4 Shots From 4 Films: Carrie, God Told Me To, The House With Laughing Windows, The Omen


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

This October, we’re using 4 Shots From 4 Films to look at some of the best years that horror has to offer!

4 Shots From 4 1976 Horror Films

Carrie (1976, dir by Brian De Palma)

God Told Me To (1976, dir by Larry Cohen)

The House With Laughing Windows (1976, directed by Pupi Avati)

The Omen (1976, dir by Richard Donner)

4 Shots From Horror History: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Jaws, Carrie, The Omen


This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 Shots From 4 Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we continue with the 70s!

4 Shots From 4 Films

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, dir by Tobe Hooper)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, dir by Tobe Hooper)

Jaws (1975, dir by Steven Spielberg)

Jaws (1975, dir by Steven Spielberg)

Carrie (1976, dir by Brian DePalma)

Carrie (1976, dir by Brian DePalma)

The Omen (1976, dir by Richard Donner)

The Omen (1976, dir by Richard Donner)

For everyone who has been hoping for an Omen/Psycho crossover event…


…there is hope!

A&E, the network who produced Bates Motel, a sorta prequel to Psycho, is now producing Damien, a sorta sequel to the original Omen.  (Apparently, all of the sequels and the remake are being ignored.)  So, I guess would have a cross-over event where Norman Bates met the son of the Devil.

But until that happens, here is the trailer for Damien.

Horror Film Review: The Omen (dir by John Moore)


The_Omen_2006_poster

There’s really only one reason to see the 2006 remake of The Omen and that’s the fact that the priest who convinces Ambassador Thorn to adopt the Antichrist is played by the great Giovanni Lombardo Radice.

If you’re a fan of Italian horror, you’ll immediately know who Radice is and, whenever he appears in The Omen, you’ll be momentarily excited.  After all, Radice is an actor who has given memorable performances in films made by iconic directors like Lucio Fulci, Ruggero Deodato, Antonio Margheriti, Michele Soavi, and Martin Scorsese.  He’s appeared in everything from City of the Living Dead to Cannibal Apocalypse to The House On The Edge of the Park to Stagefright to Gangs of New York.  As both a horror icon and an excellent actor who has always been gracious and friendly to his fans, Giovanni Lombardo Radice is one of those actors who movie bloggers like me are always happy to see in any film.

(And, if anyone deserves a role in a Quentin Tarantino film, it’s Giovanni Lombardo Radice.)

And Radice gives a really great performance in The Omen.  He plays the role with just the right combination of menace and regret.  When he first appears, you can tell that he’s determined to get Robert Thorn to adopt Damien but that he’s not particularly happy about having to do it.  He may be one of the bad guys but he’s a bad guy with a conscience.  Later, when Radice makes a second appearance, it momentarily re-energizes the film.  He’s just got such a unique screen presence that, whenever he’s on-screen, Radice reminds you of the film that you want The Omen to be.

As for the rest of the remake — well, it’s all kind of pointless.  The film is largely a scene-by-scene remake of the first Omen and, unfortunately, it never quite answers the question of why the film needed to be remade in the first place.  The Gregory Peck role is played by Liev Schrieber while his wife is played by Julia Stiles.  The doomed photographer is played by David Thewlis.  Mia Farrow shows up in the role of the sinister nanny and Mia actually does a pretty good job but whenever she was delivering her lines, it was impossible for me not to imagine a remake of The Final Conflict where Ronan Farrow plays Damien.

Otherwise, the same characters die as in the original film and, often times, they die in the exact same way.  It’s really almost lazy how little the remake changes from the original.  And, ultimately, it makes the entire movie feel more than a little pointless.  You’re left with the feeling that the only reason the Omen was remade was so that it could be released on June 6th, 2006 (a.k.a. 6-6-06).

So, when it comes to The Omen, stick with the original but watch the remake for Giovanni Lombardo Radice.

