Saturday, April 9, 2011

Witness For the Prosecution

Billy Wilder, 1957, bw (8.3*)  bw
This is my second favorite film of an Agatha Christie story (this was a short story, not a novel), after And Then There Were None from French director René Clair. I believe this story is unique for her, as it's a legal film, with the entire story unfolding in a courtroom, but it still has the Christie touch, meaning an unexpected plot twist that most can't see coming.

An excellent cast makes this film better than it would have been from the story alone. The impeccable Charles Laughton, a two-time best actor winner, here an aging attorney recovering from a near fatal heart attack, agrees to defend Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power) in a murder case, in spite of the fact that his wife, Marlene Dietrich, is going to be a witness for the prosecution. Dietrich turns in one of her best dramatic performances, relying on acting in this film, not her beauty nor her sultry singing.

Though not one of Wilder's best (perhaps a little too 'Hollywood'), such as Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17, Some Like It Hot (perhaps if it had started with an 's'), or The Apartment, it's still a very good mystery, and a good courtroom drama, and Wilder's only work with Laughton or Dietrich. Fans of Christie, or Laughton, who was one of the best actors ever on film, will not be disappointed.

Nominated for 6 Oscars® (Picture, director, actor for Laughton, supporting for Elsa Lanchester, who won the Golden Globe), 5 Golden Globes, and 5 other awards, and ranked #129 on the IMDB top 250, with a rating of 8.4, the same as I gave it - not quite as high for me as And Then There Were None.

Wilder is one of the great directors, here's a small list of his best films:
The Front Page, Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Lost Weekend, The Spirit of St. Louis, One Two Three, Ace in the Hole, The Seven Year Itch, Sabrina, The Apartment, Some Like It Hot, The Fortune Cookie.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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