stars James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara and George C. Scott; Otto Preminger directs.
The Setup: Anatomy of a Murder couldn't have been the success it was without the sizzling anatomy of Lee Remick, who plays Laura, an Army wife who's supposedly been raped. Ben Gazzara plays Manny, her thug of a husband; in a rage, Manny kills Laura's alleged rapist. Enter James Stewart as Paul Biegler, a small-town lawyer who takes the case, even though he has some doubts about Laura's story and Manny's guilt. George C. Scott is the high-powered prosecutor who comes after Manny.
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The 1959 film, directed by Otto Preminger, was a shocker when it was released because it dealt so frankly with rape, infidelity and domestic abuse. The soundtrack, by Duke Ellington, added to the film's wild, sensual mood.
The Execution: The film is flawless. From beginning to end, there isn't a single false step. Remick's Laura, who spends most of the film with a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other, is perhaps the most complex character. She loves her husband, even though he beats her. She wants to clear him -- maybe. She drops hints that contradict her husband's story, all the while claiming his innocence.
Stewart's Paul is a multidimensional lawyer confused by his explosive client and his loose-hipped wife (Paul has to tell the very slim Laura to put on a girdle at one point, to cut down on her jiggle factor). Gazzara shines as the rough-edged Manny, a violent bully with a short fuse and questionable morals. And George C. Scott is simply magnificent as the tough prosecutor determined to prove Manny guilty, even if it means going after supposed rape victim Laura.
The Extras: Released by the Criterion Collection, there are lots of extras. The Blu-ray has a high-definition digital restoration of the original film. There's a new interview with Otto Preminger biographer Foster Hirsch, a new interview with Gary Giddings, who discusses Duke Ellington's pulsating score, and behind-the-scenes photographs by Life magazine's Gjon Mili. There's also newsreel footage from the set and excerpts from Anatomy of "Anatomy": The Making of a Movie.