Horror Film Review: The Omen (dir by Richard Donner)


The Omen

A few days ago, Arleigh shared the theme song from 1976’s The Omen as Monday’s horror song of the day.  As I sat there and listened to Jerry Goldsmith’s award-winning hymn to Satan, it occurred to me that I happen to have all five of the Omen films sitting in my movie collection.  Seeing as how this is Halloween and how the world seems to be getting closer to ending with each passing day, I decided that this would be the perfect time to rewatch the entire franchise and consider whether or not The Omen films are truly as scary as a lot of people seem to think.

So, that’s what I did.

How did things turn out?

Well, in the long history of sequels and remakes, The Omen franchise is one of the more uneven collections.  This is one of those franchises where things tend to get less impressive with each subsequent entry.  However, 38 years after its initial release, the first Omen remains effective and, in its way, genuinely scary.

If you’re a horror fan, you probably know the general plot of The Omen regardless of whether you’ve actually watched it or not.  It’s one of those films that has been so frequently imitated that it’s almost possible to watch it by osmosis.

The film opens in Rome with diplomat Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) being rushed to the hospital where his wife, Kathy (Lee Remick), has just given birth.  A priest (Martin Benson) tells him that his son died shortly after being born but that he can always just go home with an orphaned newborn that he just happens to have handy.  Robert agrees and decides not to tell his wife the truth about the child.  Robert and Kathy raise the boy and they name him Damien.  Four years later, the politically ambitious Robert is named as Ambassador to the Court of St. James.

The Thorns move to London and soon, odd things start to happen.  Damien (now played by Harvey Spencer Stephens) is a quiet boy with a piercing stare who throws a fit whenever he’s taken inside of a church.  When Kathy takes Damien to the zoo, they’re attacked by angry baboons.  A large Rottweiler mysteriously appears on the grounds of the Ambassador’s estate.  A mysterious and sinister nanny (Billie Whitelaw) shows up and explains that she’s been sent by an “agency.”  A crazed priest (Patrick Troughton) starts to stalk the Ambassador, demanding a chance to speak with him and insisting that Damien’s mother was actually a jackal.

Even more mysteriously, people start dying in the strangest of ways.  A young woman (Holly Palance) smiles as she shouts, “Damien, it’s all for you!” and then hangs herself, thoroughly ruining Damien’s fifth birthday party.  A freak lightning storm leads to a man being impaled by a weather vane.  Another person who suspects that there might be something wrong with Damien ends up losing his head in a graphic sequence that — even in this age of Hostel and Saw — is difficult to watch.

The Ambassador is contact by Keith Jennings (David Warner), a nervous photographer who fears that Damien may be planning on killing him.  Soon, Thorn and Jennings are flying to Italy and to the Middle East and discovering evidence that five year-old Damien might very well be the Antichrist.  Speaking of Damien, he and that nanny have been left alone with poor, victimized Kathy.

(“Oh, leave her alone,” I muttered as Damien attempted to kill Kathy for the hundredth time…)

As I watched The Omen, I tried to figure out why this film has held up so well.  It certainly wasn’t due to the performance of Gregory Peck who, quite frankly, seemed to mostly be going through the motions.  David Warner, on the other hand, gave such a good performance that it was almost difficult to watch.  (Don’t get attached to any character who appears in an Omen film.)   Some of the film’s effectiveness was undoubtedly due to Jerry Goldsmith’s intense score.  Anything’s scary when you’ve got a hundred voice shouting “Ave Satani” at you.

But, ultimately, I think the reason why The Omen still works is because the film generates such a palpable sense of doom.  This is one of those films that leaves you convinced that anyone can die at any minute and, considering that happens to be true in both this movie and in real life, that makes the horror of The Omen feel very real.  By the time the film ends, you’re left with little doubt that nobody in the film had the least bit of power or control over his or her own destiny.  Instead, they were all just pawns in a game that they had no hope of ever winning or understanding.  Is there anything scarier than feeling powerless?

All I know is that, having rewatched The Omen, I will never look at a plane of glass the same way again.

 

 

Horror Song of the Day: Ave Satani (by Jerry Goldsmith)


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One cannot think of horror and not bring up Richard Donner’s The Omen. A film made during the turbulent late 1970’s when the world was literally on the brink of ripping itself apart. The Omen was a film that told the tale of the birth of the Anti-Christ which would herald the coming of the Apocalypse. Outside of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist there wasn’t a film during this era which put the fear of God’s Judgment on the faithful than The Omen.

