Witness For The Prosecution
Witness For The Prosecution

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  • The Last Extraordinary Performance by Charles Laughton
    Although this film is filled with a bevy of excellent actors and actresses, and although he did play the part of Gracchus in SPARTACUS a couple of years later, and an excellent supporting role in ADVISE AND CONSENT a couple of years after that, this is the last truly great performance in the career of perhaps the greatest character actor film has seen. Charles Laughton was in no sense a leading man: obsese, unattractive, unathletic, awkward. He nonetheless managed to put together an astonishing career. WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION was released in 1957, but until that moment, the 1950s had not been kind to Laughton, whose greatest success came in the 1930s and 1940s. He had directed the remarkable THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER in 1955, but his acting parts in the decade, apart from David Lean's HOBSON'S CHOICE, were for the most part undistinguished and not among the finest of his career. WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION is Laughton's glorious return and, because of declining health, last great role. If WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION had nothing else to recommend it, Laughton's performance would make it well, well worth seeing.

    Luckily, this film has far more than Laughton to recommend it. Ironically, it was also the last great role for Tyrone Power, for whom WITNESS was also a part of a comeback (he also excelled in THE SUN ALSO RISES). I have to say, for anyone who had seen Power in films in the 1940s, his physical appearance in 1957 is shocking. Much like Errol Flynn, he had lived a hard life, and it shows. He would die of a heartattack a year after this performance, and looks much older than 43 years old. Nonetheless, the remarkable thing about Power is that while not a particularly great actor during the heyday of his career, when he looks carried him from role to role, near the end of his life he grew considerably as an actor. WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION is one of his better performances, by far. Unlike Laughton and Power, both aging and in poor health, but similar to both in that the 1950s had up to that point not been one of her most active decades, Marlene Dietrich appears barely to have aged since the 1930s. The kinds of parts she was best suited for were far too subversive for the staid 1950s. Her natural cynicism and sexuality were far too threatening at that time even for the darkest of film noir. So, WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION was something of a comeback (or the continuation of a comeback in the case of Power) for the three principles. The cast was rounded out by some stellar characters actors, including the always amazing Una O'Connor, the frequently villanous Henry Daniell (though not in this one), and John Williams (who had played Audrey Hepburn's chaffeur father in Wilder's SABRINA, playing Laughton's law partner in this one).

    Unlike the three leads, Billy Wilder was not suffering from any kind of lull in his career when he made this film. He had, first as a screenwriter and then as a director, been marching from triumph to triumph for the previous twenty years, and would continue to do so for another ten years. The movie was untypical Wilder, however. Along with Preston Sturges, Wilder is arguably the greatest writer of comedy scripts in the history of film (he had cowriters, but their primary function was to correct his Germanicisms, to polish his rough English; Wilder supplied the ideas and action). In WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION, however, although adapting an Agatha Christie original, and adding a huge number of Wilderian touches, he largely is working from someone else's work. Wilder virtually always wrote completely original stories.

    A lot of people love the plot of this one, and especially the twists, but I have to say that I find this somewhat artificial, and some of the least appealing parts of the film. What I do delight in is the interplay between the various characters, the chemistry between the actors and actresses, the dozens of little touches and transitions that Wilder makes while working within the limitations of someone else's story.

    But most of all, this film is great because Charles Laughton was able to find one last, great role before his career came to an end....more info

  • The perfect courtroom drama...
    Quite simply, this film is brilliant. In addition to being one of Billy Wilder's best films, this is one of the best courtroom dramas ever made! It is cleverly directed, has a compelling plot, features great performances (especially by Marlene Dietrich), and is all in all very exciting and entertaining. This is a film you won't forget.

    This plot of this film, which was based on a play by Agatha Christie, is your basic courtroom drama: a series of witnesses testify about the murder of a wealthy widow. Tyrone Power plays the young man accused of the murder, Marlene Dietrich gives an amazing performance as the key witness in the case, and Charles Laughton plays the lawyer determined to unravel the mystery. This film has some terrific, very surprising, twists and turns, so to say any more about the plot would give too much away!

    Anyhow, this film is really suspenseful, captivating, and memorable. It's a true classic by the brilliant director Billy Wilder, and has been imitated countless times since its release. But no imitation has come close to the original, which is why this film is a must-see. Highly recommended!...more info

  • Brilliant
    The word brilliance cannot be avoided in describing this film. The plot, acting, direction, editing etc is simply brilliant. It is definitely one of the greatest films of all time and is worth seeing repeatedly....more info
    ...I rememeber seeing Ralph Richardson, Deborah Kerr and Diana Rigg in the 1982 TV-remake, but THIS VERSION IS IT:

    The editing, performances, direction, script is right on target and it is a treasure to behold seeing such legendary names in the same scenes together. Yeah, we do have Grand Hotel, Dinner at Eight etc, but in THIS film - all the stars appear TOGETHER:-)

    A sad irony is that Tyrone Power(looking quite worn)died a year later of a heart-attack while filming in Spain. This disease is of major importance in the film and it`s sad the the youngest star of the cast was to die so sudden of it....

    Elsa Lanchester and Charles Laughton(always a married couple though he was admittingly a homosexual - when he revelaed this to Elsa soon after marriage, she enquired if he had done anything in their livingroom and he pointed out a chair... "Then the chair goes out" was Elsa`s remark and they remained together intil his death in 1962) are wonderful in their interplaying and she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her efforts...

    Marlene does her best acting job ever. ...more info
  • wonderful classic
    If you haven't seen it, and haven't read Witness in Death, here's what it's about: Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power) is accused of killing a wealthy widow, and he applies to Sir Wilfrid (Charles Laughton), the best barrister in England, to defend him. But Sir Wilfrid's health is failing, and he initially refuses, until actually meeting Leonard convinces him to take the case.

