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USA 1957
Directed by
Billy Wilder
116 minutes
Rated PG

3.5 stars

Witness For The Prosecution

A typically scenery chewing performance by the peerless Charles Laughton as the curmudgeonly barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts and the smart script based on Agatha Christie novel and play) above all make this light-hearted courtroom drama eminently entertaining. Marlene Dietrich as a one-time cabaret singer (Wilder manages to have her perform and show a leg) and Tyrone Power as her seemingly naive husband accused of murdering a spinster (Norma Varden).are a little too old (Power died that year of a heart attack) but nevertheless acquit themselves well enough given the dictates of the script with Dietrich pulling a nice surprise out of the bag.

To spice up the well-known original text and to satisfy the Hays code demand that justice be seen to be done the writers Harry Kurnitz, Larry Marcus and Wilder added two additional twists to the ending. Unlike the classic twist of Wilder’s own Double Indemnity (1944) this makes it over-contrived, something compounded by Wilder’s surprisingly lame handling of it. Nevertheless the film is a lot of fun and a classic of the courtroom drama sub-genre.

BTW: Sir Wilfrid’s bossy nurse Miss Plimsoll is played by Laughton's real-life wife, Elsa Lanchester..




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