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Anatomy of a Murder
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A virtuoso James Stewart (Vertigo) plays a small-town Michigan lawyer who takes on a difficult case: that of a young Army lieutenant (The Killing of a Chinese Bookie’s Ben Gazzara) accused of murdering the local tavern owner who he believes raped his wife (Days of Wine and Roses’ Lee Remick). This gripping, envelope-pushing courtroom potboiler, the most popular film from Hollywood provocateur Otto Preminger (Laura), was groundbreaking for the frankness of its discussion of sex—more than anything else, it is a striking depiction of the power of words. With its outstanding supporting cast—including a young George C. Scott (Patton) as a fiery prosecuting attorney and legendary real-life attorney Joseph N. Welch as the judge—and influential jazz score by Duke Ellington, Anatomy of a Murder is a Hollywood landmark; it was nominated for seven Oscars, including best picture.
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- MPAA rating : NR (Not Rated)
- Product Dimensions : 0.7 x 7.5 x 5.4 inches; 4.73 Ounces
- Item model number : CRRN2110BR
- Director : Otto Preminger
- Media Format : Multiple Formats, Black & White, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, AC-3, Subtitled, Blu-ray, Widescreen, Surround Sound
- Run time : 2 hours and 41 minutes
- Release date : February 21, 2012
- Actors : James Stewart, Ben Gazzara, Lee Remick, George C. Scott
- Subtitles: : English
- Studio : Criterion Collection
- ASIN : B00687XO1G
- Country of Origin : USA
- Number of discs : 1
- Best Sellers Rank: #16,152 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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Otto Preminger's massive courtroom drama Anatomy of a Murder (1959) features a full murder trial carried out with meticulous detail and rigorous procedural accuracy. Preminger takes care with his stunningly focused direction. No scene is unnecessary, despite the heavy run-time, as Preminger ensures you are engaged and fascinated by every line, fact, witness, reveal, and outcome. Anatomy of a Murder is taught by law professors for a reason as it is entertaining, realistic, responsible, and thoughtful. You can honestly teach law through each encounter and cross-examination in Anatomy of a Murder it is that good.
I have to say that the two leading performances from James Stewart and George C. Scott are riveting to the end. You get to witness and enjoy arguably the two greatest character actors ever go head to head as opposing lawyers on the defense and prosecution, respectively. James Stewart is funny and likable with a sly manipulation of the facts to a fresh perspective against each testimony. Stewart is ever present in Anatomy of a Murder as we see and understand his thought process and the way in which he builds his case slowly.
On the other hand, George C. Scott appears halfway through the film and steals many scenes. Scott's relentless line of questioning breaks down his witnesses to admit or reveal facts again and again. Whereas James Stewart finds intrigue in outbursts and performance, Scott thrives in subtle observation and then ceaseless logical tying together of ideas. It's a shame one of them had to lose this cinematic case, but they both fight hard for it. Stewart's slow burn ends up frying his methodical opponent with great flair. I love both James Stewart and George C. Scott's acting within Anatomy of a Murder.
The cinematography and editing are so interesting. Most of Anatomy of a Murder consists of mid shots of the torso on up to get a feel for the scene. We get a few choice close-ups that wring every ounce of suspense from a character's situation. Sam Leavitt's cinematography is breathtaking with smooth panning shots down roads, through crowds, and across the courtroom. You never see a character that you are not supposed to focus in on in a stylistic decision that I find quite impressive. Likewise, Louis R. Loeffler brings a suddenness to his editing that keeps Anatomy of a Murder moving. The steady pace holds you in suspense, while keeps the audience guessing. Anatomy of a Murder's cinematography and editing are simply top notch.
Duke Ellington's jazz score is mesmerizing and adds a dreamy layer on top of Anatomy of a Murder. The subtle piano passages are as enthralling as the louder horns and lively jazz drumming. The score is iconic and influential, but really contributes a mysterious atmosphere to the entirety of Anatomy of a Murder.
I must mention the adorable dog of Lee Remick's character Laura Manion. This little dog captures your heart with neat tricks and cute faces. I will always remember this sweet dog that brings a lighter mood to darker scenes within Anatomy of a Murder.
Lee Remick herself is outstanding as the flirtatious and misguiding Laura Manion. Remick kills with a glance and reveals everything with a look or a word. Her use of seductive and hurt body language alike is very impressive for a young actress. Remick is phenomenal in Anatomy of a Murder just like she is as captivating in The Omen and Thief.
Furthermore, Anatomy of a Murder has a series of stellar supporting roles filled by intriguing characters. Ben Gazzara's fierce army lieutenant is questionable from the beginning and only gets more intense as the film progresses. Arthur O'Connell and Eve Arden are both hilarious and charming as James Stewart's legal aids. Kathryn Grant gives a sweet and mysterious performance that ends up being the final nail in the case's coffin.
Lastly, I adored the real lawyer Joseph N. Welch's performance as the amiable judge. His performance rings true with a delightful smile and easy going attitude that makes him a unique film judge. His only anger and frustration comes from Stewart and Scott sending jabs each other's way. He makes Anatomy of a Murder feel all the more genuine for having him included in its already impressive cast.
Overall, Anatomy of a Murder is a beautifully directed film that is well written by Wendell Mayes as based off of Robert Travers' novel Anatomy of a Murder. You will be dazzled by the lead actors, James Stewart and George C. Scott, with their accurate and meticulous courtroom analysis. Anatomy of a Murder will always be worth watching for a frighteningly detailed trial case procedure on screen, but is simultaneously a masterfully directed film from Otto Preminger. Give it a go if you've got some time.
