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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Witness for the Prosecution [Blu-ray]


(Billy Wilder, 1957)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Edward Small Productions

Video: Kino Lorber



Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:56:31.401 

Disc Size: 21,817,108,752 bytes

Feature Size: 20,968,673,280 bytes

Video Bitrate: 21.00 Mbps

Chapters: 8

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: July 22nd, 2014



Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 1668 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1668 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)






• Billy Wilder Speaks on Witness For the Prosecution (6:31 in 480i)

• Trailer (3:07 in 1080P)




Description: Screen legends Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich and Charles Laughton star in this "brilliantly made courtroom drama" (Film Daily) that left audiences reeling from its surprise twists and shocking climax. Directed by Billy Wilder, scripted by Wilder and Harry Kurnitz, and based on Agatha Christie's hit London play, this splendid, one-of-a-kind classic "crackles with emotional electricity" (The New York Times) and continues to keep movie lovers riveted until the final, mesmerizing frame. When a wealthy widow is found murdered, her married suitor, Leonard Vole (Power), is accused of the crime. Vole's only hope for acquittal is the testimony of his wife (Dietrich)... but his airtight alibi shatters when she reveals some shocking secrets of her own! Nominated for 6 Academy Awards® including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Laughton) and Supporting Actress (Elsa Lanchester).



The Film:

Having just recovered from a heart attack, fabled British barrister Sir Wilfred Robards (Charles Laughton) has been ordered by his doctor to give up everything he holds dear-brandy, cigars and especially courtroom cases. Robards' already shaky resolve to follow doctor's orders flies out the window when he takes up the defense of Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power), a personable young man accused of murdering a rich old widow. The case becomes something of a sticky wicket when Vole's "loving" German wife Christine (Marlene Dietrich) announces that she's not legally married to Robards' client-and she fully intends to appear as a witness for the prosecution! At the close of this film, a narrator implores the audience not to divulge the ending; we will herein honor that request. A delicious Billy Wilder mixture of humor, intrigue and melodrama, Witness for the Prosecution is distinguished by its hand-picked supporting cast: John Williams as the police inspector, Henry Daniell as Robards' law partner, Una O'Connor as the murder victim's stone-deaf maid, Torin Thatcher as the prosecutor, Ruta Lee as a sobbing courtroom spectator, and Charles Laughton's wife Elsa Lanchester as Robards' ever-chipper nurse (a role especially written for the film, so that Lanchester could look after Laughton on the set). And keep an eye out for that uncredited actress playing the vengeful-and pivotal-cockney. Adapted by Wilder, Harry Kurnitz and Larry Marcus from the play by Agatha Christie, Witness for the Prosecution was remade for television in 1982.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

The undisputed star of this courtroom drama is Alexander Trauner's magnificent recreation of the Old Bailey, which is just as well, since the presence of Charles Laughton as the defence counsel, and the film's origins as an Agatha Christie novel and play, combine to give the movie a heavy - almost stolid - theatrical flavour. Tyrone Power is surprisingly good as the man accused of murdering his mistress, but the swift twists and turns of Ms Christie's plot soon drain Dietrich and Laughton's roles of any dramatic credibility.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Much to the delight of film fans, Billy Wilders Witness for the Prosecution has made it to Blu-ray - from Kino/Lorber.  This is not reaching the upper levels of the format being single-layered with a modest bitrate for the 2 hour film. But, aside from the less-stellar first 5-10 minutes the image settles down to be quite adept - certainly stronger than SD. Contrast has some nice layering and there is some depth exported. Black levels seem consistent. This is transferred in the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  This Blu-ray has some solid detail and, all things considered, looks quite pleasing without damage or excessive speckles. I enjoyed by viewing, impressed by the 1080P - without expectations of something dynamically crisper. It is certainly no demo - but provides a decent HD presentation.





















Audio :

Like the video - the audio seems competently transferred. We get a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel at 1668 kbps. There are not an abundance of aggressive effects sounds - mostly dialogue - but the score by Matty Malneck (some of his music used in Thieves' Highway, Some Like It Hot, The Benny Goodman Story) Bravo! The audio here is subject to the weakness of the production and this is probably as good as it will get. There are some effects with depth via the lossless. There are no subtitles offered and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.


Extras :

For extras Kino include a 7-minute video piece, with director Volker Schlöndorff as host (an excerpt from his excellent "Billy Wilder Speaks" documentary from 2006), showing footage of Billy Wilder talking about Agatha Christie's writing and Witness for the Prosecution - mostly in German with English subtitles although the conversation is interrupted by a phone call where Wilder is then speaking French. There is also a 3-minute trailer in 1080P but with damage.



Witness for the Prosecution is brilliant! One of the better courtroom dramas brought to screen. I was pleased, enough, with this Kino Lorber Blu-ray, although it is not at Criterion-level - either in transfer or supplements. Still I am so grateful to see, and own, the wonderful film in 1080P! I also like the cover. Despite any niggling, to me it seems an easy decision. Enjoy!


NOTE: 43% OFF on Amazon Pre-order!!  

Gary Tooze

July 4th, 2014


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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