    Leonard's wife Christine (Marlene Dietrich) is his alibi, but she's not very believable when she talks to Sir Wilfrid, and indeed she ends up as a witness for the prosecution.

    Even though I knew the plot, including the twists and turns, from reading Witness in Death, the movie itself was more than just the sum of its parts. The drama of whodunit and how and why was interspersed with humor, much of it coming from interactions between Sir Wilfrid and his nurse (Elsa Lanchester, who I remembered from Mary Poppins and That Darn Cat). In fact, it added an extra dimension watching the movie and thinking of Eve & Roarke watching it being performed by Richard Draco & Areena Mansfield.

    If you don't know what's going to happen, though, the twists are wonderful--my husband and sons loved it as much as I did....more info
  • This was when they made real movies.
    Excellent movie. This movie was riveting enough to hold the attention of my "not into old movies" husband and my "Mommy can't we watch something else" 12 year old daughter. Need I say more?...more info
  • Fun and intriguing all around
    I'm a confessed Agatha Christie fanatic. Read all her books back in the seventies (was furious when she died before I'd finished reading them all!), but somehow didn't get around to seeing this movie until Dec. 2005. What a fine thing to have waiting for me all these years. The cast is superb, the suspense wonderful, the story telling fine, the ending heart pounding. See the movie for a guaranteed good time. You may figure out part of the puzzle before the conclusion, but you'll never predict the whole thing. After you watch this one, find some local theater group performing "The Mousetrap" and go see it, too, for another night of thrilling entertainment!...more info
  • A Remembered Classic
    I've gotten used to seeing my favorite old movies rediscovered by modern critics and trumpeted as "forgotten classics," "neglected masterpieces," and so on. *Witness for the Prosecution,* on the other hand, is one of a select group of old films that future generations will grow up hearing about, and deservedly so. Recognizing that even the most compelling pretzel of a plot can benefit from liberal doses of comic relief, the screenplay adaptation of Agatha Christie's novel wisely gives barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Charles Laughton) a steady stream of delightful one-liners to deliver throughout both the high and low points of the action, continuing right through to an utterly inspired comic turn at the end, which I won't spoil here. Tyrone Power--who seemed to serve mostly as eye-candy in his leading-man roles in the forties--gives one of his best performances ever. And need anything really be said about Marlene Dietrich, other than that she's perfect as Power's scheming wife?

    As a lawyer, I sometimes find myself grinding my teeth at the ham-fisted histrionics that beleaguer even some of the best modern legal dramas. So imagine my surprise at the sophistication and witty understatement of this half-century old film. If I could give it more than five stars, I would....more info
  • Better Than The Sum Of It's Parts -- By Far
    Dietrich never had much good to say about this film; she didn't like the set, thought Power inadequate and was generally turned off by it. I think probably she was disappointed that the public didn't respond with the praise she felt she deserved, in her "transformation" scene. We can look back on it now and see that she did a good, professional job. But then, that's what makes this courtroom whodunnit drama so fine: the high level of performance by all the actors involved. You can count them all one by one: Agatha Christie for the story; Billy Wilder for at least half the screenplay; Charles Laughton in one of his best roles and supported by his wife the excellent comedienne Elsa Lanchester; the best English character actors in the business, and Dietrich in probably her least sympathetic -- and therefore most remarkable -- performance. As to Tyrone Power? He played the part of an ex-RAF guy, drifting from job to job and mostly living off his wife; a sleaze-ball seller of novelty egg-beaters, door-to-door who preys on lonely women. In other words, the kind of guy who could only get by on his looks. Power had much more than his looks to get by on, and here, the rest is acting. Marlene probably just had somebody else in mind for the role of Lawrence Vole.

    This play was a hit for a very long time for Patricia Jessel, in London, and one can only imagine the intrigue Dietrich must have resorted to to get the role for herself. Billy Wilder's wife is reported to have called Dietrich "a whore," (how many Hollywood wives must have said the same?)but in all probability it was only because both Marlene and Billy came out of Pre-War Berlin and Vienna and as expatriates spent a great deal of time talking intimately about the project, in German. After von Sternberg, Dietrich considered herself not merely an actress and star, but a participant in the artistic creation of the enterprise. Probably it was their artistic intimacy (and their understanding about sexuality) that produced A FOREIGN AFFAIR too. But this film is remarkable in two telling ways; it is witty not just in dialogue, but in camera use, and most of all, in pace. Unlike many English films of the period, the story is told with terrific speed. A sense of urgency permeates the story. The surface of WITNESS crackles with a dry, ironic electrical tension. They really don't make movies like this anymore. They can't. ...more info
  • To Cherish
    What a great movie. First of all, it's somewhat astonishing that this is a Billy Wilder film. The only thing it has in common with his other classics like "The Apartment," "Sunset Boulevard," or "Some Like it Hot" is its intelligence and sophistication. Otherwise, it is an entirely different kind of experience--a courtroom drama, a twisty mystery, an excursion into what is most British, and a vehicle for great performances by Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester and Marlene Dietrich. Laughton is especially wonderful as a barrister with a bad heart, who duels throughout with his scornful, but ultimately devoted, nurse who tries vainly to keep him away from cigars and bad food. Laughton survives this bodily assault, because in the end, he is shown to be essentially a servant of truth. The cynicism of American jurisprudence is absent here--Laughton's character does not give into easy rationalizations about his role(and to say more would be unfair to those who haven't seen it.) Laughton strives for nobility. And yet, despite the wig and the courtliness, he is very alive in this role. I just loved this film....more info
  • Another Triumph for Billy Wilder !
    With a number of excellent reviews for this classic court-room film, there is not much for me to add. You expect Charles Laughton to be superb, and he doesn't let you down--this is another one of his great roles, and he attacks it with relish.
    However, as another reviewer notes, the surprise here is Tyrone Power--his performance is low-key at first, but it builds to a shattering climax--he was much more than just a great-looking man. Sadly, this turned out to be his last film--he succumbed to a heart attack during his next film, "Solomon and Sheba" ( to be replaced by Yul Brynner ). However, with "Witness for the Prosecution", Mr. Power certainly went out "on top".
    What else can you say about Billy Wilder--a great director at the top of his game !
    This is one film where revealing too much of the plot would be unthinkable, and the finale is one of the great "surprise endings" in the history of the motion picture. In fact, in the 50s when this film was released, audiences were asked not to reveal the ending to their friends. I wonder how closely such "advice" would be followed today !? I remember when the "secret" in "The Crying Game" was spoiled for many viewers, even by film "critics". ( Late note dated 10 August 2003--well--guess what ? Some guy named "Nick" in Windsor, Ontario--who is not so impressed with the film--his privilege, of course--doesn't hesitate to spoil one of the film's key surprises for anyone who has yet to see it. It's like sitting in a movie theatre, and having someone talking behind you, telling you what's going to happen next--well done, Nick ! )
    As for the DVD, for a 45 year old movie, the black and white picture is excellent. Highly recommended....more info
  • wonderful classic
    If you haven't seen it, and haven't read Witness in Death, here's what it's about: Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power) is accused of killing a wealthy widow, and he applies to Sir Wilfrid (Charles Laughton), the best barrister in England, to defend him. But Sir Wilfrid's health is failing, and he initially refuses, until actually meeting Leonard convinces him to take the case.

