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Otto Preminger
James Stewart, George C. Scott, Lee Remick
Writing Credits:
Wendell Mayes

A small-town lawyer defends a military officer accused of a crime of passion.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Dolby Vision
English Dolby Atmos
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English DTS-HD MA 1.0
French DTS-HD MA 1.0
German DTS-HD MA 1.0
Italian DTS-HD MA 1.0
Portuguese Dolby 1.0
Castillian DTS-HD MA 1.0
Spanish Dolby 1.0
Chinese Traditional
Brazilian Portuguese
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 161 min.
Price: $164.99
Release Date: 10/12/2021
Available Only As Part of 6-Film ďColumbia Classics Collection Volume 2Ē

• Audio Commentary with Film Historian Foster Hirsch
• Interview with Otto Preminger Biographer Foster Hirsch
• Excerpts from 1967 Firing Line Episode with Otto Preminger
• Interview with Critic Gary Giddins
• Interview with Writer Pat Kirkham
• Trailer
• Blu-ray Copy


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Dolby Vision Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Anatomy of a Murder [4K UHD] (1959)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 4, 2022)

Although I never actively considered a career in law, I always found films and stories related to the profession interesting and compelling. There's something about the stark showdown of the courtroom and the natural drama inherent in such proceedings that I find fascinating and stimulating.

As such, I tend to favor law-related films that stick to the court and avoid as many other plot complications. That's why I didn't much care for efforts like The Firm, as they have little to do with law and a lot to do with soap opera fluff.

Otto Preminger's terrific 1959 film Anatomy of a Murder finds itself more firmly rooted in the law, as it spends the majority of its 160-minute running time where it belongs: in the courtroom.

The elements of the story are simple: shortly after Laura (Lee Remick) gets raped, her husband (Ben Gazzara) kills the offender. Lawyer Paul Biegler (James Stewart) takes the case and we go from there.

Actually, I felt shocked at how much time this film devoted to the depiction of a trial. Anatomy enters the courtroom at a little before the one-hour mark, which surprised me, as movie trials normally don't last longer than a half an hour or so.

I wondered how the film would proceed after the court segments ended, since I was sure there had to be an extended period following the verdict.

However, that wasn't accurate, as once the case began, it lasted until almost the end of the film. That's nearly 100 minutes of legal fun, and although I think some of the proceedings wouldn't hold up to scrutiny Ė movies donít tend to follow the scriptures of the law very precisely - the action moves at a satisfying rate and the battle creates some crackling drama.

The plot itself is nothing special, but the movie executes the tale extremely well, as Preminger paces Anatomy at a crisp rate. Obviously, the film is too long to really crank through the action, but the movie moves much more briskly than you'd expect from a picture that approaches three hours, so few dull moments set in once thing gets underway.

I don't want to relate many details, but I find that Anatomy seems more morally ambiguous than I'd expect from a movie of this oneís era. As the story proceeds, quite a lot of questions arise that involve the participants, and many of these never really receive a satisfactory explanation.

Although we eventually know the outcome of the trial, we never feel very certain as to what the truth of the situation actually was. Some may attribute this to sloppy filmmaking, but I think the vagueness was intentional, so we're left to draw our own conclusions, and I like that.

I knew little about Anatomy when I first viewed it in 2000, and that extended to its cast and crew. I was aware that Preminger directed it and that Stewart starred in it, but that was it.

As such, I was astonished to see the list of notable talent in the project. Perhaps none of these names startled me as much as that of Duke Ellington, who composed the film's score.

You don't see famous musicians like that attached to movies everyday, and I initially figured the picture must have just used Ellington's music in the same way Kubrick utilized various classical pieces in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

However, that wasn't the case. Indeed, Ellington wrote the music explicitly for the movie, so it's an unusual score but it definitely was done solely for the film.

Ellington even plays a cameo in Anatomy when he turns up as - surprise! Ė a jazz musician in a bar. It's a cute and fun touch.

In addition to my surprise over Ellington's contribution, I also was surprised to see the list of notable actors in Anatomy. From leads Remick and Gazzara through supporting cast like George C. Scott, Murray Hamilton, Arthur OíConnell, Eve Arden and Orson Bean, this sucker comes replete with well-known names.

All acquit themselves well, especially Scott. As usual, Stewart's performance anchors the film, and he actually shows a bit more fire than we'd expect, as he adds spark and verve to Biegler that seems unusual for him, and he makes the part shine.

As good as Stewart is, Scott upstages him during their scenes together. Scott plays a big city lawyer who helps the local district attorney prosecute the case, and he gives the character a wonderful air of smugness and superiority.

The coolness with which Scott unnerves witnesses and Biegler seems terrific. The piece as a whole boasts solid acting, but Scott stands out among the crowd.

And that's saying something in this film, since it's a fine piece of work. I feared that a film as long and potentially tedious as Anatomy of a Murder would be a bore, but my concerns were completely unfounded. It's a thoroughly engaging and entertaining movie that holds up extremely well even after more than 60 years.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Anatomy of a Murder appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. This was an excellent Dolby Vision presentation.

