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Witness for the Prosecution

4.8 out of 5 stars 483 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Language: English, French
  • Subtitles: French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Rated:
    Unrated
    Not Rated
  • Studio: FOX
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (483 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0012YYZTK
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,696 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Craig Connell on May 2, 2006
Format: DVD
This is one of the best "trial movies" ever made. It's an outstanding film that is just as good today as it was almost 50 years ago when it was released in the theaters. The shocking ending caused quite a stir back then, too.

The only part of the movie I thought looked dated and unrealistic was Tyrone Power's character being able to interrupt the trial with outbursts and not be reprimanded for it. There is no way that would be tolerated, at least today.

Otherwise, it's a pretty solid film with a good cast that includes two fascinating characters played by actors who know how to entertain: Charles Laughton and Marlene Dietrich.

Laughton, who plays Power's defense attorney, grabs the spotlight in the story but Dietrich almost steals the movie in her role as Power's wife. Laughton's dialog is terrific throughout, bringing a number of laughs to this serious film. He's just a joy to watch. Dietrich is even more riveting but just doesn't have anywhere near the same amount of screen time as Laughton.

Not to be overlooked is Elsa Lanchester, playing Laughton's nurse. She, too, demonstrates her comedic talent and significantly adds to the fun of watching this film.

If you like some fine drama, storyline twists, a little humor thrown in and great acting and dialog, this is a classic film to check out.
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Format: DVD
Although this film is filled with a bevy of excellent actors and actresses, and although he did play the part of Gracchus in SPARTACUS a couple of years later, and an excellent supporting role in ADVISE AND CONSENT a couple of years after that, this is the last truly great performance in the career of perhaps the greatest character actor film has seen. Charles Laughton was in no sense a leading man: obsese, unattractive, unathletic, awkward. He nonetheless managed to put together an astonishing career. WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION was released in 1957, but until that moment, the 1950s had not been kind to Laughton, whose greatest success came in the 1930s and 1940s. He had directed the remarkable THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER in 1955, but his acting parts in the decade, apart from David Lean's HOBSON'S CHOICE, were for the most part undistinguished and not among the finest of his career. WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION is Laughton's glorious return and, because of declining health, last great role. If WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION had nothing else to recommend it, Laughton's performance would make it well, well worth seeing.
Luckily, this film has far more than Laughton to recommend it. Ironically, it was also the last great role for Tyrone Power, for whom WITNESS was also a part of a comeback (he also excelled in THE SUN ALSO RISES). I have to say, for anyone who had seen Power in films in the 1940s, his physical appearance in 1957 is shocking. Much like Errol Flynn, he had lived a hard life, and it shows. He would die of a heartattack a year after this performance, and looks much older than 43 years old.
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Format: DVD
Dietrich never had much good to say about this film; she didn't like the set, thought Power inadequate and was generally turned off by it. I think probably she was disappointed that the public didn't respond with the praise she felt she deserved, in her "transformation" scene. We can look back on it now and see that she did a good, professional job. But then, that's what makes this courtroom whodunnit drama so fine: the high level of performance by all the actors involved. You can count them all one by one: Agatha Christie for the story; Billy Wilder for at least half the screenplay; Charles Laughton in one of his best roles and supported by his wife the excellent comedienne Elsa Lanchester; the best English character actors in the business, and Dietrich in probably her least sympathetic -- and therefore most remarkable -- performance. As to Tyrone Power? He played the part of an ex-RAF guy, drifting from job to job and mostly living off his wife; a sleaze-ball seller of novelty egg-beaters, door-to-door who preys on lonely women. In other words, the kind of guy who could only get by on his looks. Power had much more than his looks to get by on, and here, the rest is acting. Marlene probably just had somebody else in mind for the role of Lawrence Vole.

This play was a hit for a very long time for Patricia Jessel, in London, and one can only imagine the intrigue Dietrich must have resorted to to get the role for herself. Billy Wilder's wife is reported to have called Dietrich "a whore," (how many Hollywood wives must have said the same?)but in all probability it was only because both Marlene and Billy came out of Pre-War Berlin and Vienna and as expatriates spent a great deal of time talking intimately about the project, in German.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Elsa Lanchester is brilliant as the nurse for the acerbic barrister, newly home from the hospital after suffering a heart attack; nevertheless, he continues to smoke cigars and drink brandy whenever he can be skillful enough to hide them from the ever watchful Miss Plimsill (Lanchester). Tyrone Power is superb as the charming, disingenuous ne'er-do-well, unable to settle down after the War, and inventing egg beaters that beat AND separate the yolk from the white, and other dubious household necessities. Marlene Dietrich makes a Grand Entrance, and promptly puzzles Sir Wilfrid beyond speech, with her apparent cool, collected behaviour upon hearing her husband is going to be charged with the murder of Emily French, a rich older widow befriended by Power when he assisted her in the selection of a hat. The trial is the real action and centerpiece of the movie. but I enjoyed the byplay between Sir Wilfrid and Miss Plimsill even more...upon emerging from the car when he first comes home, Miss Plimsill reminds him to "Take teeny weeny steps, Sir Wilfrid, remember, we had a teeny weeny heart attack..." to which he replies: "Oh shut up." And his threats (after she confiscates some cigars he was smuggling in his cane) "I'll do it some dark night when her back is turned; I'll plunge her thermometer between her shoulder blades..." There are many unexpected twists here, and the ending is a real shocker, a complete surprise, and quite satisfying. Great performances by an exceptional cast, and as always, IMHO, Laughton steals the show.
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