    Leonard's wife Christine (Marlene Dietrich) is his alibi, but she's not very believable when she talks to Sir Wilfrid, and indeed she ends up as a witness for the prosecution.

    Even though I knew the plot, including the twists and turns, from reading Witness in Death, the movie itself was more than just the sum of its parts. The drama of whodunit and how and why was interspersed with humor, much of it coming from interactions between Sir Wilfrid and his nurse (Elsa Lanchester, who I remembered from Mary Poppins and That Darn Cat). In fact, it added an extra dimension watching the movie and thinking of Eve & Roarke watching it being performed by Richard Draco & Areena Mansfield.

    If you don't know what's going to happen, though, the twists are wonderful--my husband and sons loved it as much as I did....more info
  • Full of Twists and Turns
    Billy Wilder had a well trained eye for a story. The director co-adapted with Harry Kurnitz the successful stage drama "Witness for the Prosecution" by Agatha Christie to the screen with brilliant results, keeping audience members wondering to fadeout. Recognizing he had a spellbinder, director Wilder inserted a message in the closing credits requesting that audience members not divulge the film's ending.

    Charles Laughton gives perhaps his finest film performance along with the highly saluted "Hunchback of Notre Dame" as a garrulous British barrister who, after a near fatal heart attack, returns to work with the injunction to take things easy. He quickly defies the ardent medical request by becoming involved in the murder trial of Tyrone Power, an American living in London who is accused of murdering wealthy heiress Norma Varden for her money. He also spurns the efforts of faithful nurse Elsa Lanchester, Laughton's wife in real life, to take daily naps and refrain from drinking. He puts brandy into a thermos jug purportedly containing hot chocolate.

    While Laughton skillfully employs his bag of courtroom tricks in an effort to secure a not guilty verdict for Power, he experiences nagging concerns that there is something eluding him, that he does not see the case in totality and has failed to find a missing ingredient which would clarify everything. His cross examination skills are brutally trained on Marlene Dietrich, who announces that her presumed marriage to Power is not legal and she will serve as a witness for the prosecution. As the dramatic action see saws audience members wonder just who is the film's culprit. Is it Power or Dietrich? Is the skilled conniver one or the other? Just who has been victimized in this complex relationship?

    The swirling tide pool of emotional duplicity represents Wilder in his familiar orbit as master cynic, the same creative mind who stirred us up while watching "Double Indemnity", "Sunset Boulevard", "The Lost Weekend" and "The Apartment". Sit back and allow yourself to be absorbed in the details and the superb plot twists....more info

  • Witness for the Prosecution
    The movie is great. However, I was disturbed to have paid for overnight delivery and have the item in actuality take 3 days to get here. Even allowing for the holiday, this was not overnight and not worth the added expense....more info
  • Entertaining Trial Movie That Still Holds Up
    This is one of the best "trial movies" ever made. It's an outstanding film that is just as good today as it was almost 50 years ago when it was released in the theaters. The shocking ending caused quite a stir back then, too.

    The only part of the movie I thought looked dated and unrealistic was Tyrone Power's character being able to interrupt the trial with outbursts and not be reprimanded for it. There is no way that would be tolerated, at least today.

    Otherwise, it's a pretty solid film with a good cast that includes two fascinating characters played by actors who know how to entertain: Charles Laughton and Marlene Dietrich.

    Laughton, who plays Power's defense attorney, grabs the spotlight in the story but Dietrich almost steals the movie in her role as Power's wife. Laughton's dialog is terrific throughout, bringing a number of laughs to this serious film. He's just a joy to watch. Dietrich is even more riveting but just doesn't have anywhere near the same amount of screen time as Laughton.

    Not to be overlooked is Elsa Lanchester, playing Laughton's nurse. She, too, demonstrates her comedic talent and significantly adds to the fun of watching this film.