It helped that it’s own film score was determined to hammer the point of it’s blasphemous subject matter by taking one of the most holy rituals in Roman Catholicism and inverting it to praise Satan instead of the Virgin Mary. Jerry Goldsmith took the rite of consecration and came up with what one could call the rite of desecration for a purported Black Mass.

One must say that “Ave Satani” was all the creation of Jerry Goldsmith and a fellow choir-master in London. This was a work of art created to accompany a film that some would label art as well, but for some whose own faith has superseded all thoughts of art appreciation “Ave Satani” was very real and was a real danger to one’s eternal soul.

I will say that it’s an effective use of the Gregorian chant and more than just a tad hair-raising.

Ave Satani

Sanguis bibimus
Corpus edibus
Sanguis bibimus
Corpus edibus
Sanguis bibimus
Corpus edibus
Rolle corpus Satani, ave
Sanguis bibimus
Corpus edibus
Rolle corpus Satani, ave

Ave, ave, versus Christus
Ave, ave, versus Christus
Ave, ave, versus Christus

Ave Satani
Sanguis bibimus
Corpus edibus
Rolle corpus Satani,
Satani, Satani

Ave, ave, Satani

Lisa Marie Does The Fouke Monster And Five Other Trailers


Isn’t he cute?  That happy little fellow is The Fouke Monster and he’s here because he’s the star of the very first trailer in this week’s edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Trailers.

1) The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972)

Before I talk about this trailer, allow me to share a few facts: my family used to live in Fouke, Arkansas!  I’ve been down to Boggy Creek!  I never saw the famous Fouke Monster but I went out looking for him a few times!  Anyway, this is the trailer for The Legend of Boggy Creek, which is a documentary about an apeman that supposedly lives in the area (though, according to Wikipedia, he hasn’t been spotted since ’98 so maybe he drowned or moved to Missouri).  This film is somewhat infamous because it features reenactments of various monster sightings, some of which star people who actually lived in Fouke at the time and who play themselves (and a few of them later sued once the film came out).  It was also the first film directed by Charles B. Pierce, who directed a lot of independent films in Arkansas and North Texas, including the classic The Town That Dreaded Sundown.  Sadly, Pierce passed away last year at the age of 71.

2)  Mean Mother (1974)

This is one of those trailers that I discovered while randomly searching Youtube and, I have to be honest, my first thought was that it was a parody trailer.  But no, after researching the manner, I can say that Mean Mother is a real movie.  It was apparently yet another one of the cinematic offerings of the late Al Adamson.

3) The Night Child (1976)

This Italian film is one of the countless Omen/Exorcist rip-offs that came out in the 70s.  Actually, The Night Child is an indirect rip-off of those two films as it’s actually a rip-off of a previous Italian version of the Exorcist, Beyond The Door.  What I especially love about this trailer is the “Keeping telling yourself, she’s only a child,” line which is obviously meant to recall the “Keep telling yourself, it’s only a movie…” tagline from Last House On The Left.

4) The Young Nurses (1973)

“Meet today’s women…beautiful, liberated, and ready for action!  They’re the young nurses and they’re growing up fast!”  I love the narrator of this trailer.  I’ve heard his voice in several exploitation trailers from the early 70s and he just has a way of delivering the sleaziest lines in the most cheerful, harmless way.  I’d love to know who he was and if he’s still with us.

5) Nosferatu The Vampyre (1980)

Oh.  My.  God.  Okay, I saw this movie a few years ago and I was watching it by myself at 3 in the morning with all the lights off while there was a thunderstorm going on outside and there was this howling wind that kept on making all the windows shake.  I got so scared, it’s not even funny.  This is a remake of the silent classic.  It stars Klaus Kinski, Bruno Ganz, and Isabelle Adjani and was directed by the one and only Werner Herzog.

6) Julia (1974)

“Why don’t you come along and see me this week?  And bring your girlfriend…”  This trailer was specifically designed to promote this film in Australia.  Needless to say, that’s not actually Sylvia Kristel providing the voice over.  

