ANATOMY OF A MURDER (12)
D: Otto Preminger
Columbia (Otto Preminger)
USA 🇺🇸 1959
W: Wendell Mayes [based on the novel by
DP: Sam Leavitt
Ed: Louis Loeffler
Mus: Duke Ellington
James Stewart (Paul Diegler), Lee
Remick (Laura Manion), Ben Gazzara (Lt. Frederick Manion), Arthur O'Connell (Parnell McCarthy), Eve Arden (Maida), Kathryn Grant (Mary Pilant), Joseph N.
Welch (Judge Weaver), George C. Scott (Claude Dancer), Brooks West (Mitch Lodwick), Murray Hamilton (Alphonse Paquette)
Otto Preminger's excellent courtroom drama caused a huge
sensation when originally released in 1959, using words like "rape", "panties" and "spermatogenesis" which were unheard in cinema screens during the time.
Based on actual events, James Stewart's district attorney
turned defending lawyer takes on a case where his chances of success seem small. A former US soldier faces a murder charge following a bartenders sexual assault on his wife, and with
two corporate hotshot lawyers standing for the prosecution, Stewart uses courtroom histrionics, verbal tennis and lawful lingo to sway the jury to his
benefit, aiming for an acquittal for reasons of "temporary insanity" on behalf of his client.
At 160 minutes, the film is a little overlong, but not a
moment needs to be cut. The first hour builds up the bare bones of the case, while the mystery of events unfolds in the courtroom scenes overseen by the pedantic Judge Weaver (a great
performance from real-life judge Joseph N. Welch).
Without the aid of flashback scenes, the ambiguity of Lt.
Manion's innocence adds even more to the drama, and with Stewart in such fine form, you can't help but hope that he is the lawyer on the victorious side.
There's a couple of goofs in the filmmaking execution
which prevent this excellent film from attaining a perfect score (the opening scene has a shadow of the camera crew caused by long shadows), but the frank dialogue and dramatic courtroom
scenes makes this an absolute must-see.