    If you like some fine drama, storyline twists, a little humor thrown in and great acting and dialog, this is a classic film to check out.
    ...more info
  • Excellent 50's movie
    This drama is filled with such suspense and was so brilliantly made that it must be the basis for today's courtroom dramas. A man is accused of mudering a woman who admired him. His wife instead of defending him, sides with the prosecution. I found Deitrick's character to be stone cold and very believeable. I like the way she fooled us all. The making od the film must have been tough. Being able to put all the pieces together must not have been easy. ...more info
  • Agatha Christie brought to life in the court
    Witness for the Prosecution, a movie based on an Agatha Christie story of the same name, portrays a defense lawyer ridden with health issues and his attempt to win what will probably be his last, or maybe even biggest, case. Starting early with misdirections on all sides, the story builds with intrigue as the "guess who" murder trial unfolds. The lawyer for the defense, played by Charles Laughton, is the humor throughout. With amazingly good timing and wit his character keeps the intrigue going as the case unravels. Black and white as it may be, this movie is still a good film to see. Hey, that rhymes....more info
  • 3.5 stars out of 4
    The Bottom Line:

    An absolutely charming film with delightful performances by Charles Laughton in the lead and Elsa Lancaster as his nurse, Witness for the Prosecution is such an unbelievably fun movie that I cannot do justice to it in this review: just go out and see it....more info
  • witness for the prosecution

    this is another classics movie it have lies murder love betray tyrone power is great. marlene charles laughton is wonderful actor i would watch is over and over again....more info
  • Classic Gold
    Agatha Christie at her best
    The actors are truly at the top of the game
    Charles Laughton Tyrone Power and of course the one and only Marlene Dietrich. ...more info
  • The best film Christie...and a fabulous courtroom drama!
    Seriously one of the great courtroom dramas of all time. A taut, unpredictable mystery...one of Agatha Christie's finest twists, and she was the master of the unguessable ending. Accompanied by terrific characters (all colorful and over the top, but highly entertaining) played to the hilt by some truly fine actors, many of whom were reaching the ends of their serious careers (Charles Laughton, Marlene Dietrich, Tyrone Power) but were also at the very top of their games.

    I won't trouble you with all the details of the plot. It's a seemingly simple murder mystery / courtroom drama that just gets more and more complex as the layers of the plot are peeled away. If you want a movie with deep, realistic characterizations...this is not it. If you want vivid, larger-than-life people engaged in a series of high-stakes cat-and-mouse games, you'll be very satisfied.

    Yes, the movie is nearly 50 years old, but it has aged unbelievably well. The direction is spot-on from the peerless Billy Wilder. His filmmaking is so clean and unpretentious, and yet powerfully effective. He knows when to use the closeup, when to pan back. They are technically unremarkable...except it is so difficult to make a movie this unobtrusive in its artistry, that I admire Wilder for that ability.

    Charles Laughton, as the attorney hired to represent murder suspect Tyrone Power, has NEVER been better. He might have gained more awards for his HENRY VIII and more lasting fame for HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME...but this character has it all. Bombast, cynicism, a real heart, great intelligence and a desert-dry wit. If his were the only memorable turn in the film, it would be enough to recommend it.

    But you've got to see the legendary Marlene Dietrich. She's past her height as a sex-symbol, but instead we get a rich performance that musters all her hard-won lessons over the decades. If anyone ever thought she was just a charismatic figure...they need to see this. She has charisma to burn, true, but skill as well. Tyrone Power is a dashing scoundrel, who may or may not be a murderer, and he is well-suited to the role...he's a mix of tough guy and romantic lead. Elsa Lancaster has a small role as Laughton's assistant, and she's simply a hoot. Throughout the film are many other recognizable British character actors of the `40s and `50s. It's a top-notch production from beginning to end.

    And the ending is a doozy as well. When the final twist is revealed, we're left to marvel at Agatha Christie's skills. As a youth, I read all her books (literally all) and I can say this: Agatha Christie may not have had the best writing skills (serviceable but not exactly Nobel Prize material) but her ability to craft an amazing and yet credible plot twist was and is unsurpassed. Much of her work has been imitated over the decades. Many of her twists still show up on everything from Murder She Wrote to CSI. But she consistently came up with great ending after great ending. For nearly 90 novels, and countless short stories. And WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (based very closely on her stage play, which she based on a short story of hers) has one of her better twists.

    I can't recommend this movie highly enough!
    ...more info
  • Superb English courtroom drama
    Charles Laughton is utterly brilliant as acerbic, splashy and celebrated English barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts in Billy Wilder's terrific "Witness for the Prosecution". The irascible Sir Wilfrid has just returned home after a two month convalescence following a heart attack. He arrives attached at the hip with nurse Miss Plimsoll played by a chatty Elsa Lanchester. Sir Wilfrid has been prohibited from drinking, smoking and practicing law in any stressful high profile cases.

    Laughton is visited by a solicitor friend seeking advice in a case involving Tyrone Power playing sketchy playboy type, Leonard Vole. Vole has been implicated in the bludgeoning death of an elderly and wealthy widow Emily Jane French. The married Vole had been wooing the widow hoping for financial backing for his invention. Initially Laughton's inclination is to follow doctor's orders and refer the case to his trusted associate played by John Williams. After interviewing Power, he is intrigued convinced of his innocence and decides to take the case. His contention that Power has no motive for the killing is dashed when he discovers that the widow has left him 80,000 pounds.

    Power's only alibi is the testimony of his German born actress wife Christine played by Marlene Dietrich, that he was home at the established time of the murder. Laughton questions Dietrich and learns that her marriage to Power is illegal and that she is actually a bigamist, being already married, Her cool demeanor and abrasive personality forces him to dismiss her as a potential witness for the defense.

