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4.7 out of 5 stars43
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 26 March 2005
Preminger's "Anatomy of a Murder" is possibly the finest courtroom drama yet made, with emphasis on 'courtroom'. The dissection of the murder's anatomy takes place within the court, within the language and conflicting narratives of the key players. We don't see the events surrounding the murder ... we see the trial.
It's a simple enough plot. A soldier (Ben Gazarra) is held for the murder of a man who has allegedly raped his wife. The wife (Lee Remick) is far removed from the wholesome image of faithful wife - she wears revealing clothes, hangs out down the bar, and flirts with any male who comes within hailing distance. James Stewart plays the small-town lawyer persuaded to take the unwinnable case - he's bright, but he's jaded after years as District Attorney, and prefers to escape down the river to fish for trout.
It's an open-and-shut case - the soldier admits the shooting, there are witnesses, and the wife's morals are the subject of much gossip around town. The tension is in whether or not Stewart can prove the rape allegation ... and whether or not he can prove that this was justifiable cause for the taking of the man's life.
Preminger was taking major risks. He explores themes which were still pretty risqué in the late 50's. He doesn't sensationalise - we get no gory murder, we get no flashbacks or images of the night. The setting is largely confined within the courtroom and Stewart's offices as we play out a psychological drama. What really happened? What really happened in the minds of the protagonists?
This is a mellow, black & white film: there are dark themes, but the lighting is certainly not 'noir' - the drama is beautifully lit, filmed almost tenderly. The acting is superb (though Gazarra's performance is beginning to appear a little dated), with Stewart and Remick stealing the show. Remick is a wonderfully cool and intelligent actress, and she plays the role of the promiscuous wife with relish and a certain humour. Stewart, as usual, has physical presence ... and then the voice comes in, like whorls in coffee ... creamy, rich, riveting the attention.
The courtroom drama is beautifully handled - the tension and the emotion played slowly, allowed to peak, then subside again. It's as if Preminger is fishing - one moment reeling in the drama, the next letting it run. The judge is used to inject light relief - a brave move in itself - and the themes of rape and promiscuity are never allowed to become salacious. Indeed, the judge's role is to relieve tension ... then crank it up again, reminding the actors of the seriousness of the court case, keeping the audience under control as he does so.
It's a beautifully filmed, tense, psychological drama which demonstrates that good writing, a good plot, and quality acting mean a director has little need for special effects to keep the audience rooted in their seats.
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on 8 January 2008
This film is one of the best courtroom films I have ever seen along with "12 Angry Men". The young George Scott and James Stewart excell themselves along with the whole crew.

The film revolves around a murder case under peculiar circumstances. An army lieutenant kills a bar owner who allegedly raped his wife. The raped wife is joyful and full of life married with a jealous and easily infuriated Korean War hero who carries a Luger as a memento of the World War 2. The small town lawyer and his team carefully study the case and finally beat the young and succesfull attorney who is on the way up in his carreer.

In my opinion the film tries to give the audience the feeling that people can not be judged harshly with regards to their evident appearances. They have to be carefully examined and studied before judging them. All the men have vices and virtues at the same time.

A very good movie worth watching over and over again.
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on 10 January 2013
When U.S Army Lieutenant Frederick "Manny" Manion (Ben Gazzara) is arrested for first degree murder when he kills local tavern owner Barney Quill as he believes he raped his Wife Laura Manion (Lee Remick). Former District Attorney Paul Biegler (James Stewart) who has lost his re-election bid. Biegler now choosing to use his spare time fishing, playing the piano and hanging out with his alcoholic friend and colleague Parnell McCarthy (Arthur O'Connell), as well as his cynical secretary Maida Rutledge (Eve Arden). Biegler is contacted by Laura Manion wanting to secure his services to defend her incarcerated husband. Biegler after much deliberation makes the decision to represent Lieutenant Manion. Biegler realising the chance of getting him off such a charge even with such a strong motivation decides irresistible impulse a version of a temporary insanity as his defence. Biegler finds himself facing District Attorney Mitch Lodwick (Brooks West), the man who ousted him from office, and Assistant State Attorney General Claude Dancer (George C. Scott) an incredibly smart and ambitious man, when the case comes to trial, holding court is Judge Weaver (Joseph N. Welch, a former U.S. Army Head Council).

