116 Min. | Crime – Drama – Mystery | December 1957
IMDB Rating: 8.4
Director: Billy Wilder
Staring: Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton
Witness for the Prosecution Review: Charlie Chaplin was funny. Charles Laughton was witty. As good as ‘Witness For The Prosecution’ is, Agatha Christie’s story, the other actors, the technical expertise, the Oscar-nominated Laughton is the reason to see Witness for the Prosecution. What he brings to Billy Wilder’s 1957 courtroom thriller is his tremendous wit and intellect. It’s a serious story, but the dark-comic tag team of Wilder/Laughton upgraded the film from “a good courtroom mystery” to “a classic of the courtroom genre”.
The headlining star, Tyrone Power, sure doesn’t help them very much. He plays anguish about as smoothly as ripped sandpaper, and anguish is the unfortunate emotion he’s got to play for most of the picture. Power has been accused of murdering a wealthy older woman. His wife seems to be doing all she can to sell him out, appearing as, drum roll, please, drummer man, the star witness for the prosecution. Laughton is the brilliant English barrister defending Power. In Witness for the Prosecution, the plot twists ‘n’ turns a dozen ways from Sunday, just as it always does in Christie’s best work.
Movies of this type have been ripped off so often that students of the “don’t give away the ending” class are bound to figure it out. That hardly mattered because there were still more surprises to come. Through all that plot, Dietrich winds up being the most fascinating character. Project back and you’ll realize how well her performance works. But she and Power are merely the star attractions in ‘Witness For The Prosecution’. The main dish is Charles Laughton. Considering how ironic and cynical our society has become, it’s stunning that brilliant old pros like Wilder and Laughton aren’t more popular today. After Witness for the Prosecution, they’ve become personal heroes of mine.
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