Anatomy of a Murder


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Anatomy of a Murder is a 1959 Courtroom Crime/Drama. A small-town lawyer Paul Biegler (James Stewart) goes against a big city prosecutor Claude Dancer (George C. Scott) on the case of jealous husband Lt. Frederick Manion (Ben Gazzara). Manion pleads his innocence towards killing a man whom allegedly raped his seductive wife Laura Manion (Lee Remick).

Upon Biegler’s return home from fishing, he is made aware of the murder that has taken place in town. He is urged by his friend McCarthy (Arthur O’Connell) to take the case towards defending Lt. Manion. Biegler becomes acquainted with Lt. Manion and his wife, and carries out a little investigation into the crime, before he agrees to defend him. This leads into a riveting courtroom battle between the two sides before the jury. Biegler is able to use clever ways to inform the jury of the case, however Dancer is highly intelligent and his aware of the moves Biegler is making. Thus leading up to the final decision by the judge.

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The first thing I want to say about this film is how it’s incredibly well acted; which you should expect from this group of talented actors. The dialogue in the courtroom was very smooth and did not feel scripted. The actors were able to incorporate passion into their roles and bring the case to life. Stewart and Scott were great together on opposing sides and able to bring in some good banter. Gazzara was able to make Lt. Manion appear to be a jealous husband with these cold stares he gave to his wife. Lastly Remick was very convincing on that fact that she is able to woe men with her beauty, making the viewer wonder if she was out flirting with men. The rest of the cast were able believable in their smaller roles.

The film was well paced for a long run time of 160minutes. There was a lot of back story to cover before the court scene and the recess of the court allowed the characters and the viewer to take a break. A scene I loved his when Biegler is in a room playing the piano, while his partners are exhausted from the long trial. The film is able to keep hold of your attention with a couple clever plot twist, an intense trial, and some thought provoking moments. The Jazz score that has been praised by many was composed by Duke Ellington. He has a small roll in the film besides Stewart and the two play the piano together. Shame that the beautiful music was only heard in pieces throughout the film.

A major problem for me when I first starting watching this film was the lighting. The film was nominated for many awards so I expected everything to be top notch, but the source of the lights was not defined clearly. I felt like I knew there was a huge light set up in their face and a dozen around the room. The shadows were pretty harsh on the walls as well. That put me off especially in the beginning when the story was not fully developed. However as the story continued on and the rooms the people were in become bigger it became unapparent because I was completely engrossed in the story.

In conclusion I enjoyed Anatomy of a Murder. I bought the film months ago, and even though it has my favorite actor leading the film; I was hesitant about sitting through it’s long run time despite the films praise. I was proved wrong and would recommend it to anybody who loves a good movie, and especially to anybody who enjoys these crime/drama courtroom films.

Rating: ★★★★½ / ★★★★★

Dir. Otto Preminger
IMDb 8.1/10 – Rotten Tomatoes 100%
Nominated for 7 Academy Awards
Nominated for 4 Golden Globes
NYFCC Award for Best Actory & Screenplay
National Film Registry – 2012

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“Twelve people go off into a room: twelve different minds, twelve different hearts, from twelve different walks of life; twelve sets of eyes, ears, shapes, and sizes. And these twelve people are asked to judge another human being as different from them as they are from each other”

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