I suppose this is not really a review, just some after-movie thoughts. To which I added later: Well, I guess they are reflections, plenty of them, in fact, and also somewhat of a review… and, as usual, that includes spoilers…

I watched this movie recently; actually I was too tired to watch it all in one session, but the interruption didn’t detract my mind from being engrossed by it. Nor did it diminish the sense of overwhelming disappointment at the end  – and bewilderment. Why is this movie so touted, so highly recommended?

Did I completely miss the movie’s point? Because to me, it felt like it flopped at the end. One feels nothing like the climax and the thrill and the jolt that one experiences while watching “Witness for the Prosecution,” for example. Yes, climax, thank you, that’s what I like. That good ol’ jolt at the end, when not two, like we were lavished with in WfP. AoaM just sputters inanely at the end. With no closing arguments! How in heaven can you have a long, drawn-out murder case, the most lauded so-called court-room *drama* of Hollywood, with no closing arguments! All we hear Stewart say is that the prosecutor gave the best one in history. BUT we, the people who the movie is for, were deprived of them, with all the drama they could punch in, along with the defense’s. And then it seemed two minutes later, it was simply over. And people were shouting and yelping in the court room, but there was no sense to it. Unwittingly, that is what seemed realistic to me about this ending. How senseless life is, and how brutally it hits you out of nowhere, and there you are left to make some sense out of it, after the fact. And how flippant the winners are – Lee reminded me of Mia Farrow’s Daisy in the 1974 version of The Great Gatsby. That was another realistic aspect (which was nice).

And look at the contradiction here, from a reviewer: “The trial itself takes up more than half of the film’s extensive 161-minute running time, and it has proved to be one of the more accurate depictions of legal proceedings to come out of Hollywood (although, to be fair, it has plenty of exaggerations and overt dramatics that no judge would allow). ”

“one of the most accurate” v. “plenty of exaggerations and overt dramatics that no judge would allow”

So it’s clearly not realistic! So I don’t see why people go on insisting it is, like mindless parrots.

“It has been bothering me for a long time what people find to be so charming about 1959’s movie Anatomy of a Murder. … I do not find enough reasons to consider Anatomy of a Murder such a good piece of cinema as it is regarded to be by many viewers.”

My feeling exactly.

“If there is a weakness in the trial sequences, it is the presence of Joseph N. Welch as the presiding judge. Welch, a Boston-based lawyer who had gained national fame during the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings for his infamous calling out of red-baiting Senator Joseph McCarthy’s bully tactics—“Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”—probably peaked many viewers’ interest with his casting in the film, but he is clearly not a capable actor, and his unevenness as Judge Weaver sometimes deflates the trial’s otherwise scintillating sense of realism.”

Thank you, my thoughts exactly! Every time this judge said something, I cringed. It was so rehearsed and fake and stale. The poor man certainly meant well, but he wasn’t up to job and cutting immediately to the other acting heavyweights only served to further highlight how inept he was. And the judge’s part was certainly not that small. Bad, bad casting mistake. The only one though – all the other actors are great.

For a large part of the latter half of the movie, here’s what I was thinking: Surely I must have missed major messages and codes and obvious plot clues that were staring me in the face and I just glossed along, clueless and frustrated at being at a loss.

So, after watching it, I turned to the Internet to find out just exactly had I missed so obviously in one of those “Help me out here, people” moments.

Something interesting: there was a reason for my feeling of “unresolvedness” and being at a loss. It seems that there was no big thinly disguised but obvious clue that I had missed that completely reveals the truth. I had failed at registering the big, right-in-your-face (ahem) clue that apparently, for all concerned, revealed the truth (explained below)! Great feeling at finding that out.

From other reviewers: “While a lot of people state Anatomy of a Murder is very realistic, in fact I think just the opposite.”

My feeling exactly. Excellent directing and acting, but this is Hollywood and this is drama (as in theater). It is not in any way a documentary (rather eerie that Otto decided to shoot many scenes on the locations where the actual murder that the film is based on took place — but it doesn’t make it anymore real) or is it a realistic movie. It’s just powerful performances: clever, charming, strong – but still performances. What was realistic to me is how ambiguous the case was, how elusive the truth was, and how unjust the jury’s decision was. Now all of this, because I hadn’t understood that she had been raped.

