|Page 2 of 20:||           |
|Index||200 reviews in total|
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.
Watching "Anatomy of a Murder" is as intriguing as watching "Anatomy of a Traffic Ticket". I wanted to like this film. After all it has a great cast based on a provocative novel at the time. The problem is it's slow, illogical, and no twist and turns to make the two plus hours invested worthwhile. It ends on a whimper with the only response that is appropriate is "huh?" or "Is that all there is?". Lee Remick is perfect as the horny slutty wife of military man, Ben Gazaarra. He also is well cast. George C. Scoot fares better as a member of the prosecution team than Jimmey Stewart does as the poor as a church mouse defense attorney. Jimmy does his "Mr. Smith Goes to Wasington" act and it gets very close to over the top at times. And the verdict simply does not pass the smell test. As piece of nostalgia this certainly is of interest. After all, it was a time when the word "panties" was risqué' in films. Yet when all is said and done it is a pedantic court room drama with lots of court room and little drama.
*** 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.
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
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm not crazy about this film. Despite the fact that it seems to get a
good rating from everyone else, it doesn't work for me in a number of
ways, numerous enough to begin counting.
1) The Jazz. It's noisy, brash, and unpleasant. Reminds me of Orson Welles' movie with Vivian Leigh, and I wasn't crazy about the sound in that one either. And speaking of the music, it's so obvious that Jimmy Stewart is miming at the piano. He isn't even trying. Music is just the beginning of misses for this movie tho.
2) It's never entirely clear what happened. I have to surmise that Lieutenant Manion struck his wife out of jealousy that she'd returned home having been with the bar owner and presumably Manion killed him as part of that same rage, but it's not clear to me that this is true. Therefore, it's not really clear to me what this movie is about. I prefer the ambiguity of the Big Sleep (which was already pretty ambiguous before a series of edits made it almost indiscernable). The diff is that in the Big Sleep, I felt like even if I didn't understand the exact turn of events, the characters were deeper and there was more to grab onto.
3) Parnell's character is pedantic and tiresome, and only grows more so by the end, with his oration about juries;
4) It's not clear to me how the prosecution failed to expose Manion's poor character to the jury. The prosecution barely asked him any questions save two. Manion should have been grilled. He should have been induced into a fit of anger, and the prosecution should have been able to clearly link it to his violent feelings for his wife. There relationship was a sham, and it's surprising to me that the prosecution couldn't reveal that.
5) I don't understand the pivotal scene where Mary Pilant admits finding white panties. Exactly what would torn panties be doing in the laundry? I can think of two reasons: 1) her father put them there
because he had done nothing wrong, or 2) someone else put them there as a frame. The prosecution did not pursue either idea carefully enough.
6) Jimmy Stewart had a whole fridge full of fish. Was his intention to throw a buffet, because fish only keeps 2-3 days in a fridge.
So these are just things off the top of my head, but there were more inconsistencies which bugged me. I'd say this film was not carefully planned. However, it does have Jimmy Stewart and George Scott in it. Murry Hamilton was also a strong point.
There are some things going for this film, but it's too hastily conceived to be one of my favorites. Still, I watch it from time to time.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Easy going, with a pace so gentle you might think you were watching ducks walking across a highway (all done deliberately, BTW) this is one of the greatest films of all time. Preminger, love him or hate him, not only knew his way around a camera, he knew his way around an audience too. Jimmy Stewart, at the peak of his craft (well before he had to "re-invent" himself a bad guy in westerns to stay in the biz) comes across as someone you went to school with, but forgot the name. He is so easy to identify with that you immediately start to see the whole film, the whole narrative, through his eyes. Which is precisely what Preminger intended. Lee Remick, short and sharp-featured, someone you might not notice in a crowd, shows the world the true meaning of "charisma" and steals every scene she is in. Only a star of this magnitude could say the word "panties" on screen and still make viewers blush decades into a new century. And Ben Gazarra, also at the peak of his craft (long before he started doing it "for the money," like his work in Road House) fights Remick for audience attention on a scene by scene basis, and often wins. Wow. Seriously. Wow. Watch it six or seven times if you like. It never gets old.
*** 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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
!!!Warning: Major Spoilers but reading this review instead of seeing this
completely boring film will save you 159 minutes!!!
This movie could have been good. It had the amazing Jimmy Stewart. It also had that great sound track provided by Duke Ellington. But never the less I couldn't help but feeling kind of board. Maybe it was because the film was completely the opposite of what I expected. With a title like, "Anatomy of a Murder", and Jimmy Stewart, (Star of many Hitchcock classics) I thought it was show us, well, A MURDER. Instead the film picks up a few days after the event it self and is just a trial movie from start to finish. This still could have been the makings of a good movie. Stewart defending an innocent man with huge amounts of evidence stacked against him would have been a good way to go, even if not a very original trial movie. Instead they have a some sleazy Jerk named Manion, who lives in a mobile home and is unkind and unappreciative of his gorgeous wife. Manion shot a bar owner with a dozen witnesses, because the guy had raped his wife. This was obviously not a good thing of the bar owner to do, but Manion kills the bar owner hours after the event because he says, "I have the unwritten law on my side." So he thought he could do it in cold blood and get off scot free. So Jimmy tells Manion he can only get of if he actually committed the murder while insane.
So Manion fabricates a lie that he went temporarily insane. Manion goes to see an army psychiatrist to add some weight his lie. He lies to the psychiatrist and the psychiatrist says Manion had an "unavoidable urge" to kill the man. The rest of this overly long movie is the trial. In which Jimmy calls up a bunch of witnesses in order make the jury somehow thing that this dirt bag deserves to not be punished for his crime. Then at the end of the movie (160 of the longest and most boring minutes of my life later) Manion is declared "Not Guilty" by a jury that has been lied to immensely.
Then Masion Repays Jimmy Stewart by.............Driving off in his Mobile home with his wife with out paying Stewart a dime. He leaves' Stewart a note: "I had an unavoidable urge' to leave." Masion may have Committed a felony by lying under oath during his trail, but at least he can joke about it. Besides, what is the reason they made this film? To teach us that you can abuse the legal system in order to not be punished for your crimes? All and all the movie is pretty slow and boring and pointless. if you like Jimmy Stewart and want to see him in a movie were a your actually get to SEE a murder, instead of just hearing about it for two hours and 40 minutes, see the brilliant Hitchcock film Rope'.
*** 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.
|Page 2 of 20:||           |
|Plot summary||Plot synopsis||Ratings|
|Awards||External reviews||Parents Guide|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|