    In the courtroom, compelling circumstantial evidence presented by the prosecutor, English character actor Torin Thatcher makes things look grim for Power. Much to the surprise of Laughton and his associate Mr. Brogan-Moore, Dietrich is called as a witness for the prosecution. She skewers Power by failing to corroborate his alibi, dooming him.

    Miraculously, later that evening, the night before the closing arguments, Laughton is tipped off to the presence of incriminating letters written by Dietrich which will exonerate Power and cast suspicion on her. With letters in hand, Laughton tears apart Dietrich on the witness stand and everyone now anxiously awaits the verdict.

    The verdict, however doesn't signal the end of the Agatha Christie inspired flick, as numerous plot twists at the conclusion enhance the reputation of this film as a timeless classic....more info
  • A fine drama that holds up today.
    Though Tyrone Power may go over the top in his portrayal of an accused murderer, this movie is a b&w gem that is as funny as it is compelling. A great courtroom drama....more info
  • From the Old School!

    "Witness for the Prosecution" is a first rate courtroom drama with razor sharp direction by Billy Wilder and a cast to die for. As the plot opens, "nice guy" Tyrone Power stands accused of murdering a wealthy widow. Unemployed and shiftless, he reminded this reviewer of Ray Milland in "Dial M for Murder". TP was the last known person to see the demised alive, has a shaky alibi-and is in the lady's will for big bucks! TP turns in desperation to big shot London lawyer Charles Laughton. In fact, Scotland Yard busts him in CL's office! Most have already commented on the lively courtroom drama but this reviewer admired the out of court sparring too as Laughton and his colleagues prepare for trial. Just out of the hospital, CL is perfect as the curmudgeonly and crafty barrister, even if he does tear up most of his scenes. His tart banter with his nurse (Elsa Lanchester) is softened by the knowledge that she was his real life wife. There are at least 3 huge plot twists to WFP, leading this observer to write a concise review in the interests of not divulging the ending. That leads us to female lead Marlene Dietrich: She is central to those twists- watch her closely! MD played 30 movies from 1930-1965; was she ever better than here? Hollywood took notice of WFP: It was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Laughton) and Best Supporting Actress (Lanchester), though winning none. Dietrich was ignored by the Academy but nominated for Best Actress by the Golden Globes. How many times were husband and wife nominated together? WFP is filmed is beautiful black and white-a lost art-and features true economy of sets, perhaps reflecting its' stage origins. This review tried to maintain an aura of mystery about the ending; there is a good deal more suspense than implied here. Like the header states, WFP is a winner from the old school -one that has long since been out of session.
    ...more info
  • A Whodunit Masterpiece
    I, myself, am not a fan of Agatha Christie's or of any of her followers; I rarely find the strength to keep up with all the clues and the various witnesses, lawyers, cross-examinations and objections which all lead up to the inevitable conclusion that, well, The Butler Did It. I can certainly understand the appeal in this kind of puzzle-movie; it just never appealed to me. To me the main problem with this kind of stories is that usually, more emphasis is put on the clues than on the characters - and so, when the real murderer is finally revealed, I say: "well, how about that?" - I simply don't care.

    But in every genre there are always some creations that transcend the genre. Witness for the Prosecution stands as a true masterpiece among the Whodunit murder mysteries, one that will be pure ecstasy to fans of the genre, but is also a fantastic creation on any level and in any standard. This one proves just my point, that a clever story with a lot of characters and a lot of clues and misguiding clues just isn't enough; Christie's play is masterful, of course, and the twist at the end is one of the great classic shockers of cinema, one that matches modern classics like The Usual Suspects and Memento, if not transcends them; but it took more than the story to make that ending work. The reason it all works so well is because the characters are so captivating. That is thanks to two elements - first, Billy Wilder's (Some Like It Hot, Sunset Blvd., The Seven Year Itch) masterful direction, and an ensemble of fantastic actors, all of whom bring their characters to life; Charles Laughton is beyond brilliant as the aging, ailing, wily solicitor, and Tyrone Power is electrifying and fascinating as his client. Most of all the diva Marlene Dietrich grants a truly show-stopping performance, and steals the show from the rest of the cast - proving just how great she really was.

    By far the greatest trial drama ever made, and one of the greatest murder mysteries, it took the combined talents of Christie, Wilder and the fantastic cast to create such amazing drama in the courtroom alone; Witness for the Prosecution is basically an ensemble piece that is no more than a theatre production, but Wilder uses the full powers that he has at his disposal as a film director - close-ups, music, cinematography, lighting - to their full potential; and thus once again it is proven that he is one of the most underrated directors in history. This is a classic that deserves to be remembered with the very best films of all time....more info
  • The last 10 minutes are everything
    Agatha Christie's courtroom drama, directed by Billy Wilder, and starring Charles Laughton as the defense attorney, Tyrone Power as the man accused of murder, and Marlene Dietrich as his wife. The trial builds up to an acquittal, but the real action occurs during the last 10 minutes AFTER the trial, when we witness a cross, then a double cross, and then a triple cross!

    Laughton is superb (it's one of his best performances after his role as the Hunchback of Notre Dame), as is Dietrich, though there have been more powerful courtroom dramas produced for the screen than this one. As the end credits were shown, audiences were asked not to reveal the ending to others, and indeed the whole picture seems merely a prelude to that 10-minute ending....more info
  • witness for the prosecution

    this is another classics movie it have lies murder love betray tyrone power is great. marlene charles laughton is wonderful actor i would watch is over and over again....more info
  • Wilder makes films to relish and return to
    Even with the plot twists, I can still come back to this film and enjoy every second of it; pure entertainment. (...) The timing of the dialogue/banter in the film is wonderful. The comedic chemistry between Laughton and Elsa Lanchester unbeatable; nearly high camp, but also concise. Laughton in general is great here--switching from faking frivolity to grave seriousness. And Dietrich wonderful in this late time of her career; her legs are still amazing at that age.

