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A trial of a man who did his duty...

Author: Thanos Alfie from Greece
25 February 2015

"Anatomy of a Murder" is a mystery movie in which we have a murder trial of a man who killed an another man who raped his wife. The defendant of him supports all his defense in the psychiatrist result which was that the killer is suffered of temporary insanity at the time that he did the crime. On the other hand the prosecution supports that the killer was fine when he did the crime and they avoid to talk about his raped wife.

I liked this movie because of the plot and the storyline because it was full of swifts and had much of suspense. I also liked this movie because of the direction of the Otto Preminger who I believe did a great job on it. About the interpretation I have to admit that James Stewart who played as Paul Biegler was simply outstanding for one more time and I also liked the interpretation of Lee Remick who played as Laura Manion. Another interpretation that has to be mentioned is Ben Gazzara's who played as Lt. Frederick Manion and he was really good at it.

Finally I have to say that "Anatomy of a Murder" is a great movie to watch because it has plenty of scenes in which you can not expect what will come up and how this will change the whole plot of the movie. This I believe is the most important thing that this movie has and makes it so good, I strongly recommend it.

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Long or short version? I prefer the short.

Author: JohnHowardReid
18 October 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film exists in two forms: a short version and a long version. The version that most people are writing about is the version I prefer, namely the short version. The first hour in the long version is composed entirely of seemingly endless talk, all of it mechanically acted by players who are obviously just as bored with the script as we are. But when the courtroom drama actually starts – more than 70 minutes later – there is a sharp improvement in the film's quality. Three main factors are responsible for this sudden upsurge of interest. When it comes to legal tactics and counsel by- play, the author, Judge John D. Voelker of the Michigan Supreme Court, knows what he is talking about. The second factor is the entrance of George C. Scott as opposing counsel and real-life lawyer, Joseph N. Welch, as the judge. Scott is magnificent, compelling the spectator's attention to every facet of his duel with with James Stewart (who holds up his end quite well). The third factor is one of pace. The dialogue not only crackles but director Otto Preminger moves it along at a tremendous bat.

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"People are many things."

Author: Robert J. Maxwell ( from Deming, New Mexico, USA
3 November 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a superior courtroom story that was considered pretty shocking at the time of its release -- young Lee Remick wriggling around in her tight slacks, words like "spermatogenesis," a pair of torn "panties". Now we might see the very rape that precipitates the murder of Barney Quill by Remick's shady soldier husband, Ben Gazzara.

Three elements raise this above many other films about crime, the law, and the justice system.

One is the story itself. Let's face facts, he said. What's the usual trajectory in courtroom dramas? An innocent man or woman is framed or otherwise unjustly tried for a crime and the defense counsel comes to his or her aid and, only at the last minute, after much tribulation, saves the innocent from conviction.

Or, conversely, the murderer is about to go free but only at the last minute is exposed through the heroic efforts of the tormented and self-sacrificing prosecutor. The guilty party may break down on the stand, pounding his fists against his temples, shrieking, "Okay, I did it. I DID IT! But I only wanted to scare her." There is no such clear opposition between good and bad in this case. Barney Quill probably did rape Gazarra's wife, but we can't be sure, what with her hanging around Barney's bar while Gazarra is home asleep, nudging Quill with her rear end, belting down shots. And Gazarra may in fact have been in a state of dissociation when he pulled the trigger on Barney but Gazarra gives us ample reason to believe he's lying about his mental condition during the incident.

It's a grown-up look at guilt and the justice system, lacking in cartoon characters.

Another feature that raises this film above most other examples of the genre is the acting. The performances by all the principles are exemplary. George C. Scott in an early role is almost perfect, in the way that a Smithfield ham can be perfect.

Finally, this story is set in Thunder Bay on the upper peninsula of Michigan. These are northern latitudes we're talking about. Even in early Fall the nights are chilly. The trees look as if they're shuddering with revulsion at the notion that another winter is around the corner. The streets and mostly vacant holiday spots look bleak. Townspeople talk about the bears being harmless as they rummage through the garbage for scraps. You can see the northern lights in the middle of July. The local color is precisely pinned down.

There are several comic exchanges too. It's about rape, beatings, and a revenge murder, but it's not a heavy drama. Arthur O'Connell is worth a few smiles as an elderly Irish lawyer friend of James Stewart's, trying to stay off the bottle and burping his way through the trial. Eve Arden adds some welcome wise cracks and some trenchant and funny observations.

