Witness for the Prosecution (1958) Other movies recommended for you
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Plot: A veteran British barrister must defend his client in a murder trial that has surprise after surprise. Runtime: 116 mins Release Date: 06 Feb 1958
A Hitchcockian Billy Wilder (by littlemartinarocena)
At the end of the day the films you give top marks are those films that become constant companions. You can see them again at the drop of a hat, you show them to people who have never see them and it's always a triumph. "Witness For The Prosecution" is one of those wonders. Suspend your disbelief for a couple of hours and enjoy this banquet of a romp. Charles Laughton showed here what he was made of better, more clearly and more loudly than in any other film and all of his films, at least the moments with him in it, are unforgettable - Captain Blight or Henry VIII, Quasimodo or <more>
that malefic Senator from South Carolina. Here the severity of his lawyer by vocation takes your senses away with his masterful judicial way to see logic and it's such an incredible fun to watch him do it. Tyrone Power is a toy in his hands but not Marlene Dietrich who stands her ground, not merely as a character but as a presence on the screen. Billy Wilder visits early Hitchcock territory with wit and fun. Elsa Lanchester's nurse is the cherry on top of this delightful film.
A film I have not seen for years but will always remember with fondness. A classic thriller with all the right ingredients - Power and Dietrich are spectacular, and, by early standards and recent ones! , the twist is excellent. Charles Laughton however, provides us with a glib chuckle as the aging defense attorney ruled by his overlord maid. A distraction that only adds to an excellent plot line.I can't imagine another film of the genre and the era, that so wickedly entangles the essential thriller with a 'crime of passion' oops, spot the plot killer... gem. A classic. A film <more>
Wilder, Laughton, Lanchester, & Dietrich Add Sparkle to Christie's Courtroom Classic (by dtb)
WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! The Billy Wilder touch adds cynical wit to his sparkling adaptation of Dame Agatha Christie's play WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION WftP , with some of the best lines in a Wilder movie since DOUBLE INDEMNITY, thanks to Wilder, Harry Kurnitz, and Larry Marcus. In our household, "Is that really desirable?" has become a catchphrase, along with many other gems from the mouths of star Charles Laughton and the rest of the sterling cast! :- I only hope people seeing this for the first time haven't already seen Marlene Dietrich's scene-stealing performance <more>
in Orson Welles' TOUCH OF EVIL, or they might tumble to the twist finale before they're supposed to! :- In fact, if I recall correctly, when WftP was shown on Turner Classic Movies, Robert Osborne mentioned in his intro that Welles helped Dietrich out with her WftP "Cockney informant" makeup as a favor! La Dietrich looks fabulous and keeps you fascinated even when she's coming across as the ultimate bitch; it's a shame she wasn't nominated for an Oscar along with co-stars Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester. Tyrone Power's usual slightly wooden delivery actually serves him well as the defendant; somehow it adds to defendant Leonard Vole's air of feckless innocence. Henry Daniell, John Williams, Ian Wolfe, Torin Thatcher, and particularly Norma Varden as the ill-fated Emily French provide able support, too, with Una O'Connor stealing her scenes as Mrs. French's loyal but "antagnistic" Scottish housekeeper. A young, brunette Ruta Lee provides a memorable moment or two. As sickly but sly barrister Wilfrid Robarts and his chipper but no-nonsense nurse, Miss Plimsoll, real-life husband and wife Laughton and Lanchester shine in the most engaging performances of their careers. The comic sparring chemistry between Sir Wilfrid Robarts and Miss Plimsoll, and the warmth and understanding that's grown between them by movie's end, had my husband Vinnie opining that if another movie was made featuring these characters, Miss Plimsoll would probably end up as Mrs. Robarts before it was over -- what a delightful series that could have been! Hey, at the very least, I'd have paid good money to see Billy Wilder direct Laughton, Lanchester, and Dietrich in a sequel in which Sir Wilfrid prepares for the trial of Christine Vole, a.k.a. Christine Helm! :-
EntertainingTrial Movie That Still Holds Up (by ccthemovieman-1)
This is one of the best "trial movies" ever made. It's an outstanding film that is just as good today as it was almost 50 years ago when it was released in the theaters. The shocking ending caused quite a stir back then, too.The only part of the movie I thought looked dated and unrealistic was Tyrone Power's character being able to interrupt the trial with outbursts and not be reprimanded for it. There is no way that would be tolerated, at least today.Otherwise, it's a pretty solid film with a good cast that includes two fascinating characters played by actors who know <more>
how to entertain: Charles Laughton and Marlene Dietrich. Laughton, who plays Power's defense attorney, grabs the spotlight in the story but Dietrich almost steals the movie in her role as Power's wife. Laughton's dialog is terrific throughout, bringing a number of laughs to this serious film. He's just a joy to watch. Dietrich is even more riveting but just doesn't have anywhere near the same amount of screen time as Laughton.Not to be overlooked is Elsa Lanchester, playing Laughton's nurse. She, too, demonstrates her comedic talent and significantly adds to the fun of watching this film.If you like some fine drama, storyline twists, a little humor thrown in and great acting and dialog, this is a classic film to check out.