    But the real star of the film is Wilder's direction of the taut script. A device that I love of his is that he includes details that seem to be incidental, but later turn out to be crucial information. Only then does the viewer realize that they were supposed to notice them earlier.

    If only more new Hollywood films had the same attention to nuance and dialogue.

    This film, for a great combo of artistry and sheer entertainment, makes it one of my favorites....more info

  • Film fan
    I have always liked films from courtrooms,(To Kill a Mockingbird")and I like the period around 1950 films. Charles and Marlene is almost missing from my film collection, so the choice was easy.
    I've also read about the film in different media, and it got good reweiw.
    It's many Oscar nominations helped also, and Billy Wilder speaks for himself....more info
  • A well crafted film.
    This is an excellent example of a good play transferred to the screen. It was Tyrone Power's last film. The interplay between Laughton and Elsa Lanchester is a delight to watch. Film buffs, of course, know that they were married. The entire cast turns in stellar performances. The direction, by Billy Wilder, is close to perfect. This film is a two hour cinematic gem....more info
  • Can't Miss Curl-up on the Couch Movie
    Billy Wilder is a great director with a fabulous cast in this thriller. There are no misteps in direction, script or acting in this film. Tyrone Power more than holds his own with heavy weights Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester and Marlene Deitrich. Wilder coaxes a layered performance from Power in a taught, intriguing story of love, murder and ultimate betrayal. I think it is Powers best film. Laughton is both powerful and comical in a most enjoyable portrayal of an aging barrister. The courtroom scenes are among the best filmed and most overlooked. This is one of the few movies I can watch over and over....more info
  • Keep your eyes on the movie (recommended)
    There's quite a bit of dialog in the beginning that well establishes each character and sets up the shocking conclusion. It is filled with mild humor and suspicious behavior. The dialog is engaging; there is just so much of it and no real "action" by today's standards you could begin to think the story is a drag. However, like veering over highway double yellow lines and awakening to high beams flashing in your face, your adrenaline elevates and eyes pop wide open as the plot unfolds with multiple twists and turns. The contrast is very effective. The acting is not only good, when characters act like they are acting you are fooled. Enjoy a series of unexpected climaxes that should not be spoiled for anyone who hasn't seen WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION.

    Movie quote: "You don't get arrested or convicted for things you haven't done." "We try not to make a habit out it."...more info
  • superior courtroom drama
    Tyrone Power gives a stellar performance in this true courtroom classic. all the principle actors involved, including a superb performance by Charles Laughton, gave excellent performances. this film captures your attention and engrosses the viewer completely. some of the most powerful performances given are those by a brilliant cast: Power, Laughton, Dietrich and a delightful performance given the enduringly cute Elsa Lanchester. as for the premise/plot, to divulge any real details wouldn't be fair to those who haven't seen this absolutely terrific film. a must for any avid collector of the classics.

    as for the DVD, the picture and sound are well above average. no extras though, too bad....more info
  • Charles Laughton Steals the Show
    Witness for the Prosecution is an outstanding film with a number of great performances. I've seen some criticism of Tyrone Power but I can't agree. Far from wooden, he alternates between suave man-about-town and frantic defendant depending on the scene. Marlene Dietrich is also very compelling as his wife although I'm not sure I see her appeal as a sex-symbol which she used to enjoy. By far the best role, however, belongs to Charles Laughton as the defense attorney (or barrister) and he nails it beyond belief. His character is a classic curmudgeon but he plays it with such charm and humor that he is one of my favorite characters of all time from any movie.

    The story moves along briskly and there are plenty of mood shifts as some scenes are very light and funny while others are quite tense. It's a bit of a roller coaster but one that is pure pleasure to ride. All in all, I highly recommend this film for virtually any movie fan.
    ...more info
  • Excellent movie, excellent DVD
    Good summaries of the plot of this movie appear in other reviews - I won't repeat them. The acting is superb especially by Charles Laughton. The ensemble cast is also excellent including several fine character actors.

    This movie is an example of that rare animal: a film that is better than the book. The Agatha Christie short story, on which this movie is based, is only 24 pages long and spends only 2 pages on the trial! The Charles Laughton character, Sir Charles, appears briefly with only a few lines. Billy Wilder wrote the screenplay and it expands a throw away Christie story into a powerful courtroom drama.

    The DVD transfer is excellent: the picture is sharp, gray level detail is very good, and the sound is superb. Great care was taken in the preparation of this DVD.

    I can't recommend this film and DVD enough. Even if you don't like "old" or B&W films you will like this one. Buy it! Don't wait! You won't be sorry....more info

  • Guilty, Your Honor - I Love This Movie

    The film is based on Agatha Christie's story with the enormous twist not on the last page but on the last line. Billy Wilder's direction is perfect and all actors get it right. Charles Laughton is absolutely superb; he has the best lines and scenes and he brings the wit, intelligence, and the heart to the film. Marlene Dietrich is perfect playing not one but three roles, convincingly transforming from one character to another, from the present to the past. This is not just a good mystery but a classic of the courtroom genre and a very enjoyable film even after you know the ending. "Witness for the Prosecutionis" is one of my favorite Agatha Christie's screen adaptations.

    ...more info
  • Superb Mix of Comedy and Suspense
    This 1957 classic is usually billed as a courtroom drama, but like most Billy Wilder films, it's also a comedy, full of witty dialogue, and Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester, and Una O'Connor provide ample humor. (I'm assuming the Agatha Christie play on which the movie is based was equally witty.) This is one of those captivating movies that make you appreciate the OLD Hollywood, an incredible team effort that did the old studio system proud.

