Feb. 18-19, 2011
Starring James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, Arthur O’Connell, Eve Arden, Kathryn Grant, George C. Scott
Produced & Directed by Otto Preminger
Plot: “In a murder trial, the defendant says he suffered temporary insanity after the victim raped his wife. What is the truth, and will he win his case?” (from IMDb)
I’m a big fan of court room dramas and I really enjoyed this one. It is long but I didn’t feel the length because I was so interested. The casting in this is flawless and I can’t think of one actor that didn’t give a good performance. Some of the best moments of the film occur in the argumentative courtroom spats between the determined James Stewart and fiery George C. Scott, moderated by the judge—who in stark contrast to the riled-up lawyers has a very slow, deliberate manner. I also loved the small-town, lazy Michigan setting of the story. It provided a unique atmosphere and contrast to the intrigue of the plot. I relished every moment of this film, but…
The ending was kind of a let-down. The verdict is given and the screen fades into the next scene. We don’t get to hear the closing statements or the reaction of the characters after this verdict. There is no final plot twist—it’s just a straight-up case. Or is it? You see, the audience is never quite certain that the defense’s story is true; we aren’t convinced of the man’s innocence or even completely sure that James Stewart’s lawyer character is entirely noble. At first this is frustrating, but it does add to the artistic merit of the story. It shows the ambiguous nature of many cases and, after the film ends, leads us to ponder the facts and fill in the gaps for ourselves.
A Note on Content: This film often gets a reputation as a racy Code-breaker. The subject matter may have been surprising for the time, but I felt like it was done in a tasteful matter. There isn’t gratuitous sex, violence or language. Yet it is necessary when addressing subjects such as rape, murder, and possible infidelity to discuss things which are undoubtedly for a more mature audience. In other words, this isn’t one I would let kids watch. There are also some mild profanities, but none which seemed unwarranted by the plot.