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Anatomy Of A Murder Review

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James Stewart defends Ben Gazzara on a murder rap, while George C Scott stands for the prosecution.

★★★★★

Otto Preminger's film was controversial in 1959 - making frank use of words like "panties", "rape" and "spermatogenesis" - and remains a trenchant, bitter, tough and witty dissection of the US legal system. We don't see the murder, even in flashback, and have to decide along with the jury whether army officer Ben Gazzara was or was not subject to an "irresistible impulse" tantamount to insanity when he shot dead the bar-owner alleged to have raped his teasing trailer-trash wife. James Stewart is all aw-shucks conniving as the folksy but laser-brained defence lawyer who goes up against George C. Scott's prissy, big-city legal eagle.

It's simply the best trial movie ever made, showing that lawyers have to be not only actors but stars, performing for their 12-man audience.