SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
• New alternate 5.1 soundtrack, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray edition
• New interview with Otto Preminger biographer Foster Hirsch
• Critic Gary Giddins explores Duke Ellington’s score in a new interview
• A look at the relationship between graphic designer Saul Bass and Preminger with Bass biographer Pat Kirkham
• Newsreel footage from the set
• Excerpts from a 1967 episode of Firing Line, featuring Preminger in discussion with William F. Buckley Jr.
• Excerpts from the work in progress Anatomy of “Anatomy”: The Making of a Movie
• Behind-the-scenes photographs by Life magazine’s Gjon Mili
• Trailer, featuring on-set footage
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Nick Pinkerton and a 1959 Life magazine article on real-life lawyer Joseph N. Welch, who plays the judge in the film
WHen the widescreen (1.85:1) comes out, get that instead. I, for one, thought I'd picked up the original aspect ratio and was quite excited. Now i'm a little upset that the studios are releasing so called "classic films" without treating them with any of the care that classics, like this film and others, so truly deserve. SHAME ON YOU COLUMBIA!
This and Laura (1944) are two of his films that go beyond the merely commercial and achieve something that can be called art. Seeing this for the first time forty-three years after it was released I was struck by the fine acting all around and the sturdy, well-constructed direction. James Stewart's performance as the Michigan north country lawyer Paul Biegler might shine even more luminously than it does except for a certain performance by Gregory Peck three years later as a southern country lawyer in the unforgettable To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). Lee Remick, in a frank, but imperfect imitation of Marilyn Monroe, co-stars as Laura Manion, the wife of army Lt. Frederick Manion (Gazzara) whom Bielger is defending on a murder charge. The defense is temporary insanity because the man he shot raped his wife. Bielger slyly gains sympathy for his client by deliberately allowing it to come out that Laura is sexy and flirtatious enough to drive any man crazy. Indeed, he tricks the prosecution into doing his work for him. George C. Scott plays Claude Dancer, a big city prosecutor, with snake-like precision while Gazzara manages to combine introspection and cockiness as the young lieutenant. Fine support comes from Eve Arden (best known as Our Miss Brooks on TV and in the movie of that name) as Biegler's loyal secretary and Arthur O'Connell as his alcoholic mentor. Kathryn Grant, who gave up a promising film career to marry Bing Crosby and have children, has a modest role as the murdered man's daughter.
I've seen many courtroom dramas, some real, some fictional, since this film first appeared, but I have to say it stands up well. The action (for the most part) feels realistic and the tension is nicely created and maintained. The resolution is satisfying and the ending is as sly and subtle as any country lawyer might want. Incidentally, if this movie had more total votes cast at IMDb, it would rank in the top one hundred of all time, which is where it belongs.
See this for James Stewart whose easy, adroit style under Preminger's direction found full range. Although he gave many fine performances, I don't think Stewart was ever better than he was here.