A Quickie With Lisa Marie: Holocaust 2000 (dir. by Alberto De Martino)


Earlier this morning, while suffering from an annoyingly persistent case of insomnia, I decided to spend 2 hours watching a classic Italian exploitation film, Alberto De Martino’s oddly effective Omen rip-off, Holocaust 2000.

In Holocaust 2000, Kirk Douglas plays a businessman who wants to build a gigantic nuclear power plant in the Middle East.  There are a few problems with this plan.  First off, the site that Douglas selects just happens to be right next to a cave that is full of religious artifacts.  Secondly, there’s a handful of angry environmentalists picketing his London office.  And, perhaps the biggest problem, Douglas’ son happens to be the Antichrist.  This fact is obvious to the viewer because not only is his son named Angel (yes, we’re in the land of irony) but he also looks and acts nothing like Douglas.  Not only does Angel have a noticeably weak chin (no cleft to be seen at all) and speak with a rather posh accent but he’s also so extremely English that he’s even played by an actor named Simon Ward.

In other words, the viewer is pretty much in on the game from the beginning.  What makes the movie work is that director De Martino understands that everyone’s going to know that Angel’s the antichrist from the minute he first appears so, as opposed to the Omen films, he doesn’t waste a lot of time playing any “is-he-or-isn’t-he” games.  Instead, in the great tradition of Italian exploitation, De Martino jumps straight into the apocalypse without worrying about things like narrative cohesion and the end result is an enjoyably chaotic film that rarely makes sense but is never boring.  Whereas the Omen films are almost tedious in their attempts to provide theological justification for all the blood that’s spilled on-screen, Holocaust 2000 has a cheerful, let’s-make-it-up-as-we-go-along feel to it that, at times, almost makes the whole thing feel like some long lost Lucio Fulci film.

Holocaust 2000 is probably best known for two sequences.  The first features a helicopter blade very graphically chopping off the top of a man’s head.  If seeing the original Dawn of the Dead made me nervous around helicopters, seeing Holocaust 2000 has ensured that I will never ever step anywhere near one of those things.  Seriously, I’ve seen a lot of gore over the past few years but the decapitation scene in this movie …. well, perhaps it’s best to just shudder and move on.  (For the record, Holocaust 2000 came out before Dawn of the Dead so the helicopter decapitation scene here was not stolen from that film.  If anything, it was simply a more graphic version of David Warner losing his head in the Omen.)

The second sequence is a scene in which a very nude Kirk Douglas (who, it must be admitted, looked a lot better at 61 than most 20 year-olds do today) has a nightmare in which he watches the world literally come to an end.  Set to Ennio Morricone’s intense and memorable score, this sequence manages to be surreal, disturbing, and entertaining all at the same time.  It epitomizes everything that makes Holocaust 2000 such a surprisingly effective work of pure cinematic exploitation.

Like many of the great Italian exploitation films, Holocaust 2000 was released under several titles.  It is currently available on DVD under the title Rain of Fire and a big bleh to Lionsgate for choosing to go with such a boring name.  Admittedly, I can see their logic.  Though the movie was first released in theaters in 1977, it took 31 years for it to show up on DVD.  During that time, 2000 came and went and the world didn’t end (or maybe it did and the last 10 years have just been an extended hallucination, the choice is yours).  But still, Rain of Fire sounds like a substandard country song about a nasty divorce that ends in murder.  On the other hand, a title like Holocaust 2000 — nakedly exploitive and borderline offensive — represents everything that we’ve come to so love about Italian exploitation films.

Review: Orphan (dir. by Jaume Collet-Serra)


There has been a complaint which has been getting louder and louder for the past several years from both horror and mainstream film fans. The complaint is that horror films of late have either been remakes or another sequel. While this complaint is not exclusive to the horror genre (non-horror genres have had the same problem) it is more prevalent and happens more often. Once in awhile a film will come out that tries to be different and put out an original story. Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra has done just that with his second foray into feature filmmaking with Orphan. While the film won’t win many awards and become the critical darling the way Let the Right One In did Collet-Serra’s Orphan does bring a fresh new take on the evil child subgenre. Despite some of the flaws and script problems the film does entertain throughout most of its running time until it loses steam in the final 15 minutes.

