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Anatomy of a Murder
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If you have not seen it, call your cable provider ... now

10/10
Author: A_Different_Drummer from North America
14 April 2014

*** 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.

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A simply amazing, astonishing, brilliantly crafted courtroom thriller...one of a kind

9/10
Author: Robert W. (Robert_duder@hotmail.com) from Ontario, Canada
19 February 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It was less than ten years ago I watched It's A Wonderful Life for the first (I know, I know shocking.) Then it was last year after watching it again (it's a staple in my film rotation now of course) I fell in love with Jimmy Stewart. The man is a legend for a reason. He is mesmerizing on screen. I was very excited to watch this latest film because I had never heard of it and stumbled on it for 1$ in a Goodwill store. Simply put...wow. This is legendary film right here. It was easily one of the most unique, brilliantly written courtroom dramas I have ever seen. The first thing I noticed was the run time...nearly three hours for a courtroom drama...that seemed excessive and I thought for sure it would drag longer than it needed to. The magic of this film is that it doesn't drag for even a minute. The characters are so vibrant and the story intriguing and real and you can relate to it. More than 3/4 of the film is in a courtroom and its witness, question, re-direct, question, witness, question and so on and so forth. You are watching a murder case unfold and you cannot turn away from it. It is a mystery of sorts but the investigation is simple and straight forward and then you're in the throes of the legal system.

Jimmy Stewart just simply mesmerizes in this movie. His jaded and often sarcastic Paul Biegler is such an amazing character. Its not an in your face and over the top performance but he endears himself to you and is incredibly convincing in this role. He is subtly brilliant and watching him do what he obviously does best is perfect for the film. There is a back story to his character that certainly doesn't get in the way of the main plot but still does a lot to give him some depth. The stunning Lee Remick plays the wife of the accused. She is a sassy and perhaps abused woman dealing with issues she has with men. If there is one character I wanted to know more about it was hers but she is excellent in the part and her chemistry with Stewart is perfect. Ben Gazzara is the accused murderer and he is also very good. His character is brooding and stoic and he isn't very likable which is the entire idea behind his character. The very first interaction between him and Stewart shows that the two men don't like each other but Stewart still goes above and beyond to get him off. Arthur O'Connell is the perfect addition as Stewart's partner and adds a certain emotional depth to Stewart's character. O'Connell doesn't have a big role but its enough to really be important to the cast. Eve Arden also has a small role and yet it helps to really give depth and an emotional connection for Stewart's character who may come across as hard and jaded at times. Perhaps the only characters in the film that lacked depth and we're even very shallow performances were George C. Scott (a BRILLIANT actor but not so much this time around), Brooks West and Joseph Welch as our esteemed Judge who just seems bored and deliver his lines poorly.

This film is brilliantly made. It was like they covered each and every detail and made sure it made sense and was fascinating enough and each character had purpose and would appeal to the audiences. All their bases are covered that make this a near perfect film watching experience. Otto Preminger should be heralded for this piece of film history because I just noticed so many little details that make this great. I think the film also stands up to the test of time because it actually is way ahead of its time. I mean it was banned in many cinemas due to some "salty" language for the time (panties was one of those words just to give you an idea of what I mean by "salty") But beyond that I feel like Stewart and his team are forward thinkers and there is a moral message here about the law and perhaps even a satirical look at the legal system. It was fascinating. Law students should latch onto this and if you're looking for a film that you can talk about for hours or you can just sit back and enjoy this is one to see! This was truly terrific. This is why classic films are considered the cream of the crop. Where are the films like this anymore? Brilliant. 9.5/10

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Quality Courtroom Drama. ♦ 80%

8/10
Author: Tejas Nair from Economic Capital Of India
29 July 2013

Very rarely comes a courtroom drama which is genuine & thrilling at the same time. After "To Kill A Mockingbird," this is the greatest crime thriller I have seen.

Not to mention how pathetic the direction & cinematography is, the tight cast performance, brilliant plot narration & amazing use of humor makes me rate it 8.0 out of 10. Oh, it could've been better.

Since the beginning James Stewart makes his viewers glued to the screen with his performance. He is subtle & straightforward. George C Scott brings a whole new dimension into it. Supporting cast is cool, as well. The story is so dynamic, it evolves step-by-step and the writer has managed not to bore with the advocacy jargon. Having references rape, sex & murder factors in abundance, this is a must watch solely because of its boldness. And the courtroom sequences is sure to make you jump out of your seats.

