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Anatomy of a Murder


Jeff Nelson

This is an absolute must see for all ages!

Anatomy of a Murder
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After being nominated for seven Oscars, Anatomy of a Murder is a classic that isn't spoken about as much as it should be. It was released in 1959, although it proves to be stronger than almost everything being released nowadays. In 2012, we have a lot of crime TV shows. They range from documentaries to cop shows. Nevertheless, the topic of murder and the justice system proves to still be worthy of centering both films and television shows around. Those who have seen the classic known as 12 Angry Men know that the film tells the story of twelve jurors deciding the verdict in a murder trial. Anatomy of a Murder has a very similar feel to the feature, although the majority of the movie takes place during the trial from the lawyer defending the accused. Those who have seen and loved 12 Angry Men as much as I did will feel the exact same about this beautifully crafted movie.

Country lawyer Paul Biegler attempts to exonerate Frederick Manion, who's charged with a local barkeep's murder. However, he claims the victim raped his wife. Employing a temporary insanity defense, Biegler tries to outmaneuver slick celebrity prosecutor Claude Dancer, but discovers that there's more to the case than meets the eye. In the case of Anatomy of a Murder, instead of having the entire trial deciding whether or not he's guilty or not guilty, Manion already confessed to the crime. However, the complications come with the situation regarding his wife. The defense argues that he's simply insane and that he has a condition that took him out of the moment and that he was a time bomb just waiting to go off. While we learn plenty about the accused, his wife, and his entire life, the film primarily focuses upon Paul. He's an extremely witty and likable character. Even the small supporting roles here are introduced into the movie very well. The lines of dialogue are well-written and viewers will always feel as if they know the characters rather well by the time his or her scenes have ended. For those looking for a compelling film with the topic of murder trials, you have found one of the best.

Behind this brilliant piece of writing is an outstanding cast. James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, and others. Stewart is Paul Biegler. He has a certain charm on screen that pulls in the audience when he speaks. He has a certain presence that's hard to describe, although he truly is an attention grabber. Remick is Laura Manion, the wife of the accused. She does a wonderful job, as well. The audience is constantly unsure whether or not she's telling the truth about being raped, and Remick does a fantastic job at showing such uncertainy in her character. Gazzara is Lt. Frederick Manion, the accused. He delivers a fine performance, as well. How this film didn't win any Oscars in any categories is beyond me. This features some of the best performances one could ask for while watching a movie.

For those wondering why I'm reviewing a movie from 1959, the film was just rereleased through Criterion onto blu-ray. In terms of the picture and audio quality, this is the best the movie has ever looked. You can't possibly ask for more from an older movie as this looks and sounds better than even some movies made a couple decades ago. The screenplay is a masterpiece and the acting is phenomenal. This movie not only deserved to win in the categories of the acting departments, but even to take home the prize of Best Picture. 12 Angry Men is one of my favorite movies of all time, and Anatomy of a Murder is an extremely strong film as well. This is an absolute must see for all ages!

My Rating = Four and One Half Stars

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