Small town lawyer Paul Biegler (James Stewart), in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, having lost his re-election bid as district attorney, seems content to fish, barely take in enough legal work to almost pay the bills (notably the salary of his secretary Maida Rutledge, played by Eve Arden), and hang out with his alcoholic law colleague and friend Parnell McCarthy (played by Arthur O’Connell).
This quiet life is disrupted when one Laura Manion (played by Lee Remick) shows up. She wants Biegler to defend her husband, US Army Lieutenant Fredrick “Manny” Manion (played by Ben Gazzara) on the charge of first-degree murder. Laura said she was raped by a local innkeeper and after she told her husband her husband went down to see this man and shot him dead. No one denies Manny killed the man, but Manny claims he has no memory of the event and he understandably thinks he should be free.
At first reluctant to take the case, Biegler agrees, partially perhaps to go head to head with the person who took his district attorney position, Mitch Lodwick (played by Brooks West), who is assisted by high power legal help from Lansing, Claude Dancer (played by George C. Scott), a man who doesn’t seem to have much use for Biegler’s folksy, homespun ways.
However Biegler as the movie shows has a very sharp legal mind, a winning flair for courtroom theatrics, and has some surprisingly capable help in the form of Parnell. The movie intrigues because at times his two clients are often not only their own worst enemies but Biegler’s too, as they clearly don’t tell Biegler everything and might not be savory people.
I liked it a lot. It was complex, particular the notion that one can be an unsavory character and still innocent, that a victim can need justice but also be an unsavory character. There were layers to the trial, where it wasn’t always immediately obvious if Biegler believed his own defense, if he was unseeing the unsavory aspects of his clients, or if the unsavory aspects of his clients as presented by the prosecution was slanderous (the prosecution did try to besmirch the reputation of the rape victim). It was great to see the sparring especially between Biegler and George C. Scott’s character Claude Dancer and the judge was a great character too. Music by Duke Ellington is wonderful, I loved that it was filmed all on location in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and that it isn’t too far off from a true story. Just a great film all around.
The acting is top notch and the story is compelling and will really make you think. Its also fun for the fact that a lot of this was shot on location in Michigan's upper peninsula and gives you a window into the world of the late 50s.
Looking superb in HD, a big upgrade from the 2000 Columbia Classics DVD, porting over the theatrical trailer, though minus the photo gallery, this still includes many new extras like interviews about the Duke Ellington score, Saul Bass graphic designs, overview of Preminger with Biographer Foster Hirsch, newsreel on-the-set footage, and a thick booklet with an essay by critic Nick Pinkerton and a vintage article on the real life lawyer Joseph N. Welch, who plays the presiding judge in the film.
Top reviews from other countries
I have always enjoyed Courtroom Dramas, so I settled down to 'Anatomy of a Murder' expecting to spend a pleasant couple of hours. Well, how wrong I was! I was totally gripped, by one of the best films we have watched in a long time.
This is a long film: 153 minutes. But what this allows for, is the wonderful development of character, in parts both large and small, that have been cast with sheer genius. Jimmy Stewart's apparently folksy small-town lawyer, Lee Remick's naive and vulnerable victim and George C Scott's calculating big-city prosecutor are delicious, and stay long in the mind's eye. So too do the supporting roles. Stewart's two able assistants are full, real, lovely people. The court judge, as played by Joseph N Welch is a delight. And what a treat to see the under-valued but oh! so watchable Ben Gazarra, shine in the role of the accused. There is not a wrong note or a missed step anywhere - a true acting masterclass.
The splendid characterisation plays out in a plot which flows well, and keeps the attention, despite the fact that it never rushes, never speeds you through to create a false sense of suspense. This is a story lovingly told, to be enjoyed at leisure. And this is assisted in no small part by a clever, witty script, and some of the best court-room jousts in cinema. Yes, there are some ground-breaking allusions and references, and this increases the sense that this is America on the brink of the modern era. But at heart, this is a story about people, and about victims, love and loyalty.
At the end, you care about the outcome, you care about how the case impacts on all the protagonists. And you feel as though you have made new friends in this little Michigan town.
On the 30th we went to see the film in Shaftesbury Avenue London W1 and by the time we retuned on the Piccadilly Line to Enfield, we were in love and married in March 1960. We had a great partnership for 52 years and this was a massive sentimental journey
A fair percentage of the family were able to watch with me on the 60th anniversary of that first date.
I had forgotten what a fine film it was, and the family were all impressed with the black and white, dialogue and the beautifully paced drama as the court case dissected the evidence.
For the cost of £1.07 + postage it was a very rewarding experience of course, but over and moreover we saw an excellent film. They don't make them like that any more sadly. The icing on the cake is the music score, written and played by the incomparable Duke Ellington. Worth the money for that standing alone. Watch it and reap the benefit of a entertaining evening. for it lasts 150 minutes.
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
An intense story of murder and rape unfolds in a gripping and almost tortuous manner. It is the kind of film to watch with no interruptions, as this adds to the intensity in a non sensationalist way. Truly a brilliant film which is not shown often enough.
The dvd quality is excellent with sharp and deep black and white cinematography, and the soundtrack was first class for a film of it's vintage.