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***** A must watch
**** Worth seeing
*** If you must watch a movie and there is nothing else out there
** Don’t bother
* It’s so bad its almost good... not... These are films I walked out on, or just fell asleep
(K: stars) Rating by my children. As they are easy to please, would typically be higher than mine...

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Anatomy of a Murder (1959) *****

Anatomy of a MurderFinally got to see this classic court-drama. No doubt it stands the test of time, and proves to be as engaging today, even in its 2 hours and 40 minutes format, as it may have been over 50 years ago. The story’s brilliance, a story which I understand is based on a real case, is in putting the audience in a difficult position: the film’s protagonist, the one to receive the viewers’ sympathy, is an attorney for a murderer whose insanity claim, we, the audience, know, is fake. If wishing for justice, a film’s viewer is then forced to resist the natural empathy a protagonist deserves; while if wishing to emphasized with the main character of the defense attorney, Paul Biegler (played by James Stewart), one is forced to become a partner in crime… Things are even further complicated by the crime’s cause – the rape of the murderer’s wife, which ethically seems to give him justification to break the law and take action (and us, the audience, a reason to “forgive” him) but as it stands legally, none of this should have come into consideration. There are quite a few other intriguing elements to this film, elements into which I will not go in details here in order to keep the review short (e.g. adding another veil of uncertainty, the wife’s character is flirty, raising the question if the rape even occurred). Other notable facts and trivia: some of the members of the jury in the film were the actual jurors on the real trial; some of the techniques used in the trial by the attorneys represent so well techniques used in the real world that apparently some professors of law use this film as an example in their classes. The film also featured a very direct and frank dialog, unusual for 1959, a time at which the infamous Hays Code of censorship was only infrequently challenged. In short, unless you are allergic to court-dramas, this film presents an irresistible impulse of enjoyment.

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