Adapted by Wendell Mayes from the best-selling novel of the same name written by Michigan Supreme Court Justice John D. Voelker under the pen name Robert Traver. Voelker based the novel on a 1952 murder case in which he was the defense attorney. Most likely Hollywood director Otto Preminger's most well known and successful film. The language used while now would seem tame was considered explicit and in one case saw Preminger go to federal court to defend it when Chicago Police Commissioner and Mayor Richard J. Daley startled by its language banned it in the city, the director won the case and the film was shown, the court found the use of the clinical language that Daley objected to, to be appropriate within the context of the film. While well received on release, the film was nominated for 7 academy awards and Stewart received the best actor award at both the New York Film Critics Circle Awards and Venice Film Festival, the films appreciation has grown even more over the years. The American Bar Association rated this as one of the 12 best trial films of all time and UCLA law professor Michael Asimow calls the picture "probably the finest pure trial movie ever made." It was also listed as Number 4 of 25 "Greatest Legal Movies" by the American Bar Association.

While this clocks in at 161 minutes rarely does it drag or lose your interest, the director uses the first half to introduce the characters and set the scene, the bulk of the second half being the court room. All the actors equip themselves brilliantly both Gazzara and Remick are fine form in the role of the young couple embroiled in the case, Scott's Dancer is a formidable opponent and makes for some effective scenes sparring with Stewartâ(TM)s Biegler. Stewart an actor by this time with a filmography so impressive adds yet another assured and memorable turn, adding his usual intelligent and humorous character to Bieglers crusading Lawyer, not below goading his opponents and intimidating the witnesses and testing Judge Welchs patience. Welch former Head Council for the U.S army gives a dry reading with subtle humour along with Stewartâ(TM)s lighter hearted persona, offering a contrast to the serious clinical nature of the case.

Another impressive element of the film is Duke Ellington's terrific score, which won him a Grammy for best soundtrack, one of the first times Jazz was used predominately in a film. Biegler's character himself a jazz fan duets with Ellington on the piano in a cameo appearance as Pie Eye the owner of a roadhouse that Biegler and Laura have a confrontation at featured early in the film.

Having only caught this film only once before good 25 years ago or so as teenager one night with my Dad, Despite the time gone by the film as always stuck with me but never had a chance to see it again until now. I recently purchased a region free blu ray player, one of the main reasons for this was to take advantage of the Criterion Collection, a home entertainment studio devoted to releasing classic films in HD restored using the latest of technology. Sometimes I feel some people misunderstand the blu ray format, whereas DVD was designed to present a sharper clearer image, blu ray while doing this also allows the film makers and studios to restore the picture closest to when it was originally released.

One of my friends remarked to me last year when I said was buying my Wife a copy of Some Like It Hot on blu ray for Christmas that he thought this pointless and felt that the charm of old black & white films was their old scratchy appearance and the digital medium would ruin this. Although I feel if an old film can be restored to look as impressive or more than on original release then this is a plus and the film can still maintain its character as well as have an appearance that would been only seen by those who witnessed when originally exhibited. This is my first foray into the Criterion studio and Iâ(TM)m incredibly impressed, this a new high definition transfer was created on a Spirit 4K in 4K resolution from a new 35mm fine-grain master positive struck from the original camera negative at Cinetech laboratory in Valencia, California. The picture was restored at Technicolor in Los Angeles and Reliance Media Works in Burbank, California. The film still retains its grain but the contrast is maintained throughout , colours appear rich and strong. Having the option of both a new 5.1 DTS HD audio track as well as LPCM 1.0 mono track for more purists. This is indeed an impressive presentation and a suitable treatment of undoubted classic piece of celluloid.
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on 20 May 2002
Not only is this one of the top films in the genre, but it was very cutting edge for it's era. Directed by Otto Preminger, who was really pushing the boundaries with this film, it contains great performances from Stewart and Lee Remmick is stunning as the super-flirt wife. The dialogue just sizzles, on the level of Bogart and Bacall. And as if that wasn't reason enough to watch it over and over again, the soundtrack is stunning, written by Duke Ellington, it is the essence of moody gumshoe jazz and swing. I had to buy the soundtrack as well! And it's the best CD to play when you are in a dark mood! That aside, this is an essential, whether you are a Preminger fan, a Hitchcock buff, or even just a jazz fan. Stunning film, and at that price worth buying your mum a copy so she can drool over Jimmy Stooowart.
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on 22 November 2015
This is what is on this the Blu Ray disc-

New digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
New alternate 5.1 soundtrack, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray edition

New interview with Otto Preminger biographer Foster Hirsch

Critic Gary Giddins explores Duke Ellington’s score in a new interview

A look at the relationship between graphic designer Saul Bass and Preminger with Bass biographer Pat Kirkham

Newsreel footage from the set

Excerpts from a 1967 episode of Firing Line, featuring Preminger in discussion with William F. Buckley Jr.

Excerpts from the work in progress Anatomy of “Anatomy”

Behind-the-scenes photographs by Life magazine’s Gjon Mili
Trailer, featuring on-set footage

PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by critic Nick Pinkerton and a 1959 Life magazine article on real-life lawyer Joseph N. Welch, who plays Judge Weaver in the film
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on 10 October 2012
With words such as "rape" and "bitch" this was a very controversial movie in it's day and the acting performances from James Stewart, Lee Remick and Ben Gazzara are first class, which James Stewart was nominated for an oscar for his wonderful performance as the small town lawyer. Arthur O'Connell and George C Scott were also nominated for academy awards for their watchable supporting roles amd the movie was nominated for a total of 7 oscars including best picture. The movie didn't win any oscars because that year the classic biblical epic "Ben hur" won a total of 11 oscars. The black and white picture qulaity goes very well with the movie and Otto Preminger uses no flashbacks which makes the audience use their imagination like Sidney Lumet's classic "Twelve angry men". If you haven't seen this classic movie, then it's well worth buying and it's also worth buying "Twelve angry men" with Henry Fonda.
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on 26 August 2009
I acquired this DVD for 2 reasons
1) It was cheap (even in US dollars)
2) The US Version is Full Frame
Having watched both the full frame and widescreen versions of this - all I can say is no matter what the argument is on how it is shot, this is one fantastic film, a great courtroom drama with James Stewart, George C Scott,etc. I just love this film; the 2+ hr movie just goes by so quickly for me.
Some websites say it was shot full frame, others say it was widescreen, TCM shows a widescreen (aka letterboxed) version. Basically you can either watch it with more scenery on the top and bottom that may or may not have been to be viewed , or see the widescreen version which may or may not have had the top and bottom cropped..
Now I own the UK and USA versions so I can see it either way and enjoy it no matter how I see it...
This is a GREAT film and a must for courtroom drama fans, James Stewart fans as well as Otto Premminger fans (great director) who in his films was going for a more risky style (panties being mentioned in this movie wasnt exactly commonplace in film making at the time)
This film and Witness For the Prosecution I will highly recommend as they are both excellent courtroom dramas..
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on 2 August 2014
I got this especially as Lee Remick was in it.; my favourite actress. She gave an incredible, authentic, yet genuine performance. A must have all for Lee's fans. Superb acting by all, including supporting actor/actresses. It is a long film but far from boring. I was engrossed throughout.
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on 10 June 2012
This is quite simply the best courtroom drama ever put on film, a drop-dead combination of intrigue, tension and laconic humour, with a highly literate script and great performances all round. Lee Remick is gorgeous and seductive as the possibly 'raped' wife in the case. Ben Gazzara is marvelously ambiguous as the accused killer of his wife's supposed rapist. George C. Scott is riveting as the prosecuting attorney fencing with Jimmy Stewart, the latter portraying, brilliantly, a defense lawyer whose air of amiable distraction hides a brain as sharp and cold as a blade. Directed impeccably by Otto Preminger and with a sublime jazz score by Duke Ellington, this is one of the classic black & white movies of the late 1950s. They don't make 'em like this any more!
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on 18 December 2015
Lovely old film exploring many mixed human emotions of jealousy, betrayal, love, lust, crimes against the person, etc. James Stewart not quite up to his best but well worth having in your collection.
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