Friday, May 6, 2011

Capsule Review: Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

While significantly dated by its restraint (though controversial for its language at the time), and perhaps dulled by decades of courtroom dramas that were to follow, Anatomy of a Murder still crackles because of a game cast - particularly James Stewart in the lead - and a case that throws enough (reasonable) twists to keep you guessing until the end. Director Otto Preminger takes the unique approach of forgoing flashbacks, instead letting the information be uncovered naturally before turning the home-spun Paul Biegler (Stewart) loose on the overwhelmed D.A. Mitch Lodwick along with the prissy Asst. State Atty. Gen. Claude Dancer (George C. Scott). The court scenes really sizzle with energy, combining outrage with scenes of good humor - mostly delivered by real life attorney (and Joseph McCarthy opponent) Joseph N. Welch as Judge Weaver. The eventual outcome is a bit too neat, but the build up is relentlessly entertaining.

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