Two slight turn offs. One is Saul Bass's razzle-dazzle titles. Sometimes that man's ego tripped him up. There should have been a credit: SAUL BASS PRESENTS SPECTACULAR TITLES. And then there's the musical score. I love some of Duke Ellington's work but this is not among his best efforts and it would have worked better as source music. That is, it could easily have added to the atmosphere of Barney Quill's bar if the Duke's music had been played on the juke box.

Overall, a superior job. Better than John D. Voelker's novel, which badly needed a perceptive and ruthless copy editor.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

George.C.Scott owns this film .....

Author: PimpinAinttEasy from India
22 April 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Dear George.C.Scott,

you owned this film. Yes, despite the presence of three other stalwarts, you held your own and always had my attention. Even in the scenes where you did not have any dialogs. Your mannerisms and body language helped you steal the thunder from right under James Stewart's nose. The film is a rather long but entertaining, funny and even slightly provocative court room drama. Lee Remick is a sexpot trophy wife who has men fighting over her. Ben Gazzara is her overprotective husband who murders a man who raped Remick. And James Stewart plays their slightly patriarchal lawyer who is scandalized by the change around him. The actors made this film. Apart from you George, Joseph.N.Welch deserves special mention for his performance as a good natured judge. I am surprised a lot of the scenes did not end up on the editing table. I mean, the film is 160 minutes long. I'm not complaining because the brilliant actors were backed by some terrific writing by Wendell Mayes. The film is upto its neck in some remarkable one liners. Otto Perminger does not indulge in too many directorial flourishes. With such a great cast and script, he did not need to.

Best Regards, Pimpin.


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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

How can a jury disregard what it's already heard?

Author: sharky_55 from Australia
19 March 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Most court drama have an agenda going in - a bias to uncover and attack, a crime to solve, a mystery to unlock. They feel almost like a detective novel at times; information is doled out as required and at the end the audience is satisfied by how the script has forged a perfect and neat conclusion from the bits and pieces. Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder does not follow this framework. It doesn't have a pre-planned narrative it wants to unfold, or an angle that wants to be highlighted. There are the usual courtroom flourishes, but they echo a sentiment from Preminger that these should not be dramatised or glamourised in any way, lest they mar the objectivity of the jury process.

But of course, they do. Preminger's actors understand the roles that they play - how their roles are doubled in themselves, how they have to step up in the courtroom as lawyers putting on a performance. Stewart is brilliant; he slips so easily into that persona as if it was like putting on a hat himself, and making the weary hobby fisherman disappear. To win this case he doesn't need a justification, just an excuse, as he so snidely whispers to Manion at the beginning. And then he makes a big show out of it, pushing the rules of the courtroom to its peak theatricality: throwing his hands up into the air at injustice served, loudly slamming his palm into the opposition's table, using wisecracks at the right moments, and crucial, perfectly planned accusatory questions that are struck off from the record, but not from the jury's minds, or the screen. Preminger makes a clear note of these occurrences, because it happens many times and with great effect on the case.

Lee Remick knows her role too, to be the fetching, coquettish object of desire that may or may not be the adulterous trigger that starts this chain of events. She doesn't seem like a rape victim, some have pointed out. She is of course deliberately flirtatious and touchy-feely because Preminger wants to throw her claims up into the air. Remick shows great range here, from the way she flashes a dazzling smile and flourishes her long golden locks (again, a performance intended to show off) when asked to remove her hat and shed the puritan image, to the way she breaks down into tears on the stand, and how her first appearance is sprawled out seductively on the couch at Biegler and asking her to address him as Laura. We see persuasive arguments for both sides of this women, and from both the defense and prosecution - we see all the facts, all the testimonies, all the research that Biegler goes through to prepare his position.

