Witness For The Prosecution

1957, Movie, NR, 114 mins

Review

WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION
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Dietrich steals it. WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION is a witty, terse adaptation of the Agatha Christie hit play brought to the screen with ingenuity and vitality by Billy Wilder. Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Laughton) is a sickly barrister who is told by his doctors and forced by his pesty nurse Miss Plimsoll (Lanchester, Laughton's real-life wife), to retire from criminal cases. When his solicitor Mayhew (Daniell) arrives at his home with murder suspect Leonard Vole (Power), Robarts cannot resist. Hearing Vole's story, Robarts becomes convinced of the man's innocence, but because his only alibi is his wife Christine (Dietrich), prospects for an acquittal look dim. Before their meeting ends, word is received that Vole has inherited a fortune from the deceased's estate. Because of the apparent clarity of Vole's motive, Scotland Yard places him under arrest. Robarts, however, is not completely convinced and continues examining the clues, uncovering more than even he imagined.

Improving on Christie's play, Wilder has rid WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION of much of the usual static courtroom scenes and filled the film with an active, visual excitement. Whether it be the fluidity of the camera, the use of an occasional flashback, or the diversion of Robarts's constant medical attention, Wilder succeeds in finding a way to relieve the boredom that typically accompanies the courtroom. Wilder even introduces the Miss Plimsoll character into Christie's scenario to add some life and a comic angle. At the film's halfway point Wilder flashes back to wartime Germany for the standard Dietrich-as-cabaret-singer scene, giving her a chance to show off one of her attractive legs, play the accordion, and deliver "I Never Go There Anymore" (Ralph Arthur Roberts, Jack Brooks). The part, one of her finest, was pure Dietrich, casting her as a woman who throws away everything--her homeland, her reputation, and her life--for the man she loves. leave a comment

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