzara is arrested and charged with the murder. And Remick calls in Jimmy Stewart.

He was the former District Attorney for the town, but has been recently defeated after ten years of service. His staff consists of Eve Arden, and (when he sober) Arthur O'Connor. Stewart has handled prosecutions, and has never handled any criminal defense. He would not only face the current District Attorney (Brooks West) but an additional big city prosecutor (George C. Scott - in his first major movie role). Stewart finds that aside from the ironclad case the prosecution has, the lack of evidence conclusively showing a rape, and the time issue of one hour between said rape and the killing, prevent him putting forward a defense of temporary insanity. He also finds that both Gazzara and Remick are difficult figures to fit into a "respectable" couple image for what he has to do.

There had been plenty of first rate courtroom dramas in previous years in the movies, such as THE STORY ON PAGE ONE and WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION, but nothing had been so carefully shown as this case was. The tactics of both defense and prosecution are demonstrated, with the careful maneuvering of questions and answers, and the attempt to probe for weaknesses in each other's cases. And Scott's cross-examination of Remick, bringing out her somewhat promiscuous character, reminds us of what usually happened (and still does) in rape cases.

The character of the wise judge in the case was played by Joseph Welch, the Boston legal whiz who smashed Senator Joseph McCarthy to kindling very quietly and with dignity in 1954 at the Army-McCarthy hearings on television. Here, in his only movie role, Judge Welch shows the same courtly calm and dignity that adds to the sense of reality of the film.

Well acted and directed this film has to be on anyone's list of top ten court room films.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

We, the Jury

Author: jacobfam from California, USA
7 February 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie puts its audience in the same untenable position as the jury, forcing the viewer to decide for himself what really happened. There is no irrefutable truth or incontrovertible evidence, there is only opinion. We are left with our personal interpretation of the facts of the case (such as they are), the behavior and motives of the people involved, and the sleight of hand of the attorneys, but we are never shown proof that we have interpreted any of it correctly.

The elements of the story beg for interpretation--rape or adultery, crime of passion or premeditated murder, protective husband or vicious wife-beater, aloof inmate or cocky creep, scheming arsonist or truthful stoolie, lost panties or planted evidence, good guy lawyer or calculating cynic....By trial's end we don't have the whole story, we have unanswered questions. We have a case of colossal ambiguity.

Do we also have reasonable doubt? How would we, how could we render a verdict? That question is the essence and purpose of this film.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

A lot of people will hate this movie

Author: rooprect from New York City
22 November 2006

This movie will confuse and possibly offend anyone looking for a moral or a black-or-white case between good & evil. Who's the good guy? Who's the bad guy? Did it have a happy ending or an unhappy one? These are questions that are not necessarily answered outright, making this the sort of movie that stays in your thoughts for a long time afterward.

Unlike "Twelve Angry Men" which has a clean resolution and a solid moral, "Anatomy of a Murder" gives us something much more realistic & confounding. But here's why the movie is so brilliant: It's one of the only movies I can think of that presents realism without ruining your day. Despite showing us the irresoluble (and often unpleasant) complexities of human justice, this movie does not sink to cynicism, sarcasm or heavy handed satire--you know, the sort of obvious stuff we see in the films of today.

Really, can you name any movie or director who presents realism without being visually or emotionally disturbing? Usually realism is synonymous with "life sucks" (or shaky camera, ugh). Here instead we have one of the most realistic studies of human vices, and yet--largely through James Stewart's brilliant performance--we are left feeling satisfied.

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12 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Drunk Lawyers

Author: tedg ( from Virginia Beach
15 September 2005

There seems to be a subgenre of movies that feature drunk or downtrodden lawyers taking on cases and winning. This is sometimes associated with the "courtroom" film where reality is unfolded according to specific rules colored by human dynamics. And this is under the larger branch of the detective narrative, that one where there is a special agreement with viewer about rules.

Since the late 50s, detective>courtroom>drunk lawyer movies have been about playing with the rules instead of using them. This is among the first.

A case passes through the world of two slackers, hardly leaving a dent. It is never resolved. The ambiguities are subtle but significant.

There are some interesting things here. The first is how dated is the sexuality. This was considered risqué in its time. Lee Remick was considered dangerously sexy. How tame that is now.

There are other weaknesses, the hackneyed portrayal of the drunk lawyer. The mishandling of languid pacing. But there is a good performance from Stewart, perhaps his best. The integration of music and vision is still among the very best we have, and the music itself still snaps if Remick does not.

You should see this though because of how masterfully the scenes are staged, Even the courtroom scenes, — traditionally as difficult as staging family meals — have some novelty, now much copied. Compare this to the better acting but much less imaginative staging of "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

How can you not love Jimmy Stewart?

Author: tieman64 from United Kingdom
22 June 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Most of Preminger's films haven't aged well, but this one still works, thanks mostly to the casting of Jimmy Stewart and Geroge C Scott. Stewart, much like Henry Fonda in "12 Angry Men", commands the stage. He's an iconic actor, and every moment he's on screen tingles with a sort of fun electricity.

But the problem with old crime films and courtroom dramas is that they've now been done to death. Every TV show, from "Law and Order" to "Columbo", has squeezed the life out of the genre. Most of these TV shows offer far cleverer scripts.

"Anatomy of a Murder" still packs a punch, though. It's filled with a nice sense of sexuality, a riveting trial scene and some pretty risqué dialogue. The script, which focuses on rape, sexual assault and abuse, was very daring at the time. Preminger even sly acknowledges that his film was uncomfortably near to violating the Production Code by having his characters debate the proper way of referring to a pair of panties in court. Is this allowed, they ask, or is it going over the top?

The plot is the usual murder mystery fare, but there's a nice sense of ambiguity. Nothing is clearly resolved, and the moral waters are very murky. In the end, we aren't quite sure whether justice has actually been served.

Premminger - usually a very flat director - maneuvers his camera with skill during the courtroom sequences, juggling angles and making the most of the small spaces. Architecturally, it's not as brilliant as what Lumet did in "12 Angry Men", but it's still pretty entertaining.

But the film's real star is Jimmy Stewart. Stewart plays the usual country lawyer archetype, but though he appears easy going, he reveals some impressive fangs when challenged. It's a far cry from Capra's small-town lawyers. Issues are never clear-cut, characters are always morally ambiguous, and everyone seems to have a nasty streak.

7.5/10 - I generally don't like Otto Preminger, but this film held my interest. It's not as good as Lumet's "12 Angry Men" or "The Verdict", but it still works, thanks largely to the ever reliable Jimmy Stewart.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Irresistible Urge

Author: rabrenner from United States
7 January 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Classic courtroom drama. Jazz playing, fly fishing small-town lawyer Jimmy Stewart must defend slimy army lieutenant Ben Gazzara against murder charges. With an all-star cast, including Lee Remick as Gazzara's sexpot wife, Eve Arden as Stewart's wisecracking secretary, Arthur O'Connell as his lovable but alcoholic partner, and George C. Scott as the icy assistant district attorney. Plus a jazzy score by Duke Ellington, who appears as "Pie Eye" in the movie (Stewart and the Duke play a duet!), and the cutest little flashlight carrying dog.

*** SPOILER ALERT *** It's interesting that Stewart gets Gazzara off on a temporary insanity defense. You still root for Stewart to win, but I doubt a movie with this premise could be made today. The temporary insanity defense has fallen into ill repute, to say the least, and I'm skeptical that a sympathetic audience could be found.

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