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  • Anatomy of a Murder
    • Anatomy of a Murder
    • Runtime:127 min
    • Release Date:2014-07-23 17:50:40
    • Director: Otto Preminger
    • Genres: Crime, Drama, Mystery
    • Studio:
MOVIE REVIEW:Anatomy of a Murder
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*** This review may contain spoilers ***

ANATOMY OF A MURDER can easily be mistaken for a Hitchcock movie; but
it is Otto Preminger directing James Stewart as Paul Biegler, a
small-town country lawyer that is hired to defend Lt. Frederick
Manion(Ben Gazzara), a moody young officer charged of murdering a local
barkeep that raped his flirty wife(Lee Remick). Biegler employs a
temporary insanity defense hoping to outmaneuver a high profile
prosecuting attorney Claude Dancer(George C. Scott). The courtroom
scenes provide a realistic atmosphere and the supporting cast is top
notch: Arthur O'Connell, Eve Arden, Murray Hamilton, John Qualen,
Kathryn Grant, Howard McNear, Orson Bean and the music legend Duke
Ellington makes a guest appearance. Stewart shows the top of his skills
and Remick is smoldering hot.

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This movie doesn't try to get too complicated or smart with its themes
or issues and the case in this movie, along with its characters seem
like very random and standard ones. This is what mostly makes "Anatomy
of a Murder" such a simple, great and effective one.

What I like about this movie is that it's a movie without any high
morals or a strong message in it. It's just a movie about a random case
and the lawyer just takes the case because it's a case. He doesn't feel
that strong to, at the cost of everything, try to proof the innocence
of his client and he doesn't get emotionally involved with the case or
any of its key players, like often movies normally try to attempt.
Movies more often try to get you behind the defendant, or else at least
his attorney and feel strongly for the case. But in this case the
murder suspect isn't presented as being either totally innocent or not.
He even isn't that sympathetic of a character and you question his
motives and his defense, during his trail, at times throughout the
movie.

It's a movie that doesn't really sidetrack with its story and it's
being kept as straight-forward as possible all. So no odd occurrences
happening in this movie, that are unlikely to ever happen in real life.
This, together with its absence sense of morality, together with guilt
and compassion, make this movie a mostly throughout realistic one. This
works really pleasant for the movie and really helps to get you drawn
into the story and its characters.

I basically love all court room themed movies and this movie has pretty
much everything present I want from such a movie. Granted that this is
the sort of movie that would had not been as good or interesting to
watch if it had a completely unknown and bad cast in it.

So yes, the movie definitely benefits from the presence of James
Stewart, as the movie its defense attorney and it also has a quite
solid supporting cast. Quite fun to also see George C. Scott and Ben
Gazzara in some of the more early roles out of their career. Seems that
Scott was still holding back a bit, since he didn't had of course that
much of a status yet as an actor. It's probably one of the more
sophisticated and 'clean, quiet', roles out of his career but it was
also really great to see him like that for a change and it at the same
time also shows his range and versatility as an actor, since he was
great in this movie as well, playing this sort of character.

For its time it also was a quite daring movie, regarding some of its,
still at the time controversial subjects. The story is also a rape
case, so it features lines regarding that subject as well. Of course
rape was an already known issue at the time but it wasn't something
that really got featured that explicitly yet in any sort of movie at
the time, simply because it was something at the time that you just
didn't really talked about. Again an example of how simple and
effectively straight-forward the movie was being.

Just like its story, the movie is also being kept simple in its style.
No fancy tricks or out of the ordinary sequences and set up here, just
some plain, good old average film-making, like you would learn at
film-school.

One great and effective movie within its genre.

8/10

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*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Compare this to a courtroom drama today. You can't really see much
difference. Sure, it's in black and white, some of the courtroom banter
seems a little too tame and not an f- or s-word in it. But you can't
really say that this is less engrossing than "A Few Good Men", a movie
made several decades after.

In fact, this is a much more intelligent study of court trial because
we are not told, like Roger Ebert wrote in his review of A Few Good
Men: What they are gonna do (meaning the defense), how they are gonna
do it and when. Almost everything is left to the imagination up until
the end.

Also, a truly fascinating performance by Ben Gazzara. You can't peg his
character. One moment he looks guilty as sin, the other he looks like a
victim of circumstance. If you have seen the movie, you know what he
did, but like both the defense and prosecuting attorneys argue: The
circumstances make the case.

James Stewart is his usual quirky self but it doesn't hurt the
character he plays. He is in a movie with a pretty heavy subject matter
for its time, but he doesn't hold back on the Jimmy Stewart "aw shucks"
charm that he was famous for, and you know, it fits the character
perfectly.

Lee Remick is also brilliant. At first, you think she's a bit of a
floozy and I hate to admit it, I thought exactly what the prosecutors
set her up to be: A woman who had it coming. She turns it all around in
one crucial scene between her and Stewart. Look at the change of
expression. That's brilliant acting.

Of course, you can't forget George C. Scott. Has there ever been a
lawyer as cool as him? Not by a long shot. I could go on and on. All
the performances are brilliant. Even by the judge (forget his name).

The one little flaw is the verdict. I would have liked to see a little
hint of the jury's deliberation. Also, the movie does seem to gloss
over the psychiatric aspects of the case. The book was more in depth at
that argument. By the way, the combined age of the jury looks to be
1200 years. Look at all of those craggy faces. Certainly a great
difference from 12 Angry Men where there was a little more age variety.

Anyway, if you haven't seen this do yourself a favour if you are into
this genre, look it up and see it. It's brilliant.

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