Jaume Collet-Serra first got his start directing the 2005 remake of House of Wax. A film more famous (infamous in some people’s eye) for being the first major film of socialite Paris Hilton. A film that deservedly got panned by critics, but still did well enough in the box-office to put horror fans on notice that Collet-Serra might be a filmmaker to keep an eye on. Orphan marks his second full-lenght feature and using the screenplay by David Leslie Johnson, Collet-Serra tries a hand in the evil child subgenre which has more than it’s share of classic titles like The Omen, The Bad Seed and The Good Son. While this subgenre of horror usually means some sort of demonic-possession or some sort of mental or genetic abnormality causing for their psychotic or sociopathic behavior, in Orphan an interesting reason was given to the nature of it’s titual character.

The film begins with a harrowing and quite disturbing scene of the Vera Farmiga’s character pregnant and in labor, but also starting to miscarriage her child. The graphic nature of the scene quickly lays down the hammer that Orphan will not hold things back just because childen will be involved throughout most of it’s running time. We then see Farmiga’s Kate and her husband John (played by Peter Sarsgaard) at the local orphanage as they attempt to fix their family and ease Kate’s emotional turmoil over the miscarriage by adopting a child. They meet Esther a 9-year-old Russian orphan girl who seem to be the perfect child at first glance. Esther’s well-spoken and well-mannered at such a young age. Esther soon becomes part of John and Kate’s young family which consists of a younger deaf daughter named Max and a son named Daniel. While Max accepts Esther as a new older sister Daniel senses something just off-putting about Esther and reacts much more coldly towards his new dopted sister.

The majority of Orphan‘s second and first half of the third and final reel shows Esther’s true nature peek through the facade of Old World genteel and proper behavior. 12-year-old Isabelle Fuhrmann does an excellent job portraying the sociopathic and manipulative Esther. It is difficult to believe that a child actor of her age able to tackle such a dark role and actually pull it off without making the character too over-the-top or campy. In fact, no matter how one thinks of the performances of the rest of the film’s cast (Farmiga does a good job in the Cassandra-role with Sarsgaard an average performance as the hapless and clueless husband) this film is totally Fuhrmann’s and she sticks the landing.

While the film tries to make something original (and most of it is to a point) out of a tried-and-true model of the evil child storyline the script doesn’t hold up through the length of the film. The story itself is quite interesting when one really steps back to look at it, but there’s several leaps in logic the Kate character makes which will illicit more than a few confused reactions (running away from incoming help and into the dark, unknown being a major one). The dialogue itself is serviceable with none of it wince-inducing. There’s just a sense that the film’s reveal in the end of the film as to Esther’s true nature was just handled in a very clumsy manner. The twist is very original but the execution of that reveal after the tense and very brutal 40-50 minutes before it comes off quite flat. Orphan definitely looked like a script which was in need of several more rewrites to reconcile the first 3/4’s of the film with the final part. Yet, despite the ridiculous manner in which the final 10-15 minutes unfolds Collet-Serra manages to keep the film from dragging along through two hours. It actually plays much faster for a film with such a long running time.

In the end, Orphan marks a decidedly better effort from Jaume Collet-Serra, but one which still shows that he has some polishing to do to join the ranks of better horror directors of his generation. The film is enjoyable enough if given a chance. Most horror fans will enjoy the film and some may even embrace it because of the silly ending. Mainstream audiences looking for a change of pace from the strum und drang of the summer blockbuster season could do no worse than Orphan. It is not a perfect film and not even an above-average one, but it is a good horror film that tried to add something new to the genre, but hampered by a storyline that cannot sustain the tension it built-up and the brutality it showcased. In the hands of a much more seasoned filmmaker with a better hashed out screenplay Orphan could’ve become an instant classic.

