Sunday, April 5, 2015

Classic Movie Review: Witness for the Prosecution (1957) (No NaBloPoMo writing prompts on the weekends)

     I was born several decades too late.  It is not ok how upset I get about this fact sometimes.  Modern times confuse and astound me. I am like Seven of Nine trying to adapt to life on Voyager.

    This movie is one of my favorites for several reasons. First of all, I adore Agatha Christie, and the movie is based on one of her plays. A common mistake people make is that her mysteries are always predictable. Her books are not formulaic. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd  has the unreliable narrator, and then we have The Murder on the Orient Express where they all did it for example. The butler never did it, except for one mystery, but he wasn't really the butler.  Billy Wilder, one of the best directors of the twentieth century is at the helm for this courtroom drama.  The cast includes Tyrone Power, in his last full length movie, Marlene Dietrich, who does a fantastic call back to the sultry singer of her early movies, Norma Varden, who was delightful as Lady Beekman in the Marilyn Monroe comedy "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes",  and the husband and wife team of Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester. Ruta Lee, who is still alive, and Ian Wolfe play small but pivotal roles in the movie.

     I know many people feel that black and white movies are not as edgy as modern movies, but Billy Wilder was actually quite modern for the time. Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester's delightful verbal sparring make this movie work. The effort needs to put in by the viewer. They do not give away the secret to the punchline. You must listen to the between the lines dialog.  The same for the meaning behind Tyrone Power's real agenda. If you don't pay attention, you miss most of the story. For me, I like how Charles Laughton behaves in court. Really watch his acting.

     There is a delightful twist on a twist on a twist that ends the movie.  It really is a delightful courtroom drama and a terrific who-done-it.  I suggest this movie to anyone looking for something different. If you enjoy it, which I am sure you will, look for other Billy Wilder movies. You won't be disappointed.