Fun with Charles and Marlene (by willandthomas-picturehou)
To see "Witness for the Prosecution" for the first time in 2008 is a jolting surprise. Nobody could do it better than Billy Wilder did in 1957. A man accused of murder, Tyrone Power, the weakest link in this terrific chain. Sir Wilfred is called to defend him, he is played by the extraordinary Charles Laughton, but he's just out of hospital - he wasn't dismissed he was expelled - and due to doctor's orders he's not to take any criminal cases. He finds Power charming and personable enough but he's not going to risk his life to save his until Marlene Dietrich makes <more>
her entrance - and what an entrance! How marvelous that what amounts to a bit of Agatha Christie's usual fare becomes such an entertaining and at times right down riveting piece of film-making.
In a recent biography of Billy Wilder, Agatha Christie is quoted as saying that this was the best adaption of her work ever done on the screen. I can't praise Witness for the Prosecution any higher than that.Tyrone Power in his farewell film plays Leonard Vole who befriends a dotty old widow played by Norma Varden. She even rewrites her will leaving him the bulk of a very large estate. When she's murdered, Scotland Yard arrests Power.Power's solicitor Henry Daniell retains a dream team for defense of John Williams and the recently recovered Charles Laughton. Laughton is recovering <more>
from a heart attack and against medical advice plunges into the case. Laughton also has to deal with the efforts of his assigned nurse Elsa Lanchester to keep him following doctor's advice.The original play this was taken from concentrated completely on the Power character and the machinations of his wife. Wilder built up the character of the nurse and barrister Sir Wilfred Robards so that they almost equaled the screen time of Mr. and Mrs. Vole. So much so that Charles Laughton was nominated for an Academy Award in 1957, but lost to Alec Guinness. Marlene Dietrich plays Mrs. Vole. She's a war bride over from Germany and she's got her own agenda going. Her performance and what her character does is the key to the whole film. Dietrich probably would have gotten an Oscar nomination herself, but due to the fact that if her performance was hyped up for Academy consideration, the element of surprise would have been lost in the film. Wilder in fact apologized to Marlene for that.The Anglo-Saxon legal system's goal is justice. Justice is served though not quite in the way it usually is in Witness for the Prosecution.