Review: Anatomy of a Murder (Dir. by Otto Preminger)


Last Friday, I randomly selected 10 movies from my DVD library and I asked you, this site’s wonderful readers, to vote on which one of those movies I should watch and then review.  234 votes were cast and the winner (by two votes!) is the 1959 courtroom classic Anatomy of a Murder.

First off, a confession of my own.  When I’m not reviewing movies or chattering away on twitter, I work in a law office.  Before anyone panics, I’m not a lawyer, I just hang out with a couple of them.  For the most part, I answer the phone, I schedule appointments, and I keep all the files in alphabetical order.  On a few very rare occasions, I’ve accompanied my boss to court and the thing that has always struck me about real-life courtroom drama is how boring it all really is.  There are no surprise witnesses, no impassioned closing statements, and those all trail rarely, if ever, jump to their feet and start yelling that they’re innocent.  For the most part, real life lawyers are usually just as poorly groomed and bored with their work as the rest of us.  Don’t even get me started on the judges, the majority of whom seem to have judgeships because they weren’t really making the grade as an attorney. 

As a result, it’s rare that I get much out of seeing lawyer-centric movies or tv shows any more.  After seeing the reality of it, I find fictionalized courtroom theatrics to be ludicrous and, for the most part, evidence of a lazy writer.  However, I’m happy to say that last night, I discovered that — no matter how jaded I may now be about the legal process — Anatomy of a Murder is still one of my favorite movies.

Based on a best-selling novel and directed by the notorious Otto Preminger, Anatomy of a Murder tells the story of Paul Beigler (James Stewart), a former district attorney who is now in private practice after having been voted out of office.  Having apparently fallen into a state of ennui, Beigler spends his time drinking with another alcoholic attorney (Arthur O’Connell) and trying to avoid his secretary’s (Eve Arden) attempts to get paid.

However, things change for Beigler when he is hired to defend an army officer named Frederick Manion (Ben Gazzara).  Manion has been arrested for murdering a bar own named Barney Quill.  Manion says that he was justified in committing the murder because Quill raped his wife, Laura (Lee Remick).  Others claim that Manion is himself just a notoriously violent bully and that the openly flirtatious Laura was having an affair with Quill.  Despite strongly disliking Manion and disturbed by Laura’s own obvious instability, Beigler takes on the case.

Beigler decides to argue that Manion was temporarily insane when he shot Quill and that he was acting on “irresistible impulse.”  As shaky as that line of defense might seem, it’s not helped by the fact that Manion himself is a bit of a brute.  Meanwhile, Beigler finds himself facing not the innefectual D.A. in court but instead a young, ambitious prosecutor from the State Attorney General’s Office, Claude Dancer (played by a young and obviously ambitious George C. Scott).  As the trial begins, small hints start to appear that seem to indicate that there’s a lot more to the murder of Barney Quill than anyone realizes…

Director Otto Preminger is an odd figure in film history.  Up until the early 60s, he was a consistently interesting director who made intelligent, well-acted films that often challenged then-contemporary moral attitudes.  However, once the 60s hit, he became something of a parody of the egotistical, old school, autocratic filmmaker and his films seemed to suffer as a result.  Like many of the film industry’s top directors, he found himself adrift once the 60s and 70s hit.  His decline was so dramatic that, as a result, there’s a tendency to forget that he made some truly great and important films, like Laura, Carmen Jones, The Man With The Golden Arm, and, of course, Anatomy of a Murder.

Anatomy of a Murder represents Preminger at his best.  His own natural tendency towards embracing melodrama and shock are  perfectly balanced with an intelligent script and memorable performances.  Whereas later Preminger films would often come across as little more than big screen soap operas, here he makes the sordid believable and compelling.  Preminger has never gotten much attention as a visual filmmaker but here, he uses black-and-white to perfectly capture the grayness of the both the film’s location and the moral issues that the film raises.  He keeps the camera moving without ever calling attention to it.  As a result, the movie has an almost documentary feel to it.