    The last time I saw this, I was conscious of how cleverly sex was conveyed in old movies. In the scene where Tyrone Power meets Marlene Dietrich, they are oozing sex out of every pore, but because this was 1957, it had to be slyly hinted at instead of blatant. Call me old-fashioned, but I think it's better for the subtlety.

    Although Tyrone Power (a rather wooden leading man) got top billing in this, Dietrich and Laughton (as the almost-retired defense lawyer) get all the good scenes, especially in the courtroom. In our health-obsessed age, it's fun watching Laughton do end-runs around his fussy nurse (Lanchester) in order to keep himself supplied with cigars and brandy. They come to a meeting of minds at the film's end, but I'll say no more abou that. The tomfoolery makes a nice contrast with the stiffness of the English lawyers in their wigs.

    I wouldn't dream of giving away the ending of this, but will say it is one of the best twist (really, double twist) endings of any movie ever made, also providing that sense of moral rightness that makes fans of murder mysteries and courtroom dramas sigh with satisfaction....more info
  • A gripping English courtroom drama

    As strongly advised by the narrator in the movie, we viewers are not to disclose the ending of the plot. And you'll be guaranteed a big twist and surprise that is beyond your imagination!

    Charles Laughton is the renowned persistent barrister with an even more persistent nurse and watchful housekeeper. He, against the advice of his doctor and his nurse, acted as the defence lawyer in an apparently hopeless to win trial. Tyrone Power was the accused murderer with a beautiful foreigner wife Marlene Dietrich. The time was a few years after the World War II ended and the place London when the public was still at large unsympathetic to Germans.

    The three stars acted superbly with impeccable lines. To top it all, the movie is given an ending that is wonderful, unexpected and at the same time serves the justice well. It can only be said that the punishment fits the crime and human nature (or weaknesses and prejudices, to be more specific) as portrayed in the movie is still highly relevant nowadays. To me, this is the most intriguing work by Agatha Christie.

    This movie can hardly be remade and deliver as much impact. There simply is not another trio who could play against each other so well. The conversations when Charles Laughton first inquired of the testimony of the husband and wife, separately, at his apartment were already as exciting as the subsequent court room drama. Credits must also be given to the director Billy Wilder (Sabrina, the Apartment, Some Like It Hot) who was a master of portraying characters, dialogues, wit and detail. No one could impress more than Marlene Dietrich as the intelligent wife with an unmistakable German accent. There is also a rare scene of her showing her legs. Tyrone Power grabbed the audience's attention with his plea for his innocence. And Charles Laughton is Charles Laughton - a big boy who pursued the case, as well as indulged himself in a few drinks and cigars, ferociously and fervantly. He is also the brain of the movie and the truth first dawned on him only till the end.

    It might also interest you that the nurse, Elsa Lanchester starred in the Bride of Frankestein and played as Charles Laughton's wife, Anne of Cleves, in the Private Life of Henry VIII. Another barrister in the movie, John Williams, actually assumed the role of Audrey Hepburn's father in Sabrina. With such a star-studded performance, you will not be a bit diasppointed. ...more info
  • witness for the prosecution
    gorgeous copy of this old film whih has been
    fully remasterized and it is a pleasure to look
    at again...more info
  • Not Wilder's Best
    This is a great mystery to be sure, but if you can't figure it out an hour and a half into the film, you ain't paying attention. I never got the allure of Dietrich, but Billy loved her. Okay, add an extra star for Laughton, the greatest ham what ever lived....more info
  • Witness To A Classic
    I have owned the VHS version of this film for several years and was delighted to purchase it in DVD. If one has the choice, go for the DVD. It's widescreen, the transfer is flawless, and the sound is better. It's funny, but I enjoyed the VHS version for years until I saw how much better it became on DVD. I had to cut the contrast on my television by a couple of notches to get the right tone of grays, as happens often with these B/W films.

    This is indeed one of the best transfers of a Christie work to film. Unlike so many of her books, there is no hidden clue or plot twist that leaves one feeling cheated at the end of the film.

    It's the cast, of course, that makes the movie for us. Laughton and Lanchester take to their parts like they were born for them, filling their roles with obvious relish and enjoyment. It reminds us how liberating roles can be when the actors aren't young and trying to appear sexy!

    Marlene Dietrich plays her part to near-perfection. Considering she was 'way up in her fifties when this movie was made, she is effortless in her grace, if not also her beauty. Who could play this part at that age in today's films? No one I know. Ms. Dietrich always knew her best wardrobe and lighting, and she uses it to great advantage here.

    ..., Tyrone Power has never seemed to fit so well with the rest of this cast. I've always felt that he acted too 'young' for his part, for, like Ms. Dietrich, he is very obviously middle-aged, and not aging as well as she. While still a handsome man, he seems a good ten years too old for his part. He does his best, though, and certainly doesn't ruin the overall impression of the movie.

    As the movie requests, I won't go into the plot or the surprise ending, leaving that for the viewer. I will say that the courtroom scene is one of the best ever made re British courts, as enjoyable as that in "QB VII", being so different from our American system.