Not that it changes this take: to me, it showed the justice system being one big fraud, despite the fact that the rules are there and are followed, including of law, the structures are in place, and the premise that all of this process was carried out for the pursuit of justice is also there. In truth, it was more of a gladiator fight, where the most cunning (even underhanded) attorney wins and justice be damned. That’s where the film was realistic to me. And with no punch at the end, which added to my sense of loss and being denied that satisfaction of good entertainment that nourishes your emotions and your mind. How could such a lauded movie have ended so empty like this? It was like lighting up a big firecracker and watching it malfunction in front of your face, a few sparks and sputters before it fizzes into nothing.

I didn’t get that clue that tells *me*, the viewer, what happened in reality, while the characters remain in the dark. So here I was, lost as well, just like them, and worse, since it was a movie, I had this nagging feeling that the problem was with me (somewhat yes!) and that I was the one who missed something while all the other viewers “got the clue” that I didn’t get.

After watching then I was mightily surprised to read from a reviewer that: “Strangely, the movie is not a murder mystery. There’s no question in our minds that Gazzara has killed the soldier and that Remick has been raped.”

What an idiotic reviewer I thought when I first read this. Actually my take until the end of the movie was that she hadn’t been raped. She may have had sex – in any case it’s what the husband suspected her of doing; the husband punched her and went out to kill the lover. That’s the story that formed in my mind throughout the movie, until the very end. But that didn’t square off with the polygraph test, which she passed – a fact that is presented rather early on. So why didn’t the polygraph make the story clear to me the other way around? I have no explanation. It just doesn’t congeal in place, even now.

And even supposing that she had been raped, why should the husband then get off free for killing the rapist? If murder should be the sentence for rape, then all rapists should be killed, including child rapists. But here one has the feeling that the author must not be dealing with these questions at all! So what question was he driving at? What is he trying to say with this story? The insanity question, perhaps. Why did all the people jump up in the courtroom to congratulate the “winners” since it was clearly a loss for society? That’s the big message?

So more searching on the Internet and I come upon the original book — which you can read some pages of and which I did. (Unfortunately some pages that talk about the lie detector aren’t accessible). In any case, it’s much clearer in the book — at least to my mind — the importance of the lie detector test. So that’s why the reviewer said “we” all know what happened. We minus one. Apparently that was the clue that I just didn’t add up in my mind. And yet, there is no way that it can be disregarded and I would consider it decisive. She was raped. But even so, that jars in my mind, as if that was not the truth. However, there isn’t really a plot problem that would make the rape not plausible. And yet, I just get this strange feeling about that having happened in the story.

“The result is a film that simultaneously plays by and punctures the expectations of the courtroom thriller, providing us with all the dramatic highs and lows, but ultimately denying us the comforting sense of closure that makes the legal system seem infallible. ”

As I mentioned, I have no such view of the legal system, in fact, it scares me to death to think of how fallible, manipulable, corruptible, and unjust the “justice” system is. What I felt the movie denied me was the comforting sense that I was understanding the movie and had understood the story and the author’s disguised main points that every author of caliber strives to make through his characters and plot.

“There are no flashbacks.”

Well pointed out.

” All we discover about the crime is what Biegler surmises, and what he is able to argue in court. So is Laura an innocent victim, or a harlot? And who gave her those bruises? Is she the one really on trial here? This movie takes a brisk, mannishly worldly, and very much a pre-feminist attitude to this ambiguity.”

Mannishly indeed, and very 1950-ish as well. That was patriarchy then and women were blamed for trying to wield some power over men through being sexual and breaking out of the tidy wife and mother roles, which then made them into harlots, and for which they were also burned at the morality stake as trash, after servicing the sexist men in a way they obviously quite enjoyed profiting from. Obviously this represents no real power, since the deformed patriarchal system remains in place, and so I don’t see how a woman being a harlot could be feminist at all. Being a slut is not power nor freedom nor dignity, and any such “feminism” is just a more modernized way to put some legitimizing veneer on women to degrade themselves and sexuality in a way that pleases sexually oppressive men, who are incapable of establishing respectful and intimate relationships with women and who have perverted attitudes about sexuality. These are the attitudes adopted by “harlots” or “sluts” or many so-called “feminists.” It’s sort of in line with women taking up smoking as “progress.” It’s destructive, but it’s something that only men were allowed, so all the stupid women “liberate” themselves to do this thing that will cause them lung cancer and a host of other illnesses, and which is addictive and destructive. They break the patriarchy confines while being too stupid to think about what they are adopting: something that destroys their health. Smart.

So, these were a few of my experiences and reflections on Anatomy of a Murder.


Anatomy of a Murder By Robert Traver