Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

2016 #157
Billy Wilder | 112 mins | DVD | 1.85:1 | USA / English | U

Witness for the ProsecutionCharles Laughton and Marlene Dietrich shine in this adaptation of Agatha Christie’s play (in turn based on her short story), about a man accused of murder but who proclaims his innocence (Tyrone Power), the barrister who decides to take the case (Laughton), and the man’s wife who agrees to alibi him but seems somehow suspicious (Dietrich).

Despite expanding the action from the play, it’s still dialogue-heavy and a little stagey in places — but between the engrossingly labyrinthine plot, those captivating performances, and some humour added by screenwriters Billy Wilder and Harry Kurnitz, such potential criticisms are irrelevant.

Helluva twist, too.

5 out of 5

A new adaptation of The Witness for the Prosecution begins on BBC One tonight at 9pm.

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7 thoughts on “Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

  1. I like this film a lot. It’s atypical Wilder in many ways but you can see what attracted him too. And that cast is awful hard to beat. I have a hunch the new adaptation will stretch it more than is really necessary, although I’d like too be proved wrong.
    I hope Xmas was good to you, and all the best for 2017!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s only a two-parter so hopefully that means it’s not too thin. I think it’s by the same team as last year’s And Then There Were None, which I enjoyed, so fingers crossed (I haven’t watched it yet).

      Best wishes to you also, Colin!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Caught the first part and wasn’t impressed, to be honest. I think there’s been too much padding in an attempt to make it different to the Wilder film and this is slackening the pace. However, I had a bigger issue with the grading of the image – that green murk is desperately ugly.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Watched both parts this evening and wasn’t particularly impressed either. The whole thing felt needlessly grim and ponderous. I can guess what the cinematography was aiming to achieve, but it just came across as drab.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Dreary is definitely the word for it. I know they’re currently working on several more Christie adaptations and I sincerely hope they don’t intend keeping the same tone for all of them!

          Liked by 1 person

        • Quite. I understand this was adapted from the short story rather than the subsequent dramatization so that probably explains why it felt so drawn out and padded – I read the short story years ago but don’t recall much if anything about it now, I may dig it out and have a look again.
          If the other adaptations are of full length novels, then there may be fewer problems.

          Liked by 1 person

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