    This is a movie to treasure and watch over again whenever one feels the need for a 'feel good' film with good guys and bad ones, too. As always, we are so fortunate to be able to preserve these on digital media to enjoy for many years to come....more info

  • "What Hypocrites You English Are!"
    Lawyers Charles Laughton and Henry Daniell get quite flustered when Marlene Dietrich hurls that line at them, after Laughton suggests that an older murdered woman doted on Dietrich's husband (and prime suspect) Tyrone Power as a son. The victim changed her will in his favor, you see, shortly before her murder and Power doesn't seem ever to have mentioned that he was a married man. He seems a likeable enough fellow, for all that, so Laughton decides to take the case, although as a heart patient he really ought to be resting. Well, at least his nurse Elsa Lanchester will do her part and coax and cajole him into compliance (or so she thinks). But when the prosecution shows up with a surprise witness, Laughton has to chew a lot of pills and use all his wits to try to secure an acquittal of his client.

    "Witness for the Prosecution" is a great story, and why wouldn't it be, since it stems from the mind of Agatha Christie herself. Everyone is turning in a top-notch performance; my only criticism concerns Mr. Power. It's much like my complaint against Richard Basehart in "Moby-Dick"--too many pointed references to the youthfulness of the character when the man before us is obviously not a whippersnapper. The vanity implied makes it a bit absurd, you see. Anyway, the extreme youth of Power's character isn't really the operative point; he's younger than the murder victim, and that's enough. The real firework displays come from Laughton and Dietrich. Both give Academy Award-calibre performances in their adversarial roles. Proof of the pudding is in the eating moment: During his first viewing of it, my generally hard-to-please brother calmly turned to us and said that it was the best movie he'd ever seen!

    The verdict is in: You're to be taken to a VCR where you should see "Witness for the Prosecution" as soon as possible....more info

  • Great suspense despite its age
    Find out how a real mystery is supposed to look. Find out what a real actor does for a living. Witness For the Prosecution looks at first like an old chestnut, but of you give it a little time the reward is generous and shocking. I use this occasionally in my Film classes. I can't use it every term because students will give the ending away to their friends. I have never had a class find this movie anything but thrilling. Great characters, clever writing and pure fun....more info
  • Witness for the Prosecution
    I first saw this movie as I was walking out the door, and continued to stand mezmirized by the twists and turns. To see these two great actors, not playing their normal roles but so opposite of what I normally see them as.
    I was 2 hours late for an appointment, because I was literally glued to the TV...more info
  • Witness for the Prosecution
    This has to be one of my favorite movies of all times. My brother and I were youngsters and luckily we were allowed to stay up late when the movie came on. We were mezmerized throughout. The ending blew us away, and we've talked about it for years. They just don't make movies like that anymore. I recommend it whole-heartedly!!!!...more info
  • "Where is my cocoa?"
    Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Charles Laughton), Barrister is returning to work prematurely from hospital for a heart condition. He is accompanied by fussy Miss Plimsoll (Elsa Lanchester) Nurse.

    Sir Wilfred promised not to take on any strenuous case. However in exchange for a chance to pilfer a forbidden cigar he soon gets intriguingly involved in a murder case. You can tell that Leonard Stephen Vole is being actively accused of murder based on circumstantial evidence. Sr. Wilfred after giving charismatic Leonard the eye-glass test is sure that he is innocent and knows if he does not take an active part in the trial that Leonard is doomed. To make matters worse Leonard's wife Christine Helm Vole (Marlene Dietrich), his only alibi, is some sort of cool character and looks suspicious her self.

    Will Sir Wilfred take on the case? And if so will he die trying?
    What is Christine's secret?
    How will it turn out in the end?

    This film is well played and will keep you on the edge of your seat. You will be like the jury vacillating over his innocence and the outcome of the trial. Do not let Leonard's story distract you from the bantering and budding affair between Sir Wilfred and Nurse Plimsoll.
    ...more info
  • A well crafted film.
    This is an excellent example of a good play transferred to the screen. It was Tyrone Power's last film. The interplay between Laughton and Elsa Lanchester is a delight to watch. Film buffs, of course, know that they were married. The entire cast turns in stellar performances. The direction, by Billy Wilder, is close to perfect. This film is a two hour cinematic gem....more info
    Quite probably, this film is the most ingeniously entertaining of all "Courtroom" dramas. At any rate, WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION will definitely please viewers who like movies with a "twist" ending! At the mellow age of 55, Marlene Dietrich seems peerless in her playing of Christine: this is more than likely her finest dramatic performance. As the weak-hearted (literally) Sir Wilfred, the gruff barrister, Charles Laughton is perfection and as his nurse, Miss Plimsoll, Elsa Lanchester is memorable: there is a genuine chemistry between the two, they being real-life spouses for 25 years. Tyrone Power is fine as Leonard Vole who gets his comeuppance in a most unexpected manner. Norma Varden does well in her role as the rich old woman whom Leonard charms. The actress is who plays the frumpy brunette Cockney streetwalker is a unique fascination...Directed by Billy Wilder and based upon the Agatha Christie story, this film really couldn't miss. And it didn't....more info
  • PERFECT :-)
    Well..almost. I just saw this movie a few days ago for the first time, but I've seen it several times since. The beginning of the film may seem a bit longer than it is...Not boring...The movie is really dominated by Charles Laughton and his outstanding performance. He "spices" up every scene he is in, with his funny comments. The leading lady is the one and only Marlene Dietrich. It has been said that this is her finest performance since "The Blue Angel" and I would say that it's not far from the truth.

    The "action" really starts when they all hit courtroom. A scene where many lies and "truths" come out.

    Anyway, I would say that Charles Laughton and Marlene Dietrich really holds the film to it's standards.

    Just see it for yourself...but remember that the truth may not be as simple as it seems....more info

  • Witness for the Prosecution
    This has to be one of my favorite movies of all times. My brother and I were youngsters and luckily we were allowed to stay up late when the movie came on. We were mezmerized throughout. The ending blew us away, and we've talked about it for years. They just don't make movies like that anymore. I recommend it whole-heartedly!!!!...more info


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