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Though it's dated now, this courtroom drama still has the capacity to
tease the armchair sleuths and keep the casual viewer guessing not only
to the verdict that will decide whether Army Officer Ben Gazzara will
be convicted of murdering a bartender accused of raping his wife
(Remick), but equally, whether her allegations have the substance to
justify her jealous and possessive husband's extreme actions.
Jimmy Stewart is thrust into the furnace as the small town counsel who finds himself unwittingly defending the indefensible when it's revealed that Remick is a flirtatious woman prone to provocative behaviour amid the stench of cheap liquor in seedy bars with anonymous strangers. Stewart steers the boat well, guiding his troupe of cinema newcomers (who later gain distinction in their own right) that includes Gazzara, Remick, George C.Scott as the special adviser brought in to beef up the prosecution, while veterans Arthur O'Connell, Eve Arden and Murray Hamilton offer reliable support.
Preminger's picture takes a very clinical view of proceedings, and in particular, the letter of the law which is often painstakingly explained in layman by the characters, so much so, that pacing is sometimes a distinct challenge. It's a fine line between precision and tedium, and while Preminger's examination flirts with the latter, fortunately, the characterisations and sub-plots as Stewart and O'Connell build the defence, creates a focused and compelling narrative of considerable quality that manages to defy the near three-hour runtime.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Anatomy of a Murder is a courtroom crime drama that was directed by
Otto Preminger and adapted by Wendell Mayes from the best-selling novel
of the same title that was written by Michigan Supreme Court Justice
John D. Voelker under the pen name Robert Traver. The novel was based
on a 1952 murder case in which he was the defense attorney.The film
features James Stewart, George C. Scott, Lee Remick and Ben Gazzara
together with Arthur O'Connell, Eve Arden, Kathryn Grant,Orson Bean,
and Murray Hamilton.This was one of the first mainstream Hollywood film
to address sex and rape in graphic terms.
Through the intervention of his alcoholic mentor, Parnell McCarthy , Paul Biegler accepts the case of one Lt. Manion,an unlovable lout who has murdered a local bar owner. Manion admits that he committed the crime, citing as his motive the victim's rape of the alluring Mrs. Manion.Faced with the formidable opposition of big-city prosecutor Claude Dancer, Biegler hopes to win freedom for his client by using as his defense the argument of "irresistible impulse."
A riveting courtroom drama of rape and premeditated murder is brought to life with an all-star cast in the suspenseful and highly-acclaimed movie.Also,it featured a David vs Goliath type of courtroom battle as the plot presented a humble small-town lawyer against a hard-headed big city prosecutor which added interest to the viewer of the film.This courtroom drama classic is tense, thought-provoking, and brilliantly acted, with great performances from James Stewart and George C. Scott.It simply worked at all levels.Packed with drama, passion and intrigue,this cinematic masterpiece that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
The plot of this film focuses on lawyer Biegler, played by Stewart, and a new case he has taken on. One night after going to a bar, Laura Manion is raped by Barney Quill, the bartender of that bar. After her husband Lt. Manion learns of this attack, he goes to the bar and calmly shoots and kills Quill. Biegler is hesitant to take the case at first but decides to take it, with Lt. Manion pleading insanity. The plot is straightforward which was nice to see, with spectacular acting by the entire cast. I especially liked the performances by Stewart and George C. Scott and I thought the scenes with them going against each other in court were very good. With all that said however, I felt that the ending was quite weak. After spending more than two hours in the courtroom, I was hoping for a better conclusion to the story. Although that was disappointing, I think that this is a worthwhile film to see, primarily because this is Jimmy Stewart at one of his best.
The film made me remind of the 12 angry men. This is one of the best
films that I had seen about courtroom drama. The film is entirely based
upon dialogs and acting. This is the most impressive part that I like
in any film. the film without getting into much detail about the
characters, moves to its purpose. An amazing performance by James
Stewart as usual. The story line is amazing. The way that they make you
sit through the entire film just on the basis of dialogs and the
tension along with funny elements is just amazing. At no point of time
I found the plot to be unusual or unnecessary.
"A must watch for all movie buffs."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to address sex and
rape in graphic terms. It includes one of Saul Bass's most celebrated
title sequences, an innovative musical score by Duke Ellington and has
been described by a law professor as "probably the finest pure trial
movie ever made". A small-town lawyer (James Stewart) successfully
defends an army officer (Ben Gazzara) accused of murdering a bartender
who had assaulted his wife.
