Efficient, but bitter and stubborn, barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts returns to his office in London, having recovered from a heart attack. He is subsequently invited to defend Leonard Stephen... See full summary »
Efficient, but bitter and stubborn, barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts returns to his office in London, having recovered from a heart attack. He is subsequently invited to defend Leonard Stephen Vole, who is the prime suspect in a murder case. Leonard is a former soldier that fought in World War II and is married to his beloved German wife Christine Helm Vole. He is unemployed and accused of seducing and murdering the wealthy middle-aged single woman, Emily French, to inherit 80,000 pounds. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
In 1958 Billy Wilder made one of the best film adaptations of an Agatha Christie story when he directed WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION, with Charles Laughton, Marlene Dietrich, Tyrone Power, Elsa Lanchester, and Una O'Connor. It is one of those mystery films that, even when you understand the trick, does not fail to remain entertaining. But it has to be done in a certain way, with a sense of decorum and tradition (personified by Laughton as Sir Wilfred Robarts - brilliant defense barrister but guardian of England's precious laws and sense of justice). It is infectious. Even Power as the seemingly helpless Leonard Vole is desperately hoping that the system of justice will save him.
But along comes this version of 1982. One would have thought it could not fail with a star like Sir Ralph Richardson as Robarts and Diana Rigg as Christine Vole. But it does fail. Even with Dame Deborah Kerr as Nurse Plimsoll and Dame Wendy Hiller as Janet Mackenzie (the Una O'Connor role)it fails. Richardson is too laid back for Sir Wilfrid. When Rigg testifies against her husband, after having previously given him an alibi for the murder, Richardson almost seems to tease her about her behavior. In the same situation in the Wilder film, Laughton's justifiable anger at this turnabout leads to a peroration point where he shouts out that she is a perpetual liar. It was far more affective with Laughton, although Richardson was (traditionally) a greater actor.
Similarly, Tyrone Power's Leonard Vole was (as I said when reviewing the 1958 film version)playing Leonard for all the part is worth, and created the most sinister part he played after his best performance in NIGHTMARE ALLEY as Stanton Carlyle. The last ten minutes of the film show what a totally amoral and vicious louse Power's Vole really is. Beau Bridges was as laid back as Richardson, making the mistake of making Vole seem a nice guy. Vole can be helpless in the arms of the British judicial system or he can be a louse. He can't be a guy you want to take out for a fishing expedition.
I give this film a "6" - barely because the cast tried. Their ideas were wrong in Richardson and Bridges' interpretations.
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