BOTTOM LINE: Highly Recommended due to its humor, cast performance & plot!

Profanity: Mild | Nudity: No | Sex/Foreplay: No visuals | Violence: Mild | Gore: No | Drugs: No | Alcohol/Smoking: Strong

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Somewhat dry and a slow burn, but a great example of the courtroom genre.

8/10
Author: Sergeant_Tibbs from Suffolk, England
10 July 2013

Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, there was a cluster of courtroom dramas that would come to define the sub-genre. Anatomy of a Murder is a quite cut-and-dry film with its very basic slow burn presentation of the proceedings. But with the great performances, deep focus photography blended with the jazz score, the blunt approach to some very taboo topics for the time and the hold of the question of morality as to when murder is justifiable keeps you engaged through all its 160 minutes. The way the film talks about rape and murder often feels jarring, but it gives the film a weight that's very admirable. James Stewart is a highlight as always with a performance that's reminiscent to his iconic performance in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, but what makes his character more interesting is his wise-cracking sense of humour that often goes unappreciated by other characters. It's a great fascinating film although its payoff are quite weak. I prefer Judgment at Nuremberg by a wide margin of course, but it beats Inherit the Wind, To Kill A Mockingbird and Witness for the Prosecution for sure.

8/10

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ANATOMY OF A MURDER raises prickly and complex questions about legal ethics.

8/10
Author: Larry41OnEbay-2 from Culpeper, VA USA
30 April 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

ANATOMY OF A MURDER raises prickly and complex questions about legal ethics, while challenging the audience to decide for itself the tricky issues of justice and truth. There are no clear-cut good guys and bad guys, and the film's resolution has an ironic edge. ANATOMY OF A MURDER is a movie based on the best-selling book by Michigan Supreme Court justice John D. Voelker, who served as technical adviser on the film and was the defense attorney on the real-life case on which his novel was based. The murder occurred in a small town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on July 31, 1952. The client never paid the attorney his fee, so he wrote this story to make up for it. ANATOMY OF A MURDER stars James Stewart as a seat-of-the-pants Michigan lawyer. Through the intervention of his alcoholic mentor, played by Arthur O'Connell, he accepts the case of one army Lieutenant played by Ben Gazzara in only his second film, an unlovable lout with a sexy wife played by Lee Remick. Faced with the formidable opposition of big-city prosecutor George C. Scott (starring in his first film), Stewart hopes to win freedom for his client. Also featured in the cast is Eve Arden as Stewart's know-it-all secretary and Katherine Grant as the young woman who may benefit from the murder. ANATOMY OF A MURDER may seem like it has the perfect cast -- once you've seen it, but originally they tried to get Gregory Peck as the lawyer, Lana Turner as the wife, and Richard Widmark as the jealous husband. In his autobiography, Preminger stated that he wanted Spencer Tracy or Burl Ives for the role of "Judge Weaver." But Tracy turned it down as too small a part. Burl Ives also passed on the offer but then someone, came up with a great suggestion - why not use a real judge? The director soon found the perfect 'actor' to play the ever-patient judge. Joseph Welch, the lawyer who helped to bring down Senator Joseph McCarthy's witch hunt by asking him on national television, "Have you no sense of decency?" ANATOMY OF A MURDER was filmed on location in two small towns in the upper-peninsula of Michigan. The courtroom, jail and hospital scenes were shot in their actual counterparts. Stewart's office in the film was Voelker's actual law office. Preminger liked the unique effect the real locations had on the actors causing them to give even more authentic performances. Intercourse. Contraceptive. Sperm. Sex. Climax. Panties. These were not the sort of words movie theatre audiences were used to hearing on the screen in 1959 but director Otto Preminger changed all that with his controversial courtroom drama, Anatomy of a Murder. It was a sure bet that the film's questionable dialogue would not pass through the Production Code office unnoticed but it wouldn't be the first time that Preminger had pushed the envelope with censorship issues in his movies. In 1951 he successfully challenged the Code over using the word 'virgin' in The Moon is Blue, and in 1955, he overcame opposition to his depiction of heroin addiction in The Man With The Golden Arm. The more serious and compelling aspects of Anatomy of a Murder were overshadowed by the publicity surrounding the production which played up the more unsavory aspects of the rape/murder trial and sensationalized them. Stewart's father, a hardware store owner back in the small town of Indiana, Pennsylvania even ran in ad in the local paper apologizing for the film and warning folks to stay away from it. And it was even briefly banned in Chicago for using words like, "contraception." Yet, despite the adult subject matter, the film arrived on screens with its dialogue mostly intact and became one of the biggest box office hits of that year. In his autobiography, Preminger wrote, "Our presence created great excitement in those little towns. The special train carrying cast, crew, and equipment arrived and half the population was at the station to greet us. Duke Ellington arrived a few days after we had begun to shoot. I find it useful to have the composer with me on the set. By watching the progress of the shooting, seeing the dailies....he becomes part of the film." The director even cast him in a bit part - as a pianist named 'Pie-Eye,' working at the local roadhouse. The soundtrack marked Ellington's first feature film score. Of all the film's many virtues, Jimmy Stewart's portrayal of attorney Paul Biegler is a key factor in the film's success. According to the actor, he considered it his most challenging role since Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. "It was worth all the extra effort," Stewart said in one interview, "I spent a lot of time memorizing my lines for that movie. The picture demanded an awful lot of time and thought. As the defense attorney I knew I had to be glibber than usual. Trial lawyers are neither shy nor inarticulate. I read my script each night until I fell asleep." Not surprisingly, Jimmy received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his performance in Anatomy of a Murder. In addition to Stewart, ANATOMY OF A MURDER received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Supporting Actors (Arthur O'Connell and George C. Scott), Screenplay, Film Editing, and Cinematography. The film's unusual trailer opens with a bailiff calling the court to order and announcing that "there is a new movie coming to this town. All those involved will now be sworn in." Preminger then stands up and swears in the principal actors, asking each if they "swear to have done their job in the picture to the best of their ability." When Preminger calls on Voelker, the writer protests that there cannot be a trial without a jury. Preminger then replies, "the judge and jury sits out there, the millions and millions of people in the theater."

