today, the two dueling attorneys, actually three dueling attorneys as D.A. Lodwick (Brooks West)
and the military A.S.A. Gen. Dancer (Oscar-nominee George C. Scott, in only his 2nd ever role) both equally try the case and question the witnesses against Paul Biegler (Oscar-nominee James Stewart for the defense. There’s a lot of back-and-forth, a lot of wisecracks and insinuations, objections, surprise witnesses and revelations even, like any other “Law & Order” episode really. It’s a military because the defendant is a soldier, Lt. Mannion (Ben Gazzara) who had gone and killed the owner of a local hotel/bar, Mr. Quell, after his wife Laura (Lee Remick) claimed that she had been raped by him. He admits to the murder, even turned himself in, but claims temporary insanity at the time, which was actually a relatively new term at the time as well. That said, going back over the details, a few things are let’s say questionable regarding the case. We see multiple sides of Laura, and clearly, while she definitely has her husband in the palm of her hand, she’s not exactly innocent, per se. (Although when they mentioned her playing pinball, I couldn’t help but think of “The Accused”, almost thirty years later) She’s drinks, she flirts; she goes out; she’s had one husband, and what was she doing out that night? That’s not to say the husband’s any good either. He’s hit her before, and has moments of jealousy and rage. We do eventually get a verdict, but not necessarily the truth when you think back upon it. Two different expert witnesses give two differing medial opinions. Special care went into the accuracy of a trial of this nature, even a former Minnesota State Supreme Court Justice was used as a consultant to do so, especially they were breaking the taboos, they wanted to portray it as reality as much as possible. The movie got seven Oscar nominations, and probably ranks as Preminger’s best film as a director; he is a good one, although he was as well-known as an actor as he was a director, and he wasn’t afraid of taboo topics in his day, like directing Frank Sinatra as a heroin junkie in “The Man with the Golden Arm”, but usually, even in that film, in his search for hyper-realism, he tampers his films with too much score and dramatic music to exemplify moments that probably would be better if they were simply quiet. Duke Ellington did the score for the film, and even has a cameo in the film, but here, he doesn’t overuse it as much as he tended too; it’s a subdued tense film, naturally, without extra outside noise, and it works particularly splendidly. It probably ranks more in the important than as a great, but “Anatomy…” still holds up as a compelling drama, courtroom or otherwise, and it’s influence it still resonated all over the film and television landscapes. I do wish the ending, was even more ambiguous though than it is. There was a great episode of “Law & Order: SVU” that famously ended with the juror about to read the verdict after a clear he said, she said case, and then not giving us an answer. One of the strengths of the trial is that both sides put up compelling arguments and the trial is fairly evenhanded, maybe it would’ve been better to leave the audience hanging even more, or perhaps that’s just another courtroom drama altogether.