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

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15 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Completely overrated

Author: abum190 from United States
31 December 2006

I don't see the point of a movie that goes to great lengths to tell a story that says nothing. When you have the money to give attention to great production values and employ a top-notch cast, why would you waste it on a pointless story? I was only mildly entertained by this film, mostly thanks to Jimmy Stewart and his as-per-usual impeccable acting, but when the ending came and there was no payoff, I found that what little entertainment present was not satisfying enough to make up for it.

Good ol' Jimmy Stewart is Paul Biegler, a lawyer that was recently ousted from his position as district attorney by some younger blood. Biegler comes upon the case of Lt. Manion (Ben Gazzara), accused of murdering the man that raped his wife (Lee Remick), and Biegler, hesitant at first, decides to take it, defending Manion with an insanity plea. This insanity plea could have led to some good drama, indicting the justice system as containing too many loopholes for guilty men. Instead, the movie continues the story without focusing on this and misses the chance to make the point.

Here at the beginning, the movie shows promise. The actors prove to be very good from the very start. Stewart, who was often unjustly accused of lacking versatility, is actually quite different from the George Bailey everyone knows; the difference in Stewart's characters is always subtle, but it's there nonetheless, and he received an Oscar nomination for his subtlety. Here he seems weathered and jaded, but still good-natured and sensible. Lee Remick begins the movie wonderfully as a carefree femme fatale who doesn't properly react to her husband's incarceration. The scenes between Remick and Stewart are the best in the movie as she flirts with him and seemingly looks to seduce him; however, the film doesn't follow through on this, as with so many other things. Halfway through the movie, the script seems to forget that Stewart and Remick had such good chemistry and removes from our sight any juicy scenes with the two of them.

The trial part of the movie is entertaining enough, even though it falls into the cliché of overly loud laughter from the court audience whenever the judge or attorney makes a joke, but it still left me longing for more. George C. Scott, who was nominated for an Academy Award inexplicably, adds barely anything to the movie. Scott is definitely a great actor (see Patton), but he's greatly underused here as the lawyer the district attorney brings in to help with the case. All he manages to get across is that his character is a snob.

And then at the end of the trial, the ruling is given and that's that. Is it too much to expect something more from a movie? I understand there are movies that are made specifically for entertainment, but this is not one of them- there is nothing so entertaining here to rest an entire movie on it. I know it's adapted from a novel so I don't really know if the author of the book is to blame or the filmmakers, but it doesn't really matter who's to blame- the movie still isn't good.

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20 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

Well acted film noir that ultimately goes nowhere

Author: Jeffrey from Erie, PA
10 December 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I watched this film for the first time yesterday. To be honest, I had never even heard of it before, despite being a big Jimmy Stewart fan. After watching for the first hour and a half, I was still wondering where this movie had been all my life. James Stewart gives a wonderful performance as a brilliant small-town lawyer, a cross between Perry Mason and Ben Matlock. The courtroom duels between Stewart and prosecutor George C. Scott are wonderful. A very young Lee Remick is excellent as the sex-starved tramp of a wife to Ben Gazzara - a precursor to today's Desperate Housewives perhaps? In addition, the film is directed by the legendary Otto Preminger, best known to those of my generation as Mr. Freeze on the old BATMAN show. So why isn't this film better known? The answer is simple - the ending is terrible. You keep waiting and waiting for all the loose ends, all the characters, all the drama to be wrapped up in one slam-bang finale, a la WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION. Sadly, none of this occurs. This film left me feeling empty and cheated. I guess it is never a waste of time to spend almost 3 hours watching Jimmy Stewart at his mid-career best, but this was a one-shot deal for me. I won't watch it again and do not recommend it - unless you turn it off right before the end and just imagine what COULD have happened.

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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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4 out of 5 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 7 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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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Long-form courtroom drama

Author: Bob Taylor ( from Canada
27 October 2013

Otto Preminger was a capable director who knew how to use actors. If we remember Gene Tierney today, it's probably because we loved the use Preminger made of her in Laura. Lee Remick looks sensational in this movie because Preminger photographs her lovingly in rich black-and-white against plain surroundings. You'll remember her performance a lot longer than you'll remember the character she plays.

