Witness for the Prosecution
Drama | 1957 | Courtroom Drama |116 minutes | In English
Sir Wilfrid Robarts, a brilliant London barrister, recovering from a heart attack, and over the severe objections of his feisty private nurse, Miss Plimsoll, is persuaded to take on a juicy murder case. The dashing and handsome Leonard Vole is accused of murdering Mrs. Emily French, a rich, older widow. For Sir Wilfrid, the case appears to be unwinnable: Emily French left Vole a considerable fortune in her will and, more damaging, his wife, Christine, testified that Vole confessed the murder to her. Even so, Sir Wilfrid believes Vole to be innocent so he plows ahead with renewed energy. The film was adapted from an Agatha Christie play so viewers can expect many twists and turns. But it’s the ending that is electrifying. It will leave you shell-shocked. The poster for the film implores the following: “You’ll talk about it!—But please don’t tell the ending.”
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 100%
Academy Awards: Nominated: Best Picture; Best Director (Billy Wilder); Best Actor (Charles Laughton); Best Supporting Actress (Elsa Lanchester)
Golden Globe Awards: Best Supporting Actress (Elsa Lanchester)
Online Film & Television Association Award: Best Picture
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The definitive courtroom thriller. It’s one of director Billy Wilder’s strongest movies. Keep an eye on Marlene Dietrich. She was never better than she is here. Charles Laughton is at his bloated Churchillian best.
WITNESS for the PROSECUTION is a witty, terse adaptation of the Agatha Christie hit play brought to the screen with ingenuity and vitality by BillyWilder. 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.
The air in the courtroom fairly crackles with emotional electricity, until that staggering surprise in the last reel. Then the whole drama explodes. It’s the staging of the scenes that is important in this rapidly moving film. It’s the balancing of well-marked characters, the shifts of mood, the changes of pace and the interesting bursts of histrionics that the various actors display.
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