Classics: ‘Anatomy of a Murder’

Jimmy Stewart is country lawyer who takes the defense on a tricky murder case in Anatomy of a Murder (Criterion), a mesmerizing legal thriller that revels in the ambiguities of justice. Ben Gazzara (who passed away earlier this year) is the defendant, a hot-headed army officer arrested for murder, and Lee Remick, Arthur O’Connell and Eve Arden co-star, with rising star George C. Scott getting a “featuring” credit for a small role and a brilliant performance as a big-city attorney who steps in to take over the state’s case late in the trial. Otto Preminger directs with a sharp clarity, remaining just slightly removed from the drama, the better to watch all sides and take stock of the characters, the conflicts and the courtroom tactics, and doesn’t get much better than Stewart and Scott sparring with witnesses: the cagey country lawyer hiding his endgame behind a folksy manner versus the smart, sarcastic, thoroughly urban legal eagle who makes a show of his intelligence and showmanship. All that, and a score by Duke Ellington (who makes a cameo appearance) too.

Blu-ray and DVD, with plenty of supplements: new interviews with Otto Preminger biographer Foster Hirsch and music critic Gary Giddins, a featurette on graphic designer Saul Bass and his long collaborative relationship with Preminger, excerpts from a 1967 episode of “Firing Line” featuring Preminger, newsreel footage from the set, and excerpts from a work-in-progress documentary on the making of the film, plus stills, a trailer and booklet with a new essay and an archival article.

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Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website (www.streamondemandathome.com). I'm a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View (www.parallax-view.org).. I've written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly, GreenCine.com, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View. I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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