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Anatomy of a Murder (Criterion) (1959)

Cast: James Stewart, James Stewart, Lee Remick, more...
Director: Otto Preminger, Otto Preminger
    see all cast/crew...
Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Criterion
Genre: Classics, Drama, Courtroom, Classic Drama, Courtroom, Classic Drama, Courtroom, Criterion Collection
Languages: English, Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish, Portuguese
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Anatomy of a Murder (Criterion) (1959)
Based on the best-selling novel by Robert Traver (the pseudonym for Michigan Supreme Court justice John D. Voelker), Anatomy of a Murder stars James Stewart as seat-of-the-pants Michigan lawyer Paul Biegler. Through the intervention of his alcoholic mentor, Parnell McCarthy (Arthur O'Connell), Biegler accepts the case of one Lt. Manion (Ben Gazzara), an unlovable lout who has murdered a local bar owner. Manion admits that he committed the crime, citing as his motive the victim's rape of the alluring Mrs. Manion (Lee Remick). Faced with the formidable opposition of big-city prosecutor Claude Dancer (George C. Scott), Biegler hopes to win freedom for his client by using as his defense the argument of "irresistible impulse." Also featured in the cast is Eve Arden as Biegler's sardonic secretary, Katherine Grant as the woman who inherits the dead man's business, and Joseph N. Welch -- who in real life was the defense attorney in the Army-McCarthy hearings -- as the ever-patient judge. The progressive-jazz musical score is provided by Duke Ellington, who also appears in a brief scene. Producer/director Otto Preminger once more pushed the envelope in Anatomy of a Murder by utilizing technical terminology referring to sexual penetration, which up until 1959 was a cinematic no-no. Contrary to popular belief, Preminger was not merely being faithful to the novel; most of the banter about "panties" and "semen," not to mention the 11-hour courtroom revelation, was invented for the film. Anatomy of a Murder was filmed on location in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Anatomy of a Murder (Criterion) (Bonus Disc) (1959)
  • New interview with Otto Preminger biographer Foster Hirsch
  • Critic Gary Giddins explores Duke Ellington's score in a new interview
  • A look at the relationship between graphic designer Saul Bass and Preminger with Bass biographer Pat Kirkham
  • Newsreel footage from the set
  • Excerpts from a 1967 episode of Firing Line, featuring Preminger in discussion with William F. Buckley Jr.
  • Excerpts from the work in progress Anatomy of "Anatomy"
  • Behind-the-scenes photographs by Life magazine's Gjon Mili

GreenCine Member Ratings

Anatomy of a Murder (Criterion) (1959)
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7.84 (128 votes)
Anatomy of a Murder (Criterion) (Bonus Disc) (1959)
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7.50 (2 votes)

GreenCine Member Reviews

Terrific acting by johnnyclock June 27, 2006 - 2:30 PM PDT
1 out of 2 members found this review helpful
This is terrific acting by the principals: Stewart, Remick, Gazzara in an early role, Eve Arden playing her usual worldly-wise sidekick, several others. And the dramatic tension leaves nothing to be desired. The score is wonderful music done by Duke Ellington (who also appears as the piano man in a club scene). And an interesting tidbit: the man who plays the trial judge is not an actor by trade. He was a lawyer who stood up to Joe McCarthy during the infamous McCarthy hearings several years before the making of this film.
That said, I found some difficulties in the continuity: plot ideas that seemed to be raised and then left behind. Also, the general tenure has become -- at the moment at least -- out-of-date. I was disturbed by what the director seemed to be saying about his characters. Which is why I only gave it a 7. All in all, though, still worth watching.

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