Charlie Chaplin was funny. Charles Laughton was witty. As good as 'Witness For The Prosecution' is---Agatha Christie's story, the other actors, the technical expertise---the Oscar-nominated Laughton is THE reason to see this film. What he brings to Billy Wilder's 1957 courtroom thriller is his tremendous wit and intellect. It's a serious story, but the dark-comic tag team of Wilder/Laughton upgraded the film from "a good courtroom mystery" to "a classic of the courtroom genre".The headlining star, Tyrone Power, sure doesn't help them very much. He <more>
plays anguish about as smoothly as ripped sandpaper...and anguish is the unfortunate emotion he's got to play for most of the picture. Power has been accused of murdering a wealthy older woman. His wife Marlene Dietrich seems to be doing all she can to sell him out, appearing as...drum roll, please, drummer man...the star witness for the prosecution. Laughton is the brilliant and ailing English barrister defending Power. The plot twists 'n' turns a dozen ways from Sunday, just as it always does in Christie's best work.Amongst all the talk of bloody murder, there are running gags about cigars and alcohol. More dark wit---Laughton's character's poor health might cause him to drop dead at any moment. Wilder weaved thrills and smiles as well as any director. In this, he was wise to anchor the supporting cast with mainstays of the stiff upper lip. John Williams and Ian Wolfe Hirsch from "WKRP" , not to mention Laughton's control-freak assistant Elsa Lanchester who was also CL's real-life wife , are bloody good.Movies of this type have been ripped off so often that students of the "don't give away the ending" class are bound to figure it out. I did. That hardly mattered because there were STILL more surprises to come. Through all that plot, Dietrich winds up being the most fascinating character. Project back and you'll realize how well her performance works. But she & Power are merely the star attractions in 'Witness For The Prosecution'. The main dish is Charles Laughton. Considering how ironic and cynical our society has become, it's stunning that brilliant old pros like Wilder and Laughton aren't more popular today. After this movie, they've become personal heroes of mine.
Another triumph for cinematic genius Billy Wilder! (by The_Void)
Billy Wilder is a director with an understanding of cinema that is almost unmatched throughout the medium's entire history - that's why his films are always so good. Witness for the Prosecution is yet another highlight in the great director's history, and it proves that courtroom dramas can be both riveting and a great opportunity for some first rate comedy. Wilder's film features one of the most well paced plots I've ever seen in a film, and it's a plot that includes some very finely tuned twists. Towards the end, Wilder bombards us with twist after twist, each one <more>
both making sense and topping the one before it. In a time when people are impressed by films such as 'The Sixth Sense', Billy Wilder still shows us how to skilfully attribute a twist into a film's plot. The plot itself follows the story of Sir Wilfrid Robarts; an ace defence lawyer that has been told that his health won't allow him to tackle anything more than mundane cases, but is brought back into the fray when a case involving the murder of an elderly woman comes into his hands. Wilfrid must now juggle the case and his health as he attempts to keep the young man from being sent down.Like all Wilder films, this one is a very pleasurable viewing. Wilder manages to find a middle ground between substance and entertainment, and so this is a film that will please fans of both aspects. The film is deliriously entertaining throughout, with some truly great lines of dialogue most of which is very quotable and every twist adds a new level to the story. The substance comes from a multitude of angles, and themes of love, health, sacrifice and most notably, justice, are all more than prevalent. The acting is certainly of note in Witness for the Prosecution. Charles Laughton is absolutely sublime as the undermining and stubborn Wilfrid Robarts; his performance is very strong, and makes up the backbone of the film. The main supporting performance comes from Marlene Dietrich. I'm not a big fan of hers; despite having a great pair of legs, she just doesn't do anything for me, but in this film she brings sufficient coldness to her character and really makes it her own. The final main performance comes from Tyrone Power; he isn't as great as the other two, but does enough with his character to ensure he's believable. Highly recommended viewing!
Christie is one of our most treasured and adventuresome experimenters in narrative twisting and knotting. She's a master of taking popular material and packaging it in complex ways that are accessible. Wilder is a master on the converse: taking sometimes complex material and packaging it in simply accessible ways.There's a mismatch that works against the material in these two strengths. Still, Wilder pulls off what is the best Christie adaptation in the sense that he retains the possibility of figuring things out, though Deitrich's disguise is pretty thin.Christie tried every way <more>
she could map of shifting our expectations of who is providing truthful elements of what we see, or think we see. In this case, it is folded into a play within the play in the form of acting for the benefit of a jury. The twists are in the liar, the intent and the guilt.Funny thing about Wilder. He made competent movies of all types, including the two folded masterpieces: this and "Sunset Blvd." But he doesn't seem to have captured a lot of subsequent filmmakers in his wake, while Christie has, By the hundreds.Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.