Monday, August 7, 2017

Movie Review: "Witness for the Prosecution" (1957)

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Movie"Witness for the Prosecution"
Year Nominated: 1958
Director: Billy Wilder
Rating: NR
Running Time: 1 hour, 56 minutes
Did It Win?: No.

A barrister with a bad heart takes a case against doctor's orders. He is tasked to defend a man who is on trial for murder.

"Witness for the Prosecution" is directed by Billy Wilder and is based on a short story by Agatha Christie. It stars Charles Laughton as Sir Wilfrid Roberts, who is a barrister recovering from a heart attack. He is under doctor's order to take it easy, but when he is approached to defend accused murderer Leonard Vole, played by Tyrone Power, he can't say no, especially considering he believes Vole to be innocent. Odds are against Leonard as there is a lot of circumstantial evidence. His only alibi comes from his wife Christine, played by Marlene Dietrich, which isn't worth much.

Billy Wilder is a legendary old Hollywood director. Though he has directed numerous Oscar nominated and winning films such as "The Lost Weekend," "Double Indemnity," "Sunset Boulevard," and "The Apartment," it's "Witness for the Prosecution" that remains one of our favorites. It is a completely enthralling courtroom drama/thriller with many twists and turns. We are completely engaged from beginning to end every single time we watch this film. The way Wilder is able to get the audience invested in what's going on is masterful. He hooks the audience with his excellent storytelling, lets the audience get to know the key players and details, then drops a bombshell and twists everything around with incredible success.

Charles Laughton is absolutely brilliant in this movie and gives a commanding, compelling performance. He received a much deserved best actor nomination for his part as Sir Wilfrid Roberts. Unfortunately, he was up against some stiff competition that year and lost out to Alec Guinness from "A Bridge Over the River Kwai," which is one of the best performances of his career. Marlene Dietrich gives an equally splendid performance. She did not receive a nomination at all because those behind the scenes didn't submit her for consideration. The reason for this is they wanted to keep aspects of her character a secret, which we completely understand, but boy, what a missed opportunity.

"Witness for the Prosecution" manages to stand the test of time quite well. It's no wonder it was nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture, because it is a mesmerizingly ingenious courtroom drama. Billy Wilder is one of the all-time greatest directors and he does a brilliant job here.

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 9/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 100%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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