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Moorman

Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

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Charles Laughton is one of my favorite actors so I wanted to see this.  I haven't read any of Agatha Christie's novels so I don't know how true to the book that the screenplay follows.  The film starts off fabulously with Laughton's character inside of a car with his nurse who is doting on him and reminding him of his recent health issue.  This scene came across so genuine that I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Elsa Lanchester ( the nurse) is Laughton's wife in real life.  The chemistry between them through out the film was superb.

 SPOILER ALERTS:  As most of you know the plot centers around  Sir Wilfred Robarts recent health issue and his decision to try one last criminal case.  Tyrone Powers  ( Leonard Voles ) is accused of murdering a elderly woman he befriended that has a lot of money and changed her will and made him the beneficiary.  Powers is married to Christine Vole ( Marlene Dietrich) who the defense wants to use as a witness to confirm her husband's alibi.  She acts strange during her initial interview with Sir Robarts and turns up later as a witness for the prosecution.  The plot was very good and ( major spoiler alert) held your interest all the way through until the RUSHED plot twists at the end. 

Here is my problem with the film.  After winning his acquittal from the jury, Mr. Voles leaves the courtroom and his wife is brought back into the courtroom to escape a citizen's mob.  She then reveals that she and Mr. Voles PLAYED Sir Robarts and the court in order to get his acquittal.  Voles comes back into the courtroom after overhearing her confession and confesses to the murder knowing that double jeopardy bars any retrial.  Diana ( Ruta Lee) shows up and gives Voles a kiss and its revealed that she has been seeing him and they plan to run off together with the will money Voles became the benefactor of.  Ms. Voles flips out and stabs Voles killing him.  Ok, I have no problem with any of that. My problem is I felt the film could've use a good 15 minutes more to drag these revelations out in a different way. I felt it was all too rushed into a implausible admittance by the Voles inside the courtroom.  A better scenario would have been for Sir Robarts to find out he had been duped later on and then get the admittance from the Voles.  I have no idea if the screenplay stayed true to the book or if this was some more code shenanigans.

 Overall the plot is simple and tight and gave the director plenty of opportunity to explore scenes outside the courtroom.  Unlike 12 Angry Men you get to enjoy the change of pace of the action taking place in numerous locations.  Laughton always displays a subdued flamboyance that I love in his more serious roles.  Dietrich gave a fine performance and Powers really had me fooled as the film went along.  Even with the ending that I felt was rushed and tacked on the excellent performances by the leading cast still allows me to give this a solid 8.5 out of 10.

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22 hours ago, Moorman said:

I felt the film could've use a good 15 minutes more to drag these revelations out in a different way. I felt it was all too rushed into a implausible admittance by the Voles inside the courtroom.  A better scenario would have been for Sir Robarts to find out he had been duped later on and then get the admittance from the Voles

I've never read the book either, but I believe the movie is a faithful adaptation of the play. Billy Wilder said that he shouldn't take much credit since he just transferred the story from the stage to film.

I think the way the movie ends is fine, the shocking revelation after all the drama in court and the way justice is served. Then Robarts starts planning the defense, and the nurse has another revelation too: she always knew what was in the thermos. Perfect ending.

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