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

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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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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A film with no firm answer at the end

Author: walsh-22 from United Kingdom
17 June 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The film is about a lawyer Paul Biegler (James Stewart) who takes the case of a Lieutenant in the Army Frederick Manion (Ben Gazzara) who shot and killed a bartender by the name of Barney Quill who his wife (Lee Remick) said raped her. It seems like a no win case because there is a witness to the murder and the Lieutenant only has his wife's word that she was raped. Stewart must show that the Lieutenant was temporary insane, a task that is not made easy by the overzealous of the prosecution team.

What Otto Preminger does with this film is give no affirmative answer at the end of it, it is left up to the audience to decide what is the truth and he doesn't tell the audience one side is lier's and the other isn't, there is evidence that supports both the rape happening and the Lieutenant being temporary insane when he killed Quill and evidence that contradicts the story the Lieutenant and his wife has given the court.

The supported evidence is the bruises the wife had after the attack. Tourists heard the screams. The police believed the wife. The police saw car tracks and dog tracks where the wife said the attack happened. Also, they find where her glass case fell, near to the rape. She took a lie detector test. Her ripped panties are found in the laundry, right next to Quill's room. The doctor can't be certain, one way or the other that she was raped. At that time 1959, it was hard to determine this especially with a mature married woman. The Army doctor said Manion was temporary insane. The dead man was a very good marksman and had guns behind the bar.

The evidence that doesn't support the wife and Manion is there were no witnesses to the rape. The wife's conduct before and after the rape, she is very flirty. She wore tight clothes and seemed to touch the dead man in some sexual way. When she is telling Stewart her story, there is no emotion, she is not upset talking about it. There are the hidden looks between the husband and wife that seem to say there is more to the story then they are telling. The wife is obviously scared of her husband and she has been hit by her husband before. She swore on a crucifix so her husband would believe her and that seems to say that he didn't believe her before she swore on it. The prosecution doctor says Manion wasn't temporary insane and the eye witness backs this up by saying he was calm and cool when he killed Quill and even threatened him. Manion is clearly jealous of men who show his wife any attention.

In the end, Manion is found Not guilty but there is no overall thing that says what truly happened and it makes a refreshing difference that the audience watching the film has to think what might have been the true events.

I don't agree this was James Stewart's last best film, he carried on his stealer performances in other films and TV roles after this film. Lee Remick is brilliant as Laura Manion who has two sides to her personality, she likes men and can come across as a tigress and then she has a vulnerable side who is lonely at times. George C. Scott has a small role as a state Attorney who is trying to help the prosecuting attorney convict the Lieutenant.

The music fits so well with the film, music by Duke Ellington who plays a cameo in the film as Pie eye.

The film keeps the audience guessing and makes you pay attention throughout to get you to think and decide what you believe. I can understand why the film was considered racy at the time because it mentions sperm, contraceptive, climax, penetration, bitch and slut and it shows the ripped panties but it is pretty tame compared to the films that have followed such as The Accused but I say well done to all the people who worked on it as they didn't try to shy away from any aspect of the rape and that must have been a hard thing to do with the society being what is was when the film was being made.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Anatomy Lesson

Author: jamdonahoo from United States
13 December 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Anatomy of a Murder is among the best courtroom drama films. James Stewart excels as the country lawyer defending the accused. George Scott, in one of his early roles ,is scintillating as the big city prosecutor sent to teach the country bumpkins how to conduct a murder trial. The bleakness of upper peninsular Michigan is faithfully captured by the black and white filming. Eve Arden and Authur O'Connell provide excellent supporting roles. One of my favorite character actors, Murray Hamilton, plays a key part (Al Pacquette) to perfection. Murray had a role in Jaws as the smarmy mayor, and in The Graduate as the cuckolded Mr. Robinson; both jobs he managed with great aplomb. This film was shocking and controversial when it came out and still packs a dramatic punch.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Sensational Murder In The U.P.

Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
13 November 2006

Until Reindeer Games a few years ago, Anatomy of a Murder had to be the only film that ever had as a locale, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It's a pretty woodsy area as shown in the film with lots of tiny towns and villages and very right wing in its politics.

A homicide occurred in one of those towns, an army lieutenant killed the owner of a nightspot who he says raped his wife. The lieutenant played by Ben Gazzara is in need of a good lawyer and he hires James Stewart who was the former prosecutor in the county. Stewart's team such as it is consists of secretary Eve Arden and former mentor Arthur O'Connell, a reformed alcoholic whose hold on reform is shaky to say the least.

The prosecution consists of Brooks West and a hired gun from the attorney general's office George C. Scott. There's a lot of resentment against Scott in that maybe the locals don't like the inference their own prosecutor isn't up to the job.

Anatomy of a Murder gets James Stewart into a courtroom for the only time in his film career though he did play lawyers in other films. He exudes the same kind of down home folksiness that characterized his later Hawkins TV series in the seventies.