And even at 2 hours 40 minutes it doesn't seem a touch dull at all. The scenes of the courthouse proceedings themselves could have been boring and dragging, but they are livened by a script that is quick on its toes and clearly communicates all the legal jargon, as well as imaginative staging. The triangles that Leavitt composes drip with dramatic intensity - always a figure lurking in the middle background gazing intently, eyes flicking from head to head, as the momentum swings back and forth. So delicately is this handled that even nearing the ending of the film with mere minutes to go, we have no idea what the jury's outcome will be. Preminger doesn't offer straight, simple answers, but offers the audience a seat in the jury itself, and shows us how these facts can be twisted in that fateful building.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Sophisticated courtroom drama

Author: Scott44 from United States
3 August 2014

***User reviewer telegonus ("Gray Anatomy", telegonus from brighton, ma, 15 July 2001) and Camera Obscura ("Absolutely first-rate courtroom drama, fascinating all the way", Camera Obscura from The Dutch Mountains, 8 January 2007) both have good summaries.***

"Anatomy of a Murder" (1959, Otto Preminger), a desk-slapping courtroom drama, is as compelling as it is ambiguous. Set in a small town in Michigan, it connects very well with rural, patriotic America. (Characters routinely take country detours with their dialogue.) Despite the lack of mystery in who killed who, "Anatomy" is one of cinema's greatest trial films.

Everyone agrees that Army Lt. Frederick Manion (Ben Gazzara) shot and killed a barman because he believed the latter had raped and assaulted his flirtatious wife, Laura (Lee Remick). However, we are never made completely certain she was raped. Nor are we entirely sure that Lt. Manion wasn't the one who beat his spouse. Because many of the key details are unresolved we feel like jurors unsure of who is lying. Also, by deciding whether an Army Lieutenant was insane when he committed murder we are participating in a specialized legal point. This is a sophisticated law movie despite the country bumpkin backdrop.

One of the (much-discussed) characteristics of Otto Preminger's visual style is the unusual absence of cutaways. By never seeing a close-up of someone in the courtroom reacting to the current testimony, the audience is denied an obvious clue about what participants are really thinking. The effect works here, elevating our interest with the rapid-fire legal exchanges. (I wonder if any real trial in history ever had so many objections by counsel. Also, would Biegler not be disbarred immediately for uttering so many slanderous accusations about his legal rivals?)

A recurring theme is the idea of a substitute. Examples abound, such as the knowledge that the judge (Joseph N. Welch) is filling in for the sitting judge (who is ailing). There are two prosecutors for Michigan. Laura wears a hat for half the trial until she is asked to remove it, exposing her bountiful hair. Biegler's colleague and buddy Parnell (Arthur O'Connell) morphs from being a drunk and emotional wreck to sobriety and being of value to a law firm. There is Biegler's surprise at the boyish appearance of the Army psychologist. Jimmy Stewart and Duke Ellington both sit and play the same piano, etc. The appearance of so many substitutes parallels our feelings towards Lt. Manion. As we learn more about the Manions, we begin to consider the possibility that the husband is a cold manipulator using the insanity defense for convenience only.

Jimmy Stewart's portrayal of Paul Biegler is a tour du force. The rest of the cast is also superb. Ben Gazzara and Lee Remick are very effective and believable as small-town provocateurs. George C. Scott makes Claude Dancer, the Assistant State's Attorney, seem sufficiently formidable. Eve Arden is very good as Biegler's street-wise secretary. O'Connell portrays the self-pitying Parnell amiably. While Ken Lynch (as a Detective) has a small role, both he and Murray Hamilton as (Alphonse, the bartender) are both superb, scene-chewing character actors in all their films. Duke Ellington's jazzy score is excellent.

By the way, almost every character relishes tobacco. (Jimmy Stewart's cheroot is likely announcing his presence very effectively.) It seems legitimate to opine that while audiences viewing "Anatomy" 55 years after its release are more focused on the health risks of smoking, we have lost the depth of appreciation that Americans used to have regarding courts of law.

Cinephiles should take a break from cleaning freshly-caught trout and return to the revival theater that shows this first-rate courtroom drama. To paraphrase Noam Chomsky, if we don't believe in justice for dirt-balls we don't believe in it for anyone.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

He says, she says

Author: Chris. from Australia
27 December 2012

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.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

A Courtroom Drama Masterpiece

Author: Desertman84 from United States
25 October 2012

*** 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.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

An amazing film resting completely on dialogs and acting.

Author: manendra-lodhi ( from India
9 July 2012

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."

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

It's well-paced, well-acted, and the explicit language was warranted within the context of the film.

Author: G K from Mars
26 March 2012

*** 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.

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