As previously stated, Preminger gets a lot of help from a truly amazing cast.  At first, it’s somewhat strange to imagine a Golden Age icon like Jimmy Stewart appearing in the same film as a dedicated method actor like Ben Gazzara.  These are two men who represent not only different philosophies of acting but seemingly from two different worlds as well.  However, Preminger uses their differing acting styles to electrifying effect.  One of the joys of the movie is watching and contrasting the old style, “move star” turns of James Stewart, Arthur O’Connell, and Eve Arden with the more “naturalistic” approaches taken by their younger co-stars, Gazzara, Lee Remick, and especially George C. Scott.  The contrast in style becomes a perfect reflection of the film’s contrast between what is legal and what is correct.  All the actors, as both individuals and as an ensemble, give memorable performances.  When you look at the cast, you realize that any one of their characters could have been the center of the story without the film becoming any less compelling. 

Lee Remick (a notoriously fragile actress who, for years, I knew solely as the poor woman who kept getting attacked by her adopted son in the original Omen) brings out the best in everyone she shares a scene with.  Whether she’s making Stewart blush or breaking down on the witness stand, she dominates every scene as an insecure young woman who forces herself to be happy because otherwise, she’d have to confront the fact that she’s miserable.  (I should admit that I related more than a bit to Remick’s character.  To me, the movie was about her and therefore, about me.) 

She is perhaps at her best towards the end of the film when she is on the witness stand and is cross-examined by George C. Scott.  Starting out as flirtatious and seemingly confident, Remick slowly and believably falls apart as Scott methodically strips away every layer of defense that, until now, she’s spent the entire movie hiding behind.  By the end of the scene, Remick has shown as every layer of pain that has built up in Laura Manion over the years.  For his part, Scott is simply amazing in this scene.  Determined and focused, Scott doesn’t so much cross-examine Remick but seduces her and the audience along with her.  As a result, when he suddenly turns off the charm and lunges in for his final attack, it’s devastating for everyone watching.  (And, as was correctly pointed out to me by a friend while I was watching the film last night, George C. Scott was quite the sexy beast when he was young.)

Lastly, the film’s judge is played by an actual lawyer by the name of Joseph Welch.  Welch wasn’t a great actor but he did make for a great judge.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Preminger film is a few contemporary morals weren’t challenged and, at the time it was released, Anatomy of a Murder was considered to be very daring because of its frank discussion of topics like rape and spousal abuse.  It doesn’t seem quite so daring now but it does seem to be remarkably mature in a way that even most modern movies can’t match.  That being said, the film does occasionally embrace the “she must have been asking for it” male viewpoint but still, it’s a remarkably advanced movie for the 1950s.

One of the wonderful things about watching a 51 year-old film is that it provides a chance to see what was considered to be shocking in the years before you or I was born.  From watching this movie, I’ve discovered that, in the year 1959, “panties” was apparently a taboo phrase.  A good deal of the film’s plot revolves around the panties Lee Remick’s character was wearing the night she was raped and their subsequent disappearance.  At one point, there’s even a scene where Welch, Stewart, and Scott struggle to come up with a less offensive term to use when referring to them in the court.  (Scott suggests employing a term he heard in France.)  Seen 51 years later (in a time when we can not only say “thong” in polite conversation but specifically go out of our way to show off the fact that we’re wearing one), this scene, and the actors’ obvious discomfort whenever they have to say the word “panties”, never fails to amuse me.

Preminger’s other grand challenge to the 50s mainstream was in getting Duke Ellington to compose the film’s jazz soundtrack.  At the risk of being called a heretic by some of my closest friends, I’ve never been a big fan of jazz but it works perfectly here.  Ellington, himself, makes a cameo appearance and wow, is he ever stoned.

In conclusion, allow me to thank the readers of the site for “ordering” me to watch, once again, a truly classic film.  Now, seeing as how close the vote was and that I know, for a fact, that some people voted more than once, I think it would be only fair for me to also rewatch and review the other 9 movies (Lost in Translation, Primer, Hatchet For the Honeymoon, Emanuelle in America, Starcrash, Darling, Sole Survivor, The Sweet House of Horrors, and The Sidewalks of Bangkok) in my poll over the next couple of weeks.  I’m looking forward to each and every one of them (well, almost all of them) and, again, thank you for allowing me to start things off with a great film like Anatomy of a Murder.