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Anatomy of a Murder [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: English PCM 1.0; English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Run time: 161 Mins.
  • Blu-ray Release Date: February 21, 2012
  • List Price: $39.95

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Anatomy of a Murder - Widescreen

Purchase Anatomy of a Murder [Criterion Collection] on Blu-ray at CD Universe

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:4/5]

Thank God for films noirs, because they return us to the industry’s roots. Anatomy of a Murder is a fictional account of an actual murder trial in a small town where the facts are far from clear. The cast reads like a who’s who of 50’s and 60’s actors’ studio graduates. James Stewart plays an out-of-office public prosecutor (Paul Biegler) who defends Ben Gazzara, (Lt. Frederick Manion) charged with a crime passionnal involving his wife, Lee Remick (Laura Manion) who was allegedly raped by the murder victim, Barney the bartender. Supporting actors include Eve Arden (Maida Rutledge) as Stewart’s crusty and unpaid girl Friday, Arthur O’Connell (Parnell McCarthy), Stewart’s alcoholic sidekick, George C. Scott (Claude Dancer, assistant state attorney general), and Kathryn Grant (Bing Crosby’s widow) as the other eye candy (Mary Pilant). A stroke of casting genius gives us real-life judge Joseph Welch as the presiding magistrate at the trial. What also elevates this courtroom drama well above most others of this genre is the knowing directorial hand of Otto Preminger and an attention-getting score by jazz immortal, Duke Ellington who also gets a cameo appearance. The visual remastering of this 1959 film is pretty darn good and includes a new 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack in addition to the original monaural track track in PCM 1.o for the purists out there.

(For a different take, read our Anatomy of a Murder [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review by Brendan Surpless)

Video Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

This is a 53 year old film, shot in black and white, without CGI effects. As such, the visual appeal stems from the camera’s coverage of the principal and supporting actors, and here is the good news, Sam Leavitt’s cinematography is top notch in all respects, bringing viewers closer to the realization of a staged drama where the action is seen through the proverbial “fourth wall.” The frequent close-ups convey a compelling intimacy that let the actors’ expressions tell the inside story. The restorative efforts result in a generally sharp picture with only occasional patches of grain and motion artifact.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3/5]

The original soundtrack is good old-fashioned unvarnished mono. Fortunately for jazz aficionados, there is a new 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio version that lets the music come through with greater depth and spread. Dialogue is so critical to the impact of complex criminal drama and it is well reproduced in this remastered account.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

In the Criterion Collection tradition, this disc is chock-full with welcome extras. It features insightful interviews with Foster Hirsch, director Preminger’s biographer, and Gary Giddens who examines Duke Ellington’s score, as well as excerpts from William Buckley’s interview of Otto Preminger on Firing Line in 1967. Parts of the short subject “Anatomy of ‘Anatomy’: The Making of a Movie and newsreel footage from the set gives insider views into the creation of this film. All are definitely worth the watch. Additionally, the booklet includes a well worth reading article from 1958’s Life magazine, “Joe Welch in Juicy New Role” and the usual in-depth examination of the film in essay form, this time out by the Village Voice’s and Sight & Sound’s Nick Pinkerton entitled “Atomization of a Murder”.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

The American Film Institute and American Bar Association both include Anatomy of a Murder on their top ten lists of courtroom dramas. Although, there have been many other films in this genre, few have conveyed the essence of a criminal trial as effectively as this one.  This is likely due to Preminger’s background in law and his decision to film entirely on the location where the actual crime was committed. James Stewart turns in a tour-de-force performance as attorney Biegler, and his supporting cast has nary a weak link. The remastering job results in a Blu-ray that is as good as can be expected, not being an original high-definition product. Anatomy of a Murder was also one of the first dramas to use a jazz-based soundtrack to support its action and Ellington’s music played by his own sidemen is as good as it gets. While nominated for 7 academy awards Anatomy of a Murder had the misfortune to compete with eventual winners, Ben-Hur and The Diary of Anne Frank. I don’t mean to disagree with the Academy’s decisions but I do mean to tell viewers that this is one great drama, well scripted, well directed, well filmed, and, most importantly, well acted. Get it while it’s still hot.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B00687XO1G[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
Anatomy of a Murder - Widescreen

Purchase Anatomy of a Murder [Criterion Collection] on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

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