For the most part, sharpness appeared great. Although a few shots displayed a smidgen of softness, the majority offered nice clarity and delineation.

I think some of the softness stemmed from the original photography, by the way. The film offered shallow depth of field, so it didnít take much for elements to lose focus.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge haloes remained absent. Grain felt natural, and I found no print flaws.

Blacks were terrific, as dark tones demonstrated solid depth. Shadows were also strong, and the film showed a good sense of contrast, as it never appeared either too dark or too bright.

HDR gave these elements extra impact. I felt wholly pleased with this fine 4K image.

In addition to the filmís original DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack, the film came with a remixed Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, dialogue tended to be a bit metallic and showed too much reverb but the lines were always intelligible and lacked edginess or notable problems. Speech seemed more natural during the mono version.

Effects felt about the same. They didnít get a lot to do in this chatty affair, but they were reasonably accurate and concise.

Music varied notably between the two. In the mono track, Duke Ellingtonís score was more than acceptable, as it showed fine clarity and warmth.

However, I thought the music demonstrated more pep and vibrancy in the multichannel mix. The material sounded surprisingly good given its age and offered nice zing.

Of course, the soundscapes differed, though music remained the biggest difference. The Atmos track used the side and rear channels to involve the listener in the score, and it did so well, as the instrumentation spread around the room in a satisfying way.

Effects also opened up the setting in a moderate manner, as vehicles moved from side to side and other elements popped up in logical spots. However, that was a less engaging aspect of the track when compared with the music. As I noted earlier, this was a dialogue-oriented film, so the effects didnít get a lot to do.

Which track did I prefer? I thought it was a toss-up, honestly. As a general rule, I prefer original mixes, and Iíd probably stay with the mono audio for future viewings, mainly because it felt a bit more organic.

However, the Atmos version did have its appeal, largely due to the higher quality of the music. The use of the side and rear speakers didnít add much to the experience Ė at least not for me Ė and the echo to the speech became a distraction.

However, I did like the sound of the score. That made the Atmos track a more than viable option, even if I ultimately would go with the mono mix simply due to my own preferences.

How did the 4K UHD compare with the Criterion Blu-ray from 2012? The Atmos track felt slightly broader than the BDís DTS-HD MA 5.1, but given the nature of the film and the age of the material, I didnít hear notable differences.

The Dolby Vision image showed the expected upgrade, though, as the 4K UHD looked better defined with superior contrast and blacks. The 4K improved an already appealing Blu-ray.

Though no extras appear on the 4K disc itself, we get a bunch on the included Blu-ray copy, many of which repeat from the Criterion release. An Interview with Otto Preminger Biographer Foster Hirsch runs 29 minutes, 43 seconds and features Hirschís notes about the filmmaker.

We learn about Premingerís early life, how he got into films and came to America, and some of his other efforts. Much of Hirschís chat focuses on Anatomy, though, as he provides an overview of various production aspects. It plays like a mini-commentary, really, and Hirsch gives us a nice take on Preminger and Anatomy.

For info from the director himself, we go to Excerpts from 1967 Firing Line Episode with Otto Preminger. This reel lasts 10 minutes, 22 seconds as Preminger chats with host William F. Buckley about film morality, the Production Code, and censorship.

Itís good to hear from Preminger himself, and itís fun to get this slice of history, especially since the discussion between Buckley and Preminger gets a bit contentious at times. That ensures the piece never becomes dull.

Two more interviews follow. The first comes from Critic Gary Giddins and goes for 21 minutes, 45 seconds. Giddins discusses composer Duke Ellington and the filmís score. We get a lot of good insight here, as Giddins digs into the musical motifs and themes with gusto.

During the 14-minute, 52-second Interview with Writer Pat Kirkham, we learn about graphic designer Saul Bass. Kirkham tells us about the Anatomy opening titles as well as the genre in general and thoughts about Bass. Like the other interviews, this one proves to be compelling and informative.

In addition to the filmís unique trailer, we finish with a component new to the 2021 release: an audio commentary with Foster Hirsch. He presents a running, screen-specific look at Premingerís life and career, aspects of the Anatomy production, and a view of the film itself.

The latter domain dominates the commentary, as Hirsch tells us a lot about cinematic techniques and meaning. Because we get other information about the actual shoot, this becomes a nice complement that offers introspective insights.

Note that this Columbia release drops some materials from the 2012 Criterion Blu-ray. It loses newsreel footage, a photo gallery and a documentary about movie locations.

Anatomy of a Murder offers a terrific movie that translates well to home video. The film maintains a fine pace from start to finish and keeps the viewer thoroughly involved in the story. The 4K UHD delivered very good picture, more than acceptable audio, and a nice roster of supplements. This turns into a fine release for a compelling film.

Note that as of June 2022, the 4K UHD disc of Anatomy of a Murder can be purchased only as part of a six-movie ďColumbia Classics Collection Volume 2Ē. This set also includes 4K UHD versions of The Social Network, Oliver!, Stripes, Sense and Sensibility and Taxi Driver.

To rate this film, visit the Blu-ray review of ANATOMY OF A MURDER

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main