I hope you find this film GUILTY of belonging on the National Film Registry. --- Thanks.

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"People are many things."

7/10
Author: Robert J. Maxwell (rmax304823@yahoo.com) 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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Preminger's Masterpiece

10/10
Author: JasparLamarCrabb from Boston, MA
15 May 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

One of the most risqué movies ever made --- up until 1959. James Stewart is a small-town lawyer hired to defend military man Ben Gazzara, who's accused of murdering a local who may or may not have raped his wife. Otto Preminger stages a dissection of the case and it's surprising at each turn.

ANATOMY OF A MURDER is suspenseful, funny and brilliantly acted by an unusually strong cast: Stewart is excellent and Gazzara is great. Lee Remick, as Gazzara's wife, plays her role to the hilt. She's a sex kitten who graduated to black widow! The dependable Arthur O'Connell and Eve Arden make up Stewart's legal team and George C. Scott is the prosecuting attorney. The scenes between Scott and Stewart are dynamite. The scenes between Stewart and Remick are squirm-inducing. McCarthy judge Joseph Welch plays the judge and he brings his sublime humor to bear. The great music score is by Duke Ellington and the titles by Saul Bass are among his best.

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Far from perfect, but much to recommend it

8/10
Author: bandw from Boulder, CO
24 April 2006

This is one of Jimmy Stewart's best performances. He plays Paul Beigler, a small-town lawyer who defends a man on a charge that he murdered a man whom his wife accused of having raped her. Stewart leaves his stutter and naively cheerful personality behind to create a believable character who is to be taken seriously, although we wind up knowing very little about him personally. Lee Remick plays Laura Manion, the woman making the rape charge. Laura is more than a bit of a flirt and, even though that is essential to the story, she seems to overplay it. That she should come on to Beigler, a man a generation older and the defense lawyer for her husband, I found incongruous. It is good to see a young George C. Scott turn in an Oscar-nominated performance as one of the prosecuting attorneys. And Joseph N. Welch, who plays the judge, is one of the highlights.

