Set in 1920s London, a brutal and bloodthirsty murder has stained the plush carpets of a handsome London townhouse. The victim is the glamorous and rich Emily French. All the evidence points to Leonard Vole, a young chancer to whom the heiress left her vast fortune and who ruthlessly took her life. At least, this is the story that Emily's dedicated housekeeper Janet McIntyre stands by in court. Leonard however, is adamant that his partner, the enigmatic chorus girl Romaine, can prove his innocence. Tasked with representing Leonard is his solicitor John Mayhew and King's Counsel, Sir Charles Carter KC.
This is the first production of "Witness for the Prosecution" that based on Agatha Christie's original short (23 pages) story first published in the January 31, 1925 edition of Flynn's Weekly under the title 'Traitor Hands'. She republished it in 1933 under the present title as part of a collection called 'The Hound of Death and other stories'. Christie expanded the story for her 1953 play, changing some of the character names and introducing Sir Wilfrid Robarts as the defense counsel. It is the play, not the short story, that has been the basis for all subsequent television and film versions. See more »
In the close-up of the Evening Standard newspaper that Romaine reads, Janet the maid's surname is quite clearly printed as 'Mackenzie.' Though this is the surname Agatha Christie used in the original story, in the adaptation Janet is called 'McIntyre' both in the credits and by other characters. See more »
The Charles Laughton/Tyrone Powers/Marlene Dietrich/Billy Wilder 1957 film of "Witness for the Prosecution" has been one of my favorite films since I was in high school. So, watching this Toby Jones version--that follows Agatha Christie's original short story--comes as quite a surprise. Mostly the same characters, but with a decidedly different take on the story of love & guilt. The two "Witness" films are like watching the Kurosawa film "Rashomon"--the guilt lands on different characters.
That said, and because I'm a student of film, I liked the Toby Jones version, too; and don't feel like it's inferior to the Billy Wilder film. The photography and set designs are all shadows, fog and smoke; just the right mood for a story that is does not reveal itself and fools the eyes. The acting is all excellent, which is in keeping with all British productions. And, the pacing of the narrative is accomplished with no tech or CGI--which is refreshing in this age of SuperHero films.
Bottom line: if approached without bias, this film of Agatha Christie's "first draft" of Witness for the Prosecution is rewarding on it's on merits.
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