WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION [1957] movie review – recommended

November 16, 2013 · Print This Article

I thought I was very clever calling right from the start how I thought the murder of a wealthy widow had played out, and I thought that way all the way to the very end, but I was wrong.  WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION [1957] is all about letting someone believe what they want and hoping in the end no one has that nagging feeling.  For me, it was always if the “prisoner” did not commit the murder, then who did?  I thought I knew.  I was not as clever as I thought!

I was also surprised that WITNESS was a British movie.  The title is very famous, though it sounds like a number of famous movies, but I had never seen it and having suffered through too many less than quality 2013 releases, I wanted to be assured of a quality movie experience this evening.  I had been thinking yes this is a very good movie, but not an all-time classic, but one must wait until the very last frame of WITNESS before one really can realize how great it all was.  Even the closing credits of the movie have a voiceover asking the audience not to spoil the ending for others yet to have seen it, and this was back in 1957!

I like the British term for lawyer, barrister, sounds much more formal.  It seems the best defense lawyer around is the person we are introduced to in the opening being pestered by a nurse.  Sir Wilfred is to take on no more criminal cases and to take it easy.  If he did there would be no movie so it is not surprising that upon hearing the tale told by Mr. Vole of being accused of a murder he did not commit, Sir Wilfred agreed to the case precisely because the odds of proving Mr. Vole innocent were so long.

From here, the rest of the movie takes place nearly entirely in the courtroom after a brief flashback showing Mr. Vole’s peculiar relationship with an older, wealthy widow.  In the trial there really is little evidence to present and only a few witnesses.  It dawned on me just before the movie revealed what the title actually means.

Sir Wilfred proves himself in court to be worthy of his fame as he does not let the prosecution put a question out of place.  These scenes are taunt and not devoid of wit as well.

Like the voiceover begs, to write more would be spoiling what is truly one of the all-time great twist endings, the banana peal, as Sir Wilfred calls it.


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