There is a subplot concerning Paul and his older lawyer friend Parnell Emmett McCarthy (Arthur O'Connell). Parnell seems to have a lot of regrets about his career and sees Beigler as a representation of what he was before he took some wrong turns, one such being a turn toward drink. But Paul induces Parnell to become involved with the case and Parnell is transformed by being wanted and being able to contribute. I found this little commentary on how important it is to be valued to be moving and true.

The movie is long, playing to 160 minutes, but the leisurely pacing is one of its good points. We get to know the personalities of the characters well and get much background information about the case before the extended courtroom battle.

The black and white photography is some of the best and well deserving of its Oscar nomination. There are some great nighttime shots with the lighting just perfect.

I suppose the detailed discussion of the rape was sensational at the time, but that aspect of the film will be lost on contemporary audiences. I doubt that the thought of this being in any way controversial in the context of being sexually explicit would even occur to a younger audience.

Biegler is somewhat accomplished at the piano and it is a treat to see Stewart playing a duet with Duke Ellington in one scene. Ellington contributed the music and, although interesting, it did not always create the right mood for me.

I would like to read a review by a lawyer. I know little about the law, but I think even in the 50s the prosecution could not have introduced a surprise witness at the last minute during the trial. And it is not clear at all why the dog was brought into the courtroom.

*Spoiler* If I had been on the jury I would have voted guilty, so I found its verdict surprising. However, in movies of the era it was not at all common that the guilty were set free, or the innocent found guilty. The verdict somewhat undercuts Parnell's soliloquy about the beauty of juries, but he did say "in most instances" they do it right.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Not a sentimental moment in it

9/10
Author: policy134 from Denmark
28 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Compare this to a courtroom drama today. You can't really see much difference. Sure, it's in black and white, some of the courtroom banter seems a little too tame and not an f- or s-word in it. But you can't really say that this is less engrossing than "A Few Good Men", a movie made several decades after.

In fact, this is a much more intelligent study of court trial because we are not told, like Roger Ebert wrote in his review of A Few Good Men: What they are gonna do (meaning the defense), how they are gonna do it and when. Almost everything is left to the imagination up until the end.

Also, a truly fascinating performance by Ben Gazzara. You can't peg his character. One moment he looks guilty as sin, the other he looks like a victim of circumstance. If you have seen the movie, you know what he did, but like both the defense and prosecuting attorneys argue: The circumstances make the case.

James Stewart is his usual quirky self but it doesn't hurt the character he plays. He is in a movie with a pretty heavy subject matter for its time, but he doesn't hold back on the Jimmy Stewart "aw shucks" charm that he was famous for, and you know, it fits the character perfectly.

Lee Remick is also brilliant. At first, you think she's a bit of a floozy and I hate to admit it, I thought exactly what the prosecutors set her up to be: A woman who had it coming. She turns it all around in one crucial scene between her and Stewart. Look at the change of expression. That's brilliant acting.

Of course, you can't forget George C. Scott. Has there ever been a lawyer as cool as him? Not by a long shot. I could go on and on. All the performances are brilliant. Even by the judge (forget his name).

The one little flaw is the verdict. I would have liked to see a little hint of the jury's deliberation. Also, the movie does seem to gloss over the psychiatric aspects of the case. The book was more in depth at that argument. By the way, the combined age of the jury looks to be 1200 years. Look at all of those craggy faces. Certainly a great difference from 12 Angry Men where there was a little more age variety.

Anyway, if you haven't seen this do yourself a favour if you are into this genre, look it up and see it. It's brilliant.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Stewart at His Best

10/10
Author: Hitchcoc from United States
31 August 2010

This book and film were so important to me as I was growing up. I think the book was the first truly adult novel I ever read. The book was around 600 pages and I couldn't put it down. When the movie came out I saw it with my friends. They didn't get it. This is a taut courtroom drama with a cast of characters that we grow to love or hate. The crime itself is quite foggy. It involves the revenge killing of a man who supposedly raped the defendant's wife. Lee Remick is the consummate party girl, married to a military man. This also throws a little monkey wrench into things. JImmy Stewart is the wisecracking attorney who is confronting an equally colorful prosecutor. There are numerous twists and turns that need to be watched. We are never sure of Ben Gazzara's innocence or guilt or that of his wife. That's what propels us forward. I watched this film at least ten times and I find it fresh and relevant even today (I just watched it on TCM a few day's ago). If you've not seen it, sit down and be entertained.

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