Saturday, August 22, 2009

Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

Agatha Christie tale of a man on trial for murder: a trial featuring surprise after surprise. [imdb]

Nominated for 6 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Billy Wilder
Best Actor: Charles Laughton
Best Supporting Actress: Elsa Lanchester
Best Editing
Best Sound

A classic I had never seen before, but I've heard this week that it has one of the trickiest twists in all movie history, so I thought of checking it out. The second reason: I wanted to see what's all about Marlene Dietrich's NOT-Oscar nominated performance and if the debate on the performance is justified. And also because Charles Laughton is easily becoming one of my favorite actors.
It's hard to talk about the film or Marlene without spoiling the plot. I, for one, did not expect the twist up until the last minute, nor that big character surprise (can't say it outloud) that's the key to the film. Both were deliciously interesting and in the pure Agatha Christie style. What I did not enjoy were the last 3-5 minutes, an ending that felt exagerated and could've functioned better.
Charles Laughton is excellent as the old lawyer and I think he deserved to win the Oscar. Elsa Lanchester won the Golden Globe (what the hell?!) and received an Oscar nomination for a pointless performance (just like her previous nomination for Come to the Stable). Tyrone Power was good and Marlene would've deserved a Best Actress nomination, but not a win, as her acting does feel a bit dated at times. I need to watch The Bridge on the River Kwai again and get familiar with 12 Angry Men to say exactly which one deserved the Best Picture win. Witness for the Prosecution is a solid, serious film, relaxing and intriguing.
My rating for the film: 8/10. Too bad for those last minutes and thank God for Charles Laughton.


  1. Allegedly the studio refused to include Marlene on the eligible cast list for oscar consideration as a nomination would have given away the twist ending.

  2. Oh, that's outrageous then :)
    I think she could've been nominated even without THAT twist.

  3. Oh dear I feel kind of silly having never thought to follow this sight. Ah well and I feel even more silly having never seen this movie. I have passed it many times in the store. I am going to make sure I see it by the end of the week though, this quasi review has piqued my interest.

    PS. Love to see you gave Sense & Sensibility 9/10. I recently wrote how it was one of my favourite films.

  4. Do keep us posted on what you've thought of Witness :)

  5. One of my favourite Laughton performances!

    BTW, if Laughton is becoming one of your favourite actors, feel free to drop by my Laughton blog. During his lifetime, he wasn't dubbed "the greatest actor of the world" nor did get knighted or peered (or got any special honours apart from the cheer and applause of his appreciative public), but my Gods, he was so darn good and, thankfully, as I have noticed here and in many other places, his work is still appreciated by all those who discover it.

    He endures and he abides.

  6. I did visit your blog and your dedication is remarkable :)