Otto Preminger took his cast and they operated like a finely tuned machine, they could have all been from the same repertoire company and played with each other for years. Anatomy of a Murder got seven Oscar nominations including one for James Stewart as Best Actor and George C. Scott and Arthur O'Connell in the Supporting Actor category. Unfortunately this was the year of Ben-Hur which blanked just about everyone else out of any awards which also included Best Picture and Best Director for Otto Preminger.

Charlton Heston tells a story in his memoirs that Stewart on the night of the Oscars the following year told Heston he had voted for him and was pulling for him as he had already won one in The Philadelphia Story. Only a man of real class would have done that. Stewart was named Best Actor for 1959 by the New York Film Critics though.

Besides all those previously mentioned, kudos should go to Lee Remick as Gazzara's slatternly wife and Kathryn Crosby as the deceased's roadhouse manager who provides some key last minute evidence at the trial.

Anatomy of a Murder is one of the best courtroom dramas ever put on film, catch it by all means.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

long and with out a point. (Spoilers)

Author: Danny Scully from U.S.
19 July 2001

*** 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'.

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

or anatomy of the justice process?

Author: davidholmesfr from Netherlands
4 January 2002

Justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done. Here, indeed, we see the process of justice being done, but would the author of that original statement be any happier as a result? At one level this movie is a straightforward good guy (defence attorney Biegler (Stewart)) versus bad guy (prosecutor Dancer (Scott)). But this simplicity masks a deeper question that Preminger poses - how is true justice obtained?

As portrayed here justice is achieved through verbal pyrotechnics between articulate lawyers with a judge acting as umpire. Sadly, of course, this might well be nearer the truth than those who see justice as a finer concept might allow.

We, of course, must side with the good guy and, aw shucks, it has to be Biegler. But even the most dedicated Jimmy Stewart fan will be uneasy with his army client, Lt Manion (coolly played by Gazarra), on a murder charge. Showing no emotion, except for one courtroom outburst, we can penetrate neither his mind nor his idea of the truth. We are never allowed to feel sympathy for him, nor indeed, for his sluttish wife (Remick) who alleges rape against the murder victim. Our reaction to the outcome is based solely on our affection for the good guy, rather than any feeling that justice has been done.

In a sense the film is marred by the caricatures of the lawyers. Dancer is a hard-nosed, successful, big city lawyer (Scott well and truly deserved his Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor). His defence assistant, the local prosecutor, who hands the case over to him is a buffoon. On the other hand we have good old homespun Jimmy Stewart enjoying fishing expeditions, playing jazz piano, and happily bearing the financial implications of being ousted from the post of Prosecutor by the aforementioned buffoon. How much more challenging the film might have been if the prosecuting team had been less caricatured as bad guys.

However, such reservations do not detract from a movie deserving of our utmost respect, especially with its sensitive, yet precise, handling of the details of the rape allegation. Mention of semen must have represented a major step forward in 1959, although clearly `orgasm' was a tad too far and we have to settle for `completion'. Neither is the film devoid of humour, despite its dark subject matter. The scene in which the judge and three lawyers discuss, with acute mutual embarrassment, the use of the word `panties' is a gem.

Interesting that Preminger opted for black and white. Maybe he wants us to recognise that there is no such thing as black and white, especially when it comes to justice. Like the movies, it's just shades of grey. All this and great music by (and a cameo from) Duke Ellington. Highly recommended.

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7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

An all-time great movie that raises eternal questions

Author: Sam Sloan (samsloan) from Bronx, NY, United States
29 August 2003

This is one of the all-time great movies and raises eternal questions left unanswered since the Bible. A woman is brutally raped and has the bruises to prove it. Her husband goes out and kills the rapist.

But did it really happen like that? Perhaps it happened a different way. A man comes home and catches his wife in bed with another man. The other man flees. The man beats up his wife and then chases and kills the man whom he caught sleeping with his wife.

Lee Remick is beautiful, sexy and obviously attractive to men. Was she really raped, or was she a seductress and a temptress? Jimmy Stewart is the defense lawyer who defends his client, but is never sure whether his client is guilty or not. Any who is that sexy girl who shared a motel room with the murder victim. Was she a prostitute or a good girl? Was he her lover, or was he really her father? Sam Sloan

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15 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

classic movie that's not that good

Author: lippp-1 from United States
9 November 2006

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.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

An Anatomy Worth Delving Into

Author: samuraifa451 from United States
9 January 2012

Renowned film-noir director Otto Preminger tackles courtroom dramas in "Anatomy of a Murder." Paul Biegler (James Stewart) is a lawyer who mostly just wants to fish and play jazz. Though when a case involving the rape of a soldier's wife that lead to a murder comes his way, Biegler reluctantly steps out to help them make a difficult case for temporary insanity. "Anatomy of a Murder" takes a bit to actually get started with a few predictable moments in the first act but is saved by a solid performance by Stewart and a great soundtrack. Though once in the courthouse the film becomes interesting, suspenseful and even occasionally funny. There are a few unanswered questions near the end but thanks to a good cast and a relatively good plot "Anatomy of a Murder" holds up.

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