Monday, April 14, 2014

Movie of the Week – Anatomy of a Murder

This week’s movie: Anatomy of a Murder (1959).

Paul Biegler is a small-town lawyer, who has more talent than ambition. He takes on a new case after a beautiful young woman comes to see him and asks him to defend her husband. The circumstances of the case are as follows: Lt. Manion shot and killed another man; there is no disputing this fact. He is, however, pleading temporary insanity because the man he shot had previously that night raped Manion’s wife sending him into a state when he discovered his wife beaten and crying. Biegler now has the difficult task of proving that the defendant did indeed suffer from temporary insanity in a court of law (even if the truth seems a bit murky).

Director Otto Preminger wanted to make a film that strictly followed the rules, manners, and procedures of real courtroom trials (when most films tend to be more fictionalized recreations). He also wanted to make a film that spoke to his hatred of censorship (which is why the details of the case include rape and sexually material – like the intent of Mrs. Manion). This is Preminger’s finest film, but he also made a few other great movies, including: Laura, The Man with the Golden Arm, and Advise & Consent. On Anatomy of a Murder, Preminger worked with jazz legend composer Duke Ellington, cinematographer Sam Leavitt, and production designer Boris Leven.

Anatomy of a Murder is one of the best courtroom dramas of all-time (and among my favorites), coming in a period between 1957-1962 that yielded many of the greatest courtroom films to-date, including: Witness for the Prosecution, Paths of Glory, Inherit the Wind, Judgment at Nuremberg, and To Kill a Mockingbird. This is a must-see for fans of law dramas and fans of Jimmy Stewart, as it features one of his best performances.

Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

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