Ryan and I would like to once again welcome you to another review for our Argumentative August Blogathon.
This next film, Anatomy of a Murder (1959) is being reviewed by none other than Table9Mutant of Cinema Parrot Disco
Let’s see what
Chris, I mean Mutant 🙂 thought of this movie….
Anatomy Of A Murder (1959)
Directed by Otto Preminger
Based on Anatomy of a Murder by John D. Voelker
Starring: James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, Arthur O’Connell, George C. Scott
Music by Duke Ellington
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
In a murder trial, the defendant says he suffered temporary insanity after the victim raped his wife. What is the truth, and will he win his case?
IMDB Rank: 203 out of 250 as of 01/01/2013
When I saw that Rob & Ryan were doing Argumentative August, a blogathon involving courtroom dramas, I knew it would be a good time to finally see one of the films I needed to watch as part of my IMDB Top 250 Challenge. Although I’m not really a fan of courtroom movies, I’d been looking forward to this one for two reasons: James Stewart and, probably most of all, that excellent Saul Bass poster. It makes it look like it’ll be as awesome as an Alfred Hitchcock film! Unfortunately, despite the poster & great opening title sequence from Bass, a Duke Ellington score which won three Grammy Awards, and Jimmy Stewart, I didn’t love this movie. It’s a very good one & deserves its place in the Top 250 – it’s just not my favorite sort of genre.
First of all, I’ll say that the circumstances surrounding the murder in this story (a rape) had me less anxious to see this. However, it’s a film from 1959 so I knew it wouldn’t be graphic. Apparently it was controversial at the time, though, as they do discuss the rape in much more detail than I was expecting for an older film. It’s in no way distasteful or anything that people would bat an eyelid at today but I can see why it was probably quite surprising at the time. There’s actually a moment during the trial where it’s discussed whether or not the word “panties” should be used and, when it is, the people in the courtroom giggle like children and you’re reminded that you’re watching a movie from a very different time.
From reading about this on Wikipedia after watching the film, I found out that it’s based on the novel about a real life murder trial in which the novel’s author, John D. Voelker, was the defense attorney. There has apparently been a lot of praise for this movie being one of the most accurate portrayals of the U.S. court system, which I suppose makes sense as the novel was written by a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. So I do recommend this if you’re a fan of courtroom crime dramas but, not being a big fan of this genre myself, I did find it a little overlong at 2 hours & 40 minutes and not as intense or as interesting as 12 Angry Men, which is probably my personal favorite courtroom film.
The good thing about the trial in this film is that you never know who’s lying and who’s telling the truth. Okay, this is the case with any trial in real life or in movies. But, with a movie trial, you’re often shown a pretty clear-cut case in which you’ll sympathize with just one side. With Anatomy Of A Murder, James Stewart is defending a man who murdered his wife’s (alleged) rapist and you immediately expect to be on the side of the murderer as he went “temporarily insane” on learning what had happened to his wife. But when we meet the husband, he’s arrogant & immediately unlikeable.
So what about the wife (Lee Remick), who was the victim of such a violent act? We meet her first as she’s the one who calls Stewart asking him to defend her husband and, from the start, her behavior is bizarre and not at all what you’d expect from someone who’s just been through her ordeal. She’s a beautiful young girl who’s very flirtatious with Stewart and talks openly of her looks, men, and her husband’s jealousy. She likes to party (in a 1959 way) and Stewart has to ask her to tone things down while her husband awaits his trial. She comes across as such a silly, stupid little girl that it’s very hard to like her and her angry, violent husband. Are they telling the truth? What really happened on the night of the murder? Well, I obviously won’t say any more to avoid spoilers in case anyone wants to watch this.
Anatomy Of A Murder is good and I can see why it’s a classic so I feel bad that I’m not raving over it. As I said, “courtroom crime drama” isn’t a genre I love so it was unlikely to be a favorite film of mine. I enjoyed James Stewart’s performance as always and it was interesting seeing a very young Lee Remick – I’ll be honest & say that I think the only film I’d ever seen her in was The Omen. The Duke Ellington score perfectly fit the film and the whole movie has that great vibe and “coolness” that movies nowadays can’t achieve in the same way. I just didn’t like the characters very much so didn’t care too much what the outcome of the trial would be. This movie is certainly worth checking out for people who like black & white classics with fine performances but I’d recommend 12 Angry Men first if you’ve not seen that.
My Rating: 7/10