My difficulty with this movie is the excessive length: 2h40m. I realize that directors then were experimenting with longer running times, but in a courtroom drama brevity is important. The viewer is not interested in case law from the nineteenth century, they want drama and truth. Witness For the Prosecution (1957) takes 1h56m to tell a story that is every bit as complicated as Preminger's, while Compulsion (1959) gets the job done in 1h43m. I was sitting in my chair, fighting the urge to press the skip button on my remote.

Apart from Remick, I enjoyed James Stewart as the defence lawyer: he's not afraid to show an unpleasant side to his personality. Eve Arden is as appealing as she was on her TV series. George C. Scott as the hot-shot DA from Lansing has a few effective scenes, although his character has little influence on the plot. Only O'Connell as the drunken lawyer failed to interest me in any way.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Provocative Courtroom Drama.

Author: AaronCapenBanner from North America
11 October 2013

Otto Preminger directed this film which stars Jimmy Stewart as a small-town lawyer who takes on the case of Army Lt. Frederick Biegler(played by Ben Gazzara) who is accused of murdering a bartender named Barney Quill, whom he believed raped his wife Laura(played by Lee Remick) a woman who proves to be of disputed character, which makes her account of the attack questionable. The prosecuting attorney(played well by George C. Scott) uses this to his full advantage, though Biegler still has a few tricks up his sleeve... Reasonably interesting film has a good cast, though goes on too long, and its provocative nature(quite daring for its time) seems overly obvious now, but doesn't ruin this courtroom drama otherwise.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Anatomy of a Trial

Author: princebansal1982 from U.S.A.
22 May 2011

Anatomy of a Murder is a court room drama. I loved it, but I loved it more for the characters rather the story. While the plot is very good the characters are what hooked me in.

Characters of the main protagonist, his friend, his secretary and the judge had little quirks that made them come alive. Whether it was "Arty of Irst Art" or "That's a great help. Mr. Dancer?", there were some memorable quotes. All of this somehow made the characters seem very real as opposed to caricatures as these type of characters are in most films.

When you see a court room drama revolving around a murder defense, you rarely expect humor or quirkiness but that is what made this movie special for me. All the actors did a wonderful job particularly James Stewart.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

This film needed an editor......

Author: buzzerbill ( from Atlanta, GA
1 July 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Gregory, the movie cat, had the same mixed feelings about this film as I did. He yawned and left after 15 minutes, his whiskers twitching in boredom. However, he did return for the last hour or so and purred intermittently. A solid 6 from both of us.

There are a few reasons about why this film just doesn't quite work. I'll get the first out of the way quickly--the score. Somehow, jazz for a rural courtroom drama just seems wrong--and like most jazz, it's a cacophonous noise. However, realizing that this is in part my idiosyncratic reaction, that just looses 1 point of 10.

The rating of 6 builds up from the performances--particularly James Stewart, as good as he ever has been (except perhaps for Vertigo). Joseph Welch, as the judge, and Arthur O'Connell, as Stewart's colleague, both provide textbook examples of superior character performances. Lee Remick enjoys a star turn as the wife who may (or may not?) have been raped; Ben Gazzara is solid as the murderer who may, or may not, have been acting under "irresistible impulse"; and George C. Scott gives a memorably showy performance as a reptilian prosecuting attorney. And how can you not love Eve Arden, even if she were only to read the phone book?

And the gap? Frankly, the film is just plain too long and the pacing too languid. Much of the first hour seems like filler. The trial, which occupies the last hour and forty minutes, is far better, but still is more than a little prolix.

I'm not going to comment on some of the attitudes towards the attitudes towards rape; they are of their time and need to be seen as such without pious feminist posturing.

Call this one a near miss. When you watch, be forewarned. If only you could filter out the soundtrack.....

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