Anatomy Of A Murder is an overlong and over-faithful version of a highly detailed courtroom bestseller. The plot is necessarily equivocal, the characterization is overblown, but the trial commands some interest. It was George C. Scott's first notable role, as the prosecutor, and his scenes with Stewart, a totally different kind of actor, are hugely compelling.
I watched "witness for the prosecution" out of the blue and was
instantly hooked to courtroom dramas. So I tried to dig up the best
courtroom drama movies. I consulted a few lists and am I glad I did. I
found four movies that are generally accepted by all. Anatomy of a
murder was one of them; other three being, witness for the prosecution,
to kill a mocking bird and Michael Clayton.
James Stewart has done a great job on the portrayal of the "humble country lawyer". The character become so alive that they make you want to be one of them. George Scott has done a wonderful job as Asst. State Attorney General Claude Dancer. He is bang on the target as the shrewd lawyer who knows how to skirmish around in the courtroom.
If you love to talk, argue and everything; then this genre is for you and the movie is the best start. It makes witness for the prosecution look pale at times with the tension in the environment at times.
The wonderful earthy, gritty, black-and-white photography only adds to the natural feel of this film. The Ellington score's contribution cannot be overestimated. The acting is so consistently good and natural - beyond the scope of consistency of most films - that it becomes totally compelling and demands many viewings. The biggest and most notable fault is Preminger's typical carelessness as far as filming equipment and personnel appearing in the film - compare to his "In Harm's Way" for example, where there are shadows, stills, reflections of crew and equipment in the film. This is also evident in this film, and one has to either reject or accept the director's faults in view of the total effect. There are so many moments of visual detail and stunningly subdued acting that it seems hard not to place this as one of the great - and happily not grand - films of all time.
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.
In a murder trial, the defendant says he suffered temporary insanity
after the victim raped his wife. What is the truth, and will he win his
case? This movie was directed Otto Preminger, perhaps best known up to
this point for the film "Laura". Perhaps not coincidentally, a lead
character here is also named Laura -- assault victim Laura Manion.
With a cast like James Stewart, Ben Gazzara and George C. Scott with music by Duke Ellington, you would have to go out of your way to screw this up. Gazzara is probably better known today as the villain from either "Road House" or "The Big Lebowski", but he has a long career and many hits. This is one of them.
strikes me as a graphic description of rape for the time. Not as bad as today's salacious films, but still sexually prurient and most likely tantalizing to the maliciously deviant. I also found out that most French words are "suggestive", apparently, and I would be curious to know what the term for panties is that the film neglected to share.
They bring in an "irresistible impulse" defense from an 1886 court decision of the Michigan Supreme Court. Is it real? And can the prosecution bring in a witness that the defense was not aware of? And it seems the defense and prosecution are calling witnesses in no real order... I am not an attorney, but this seems wrong in certain ways. Though, I do love the judge intently!
Thoroughly engrossing courtroom drama, famous as much for its adult
subject matter and use of "dirty" language as anything else. It has
some casting faults but equally there is some memorable playing,
especially in the artifice-free courtroom finale played out over
several tense minutes.
Let's deal with the subject matter and language issues. It must have come as a shock to middle and upper-class Americans at the end of Eisenhower's second term to be faced with a film which examines in some, if not gory detail, the possible rape of a, let's be generous, flighty but pretty young wife of a Korean War vet who, after the alleged act, cold-bloodedly shoots down the so-called perpetrator out of revenge, jealousy or was it temporary madness. No stranger to controversy, Otto Preminger pushes the envelope all the way home here, making an epochal film on the cusp of the permissive 60's, dragging America into the modern world. Hitchcock, another well-known agent-provocateur perhaps following the lead here, would take it further next year by showing Janet Leigh in her bra, taking part in a clandestine affair. As for the use of everyday vernacular in employing strong terminology for the time, with words like bitch, sperm, rape and of course panties, while they're obviously inserted for shock value, they nevertheless ground the film in realism even if the last of them is probably over-used.
Some of the characterisations, I felt, worked, some didn't. James Stewart sees it through gamely but I sense a mis-casting and why he has to be saddled with a clichéd drunken Dr Watson-type as his assistant, I don't know. Better are the performances of a young George C Scott and Lee Remick as the slimy prosecutor and floozy housewife respectively, their climactic exchanges being absolutely electric, while there's a performance of great subtlety and nuance by Joseph N Welch as the fair-minded judge.
So did the trailer park trash-couple get away with it? Preminger leaves that open and bravely eschews the use of flashback to give us no easy answers. The film's at its best in the court scenes, less so in its depiction of small-town Americana but I was certainly gripped by the last 45 minutes in particular and will give it more than the benefit of the doubt in that regard.
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