Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

April 2, 2022

Witness for the Prosecution is a 1957 legal drama by Billy Wilder, adapted from a play by the same name written by Agatha Christie. The film features a compelling tale of a barrister defending his client who stands murder trial. The trial is full of drama as unforeseen; new developments unfold over its course. The writing, direction, acting, and presentation point to Witness for the Prosecution to be among the best crime and legal dramas to have ever graced the screens.

The film’s storyline follows an experienced British Barrister called Sir Wilfred Roberts, who’s making a recovery from health problems. Shortly after returning to work, Sir Wilfred is introduced to Leonard Vole’s case. Vole stands accused of murder and seems drawn in circumstantial evidence that ties him to the crime. Wilfred tries passing the case to a friend because he’s only supposed to accept light workloads until he fully recovers. However, he takes the lead in the sensational, multi-day trial.

When Robert talks to Vole’s wife (a German called Christine), he finds her rather self-possessed and cold, but she has an alibi. He is surprised when Christine is called in as a prosecution witness. Although a wife cannot testify against her husband, it is established that Christine was married to another man during the trial, and they weren’t divorced. A mysterious woman contacts Roberts, who for some fee gives the lawyer some letters written by Christine to a lover called Max. The affair that this correspondence uncovers shows that Christine lied, and the jury finds the suspect (Leonard) not guilty.

This verdict troubles Roberts with his instincts, hinting that it was pretty tidy and too neat. He and Christine are left in the courtroom alone. She uses the opportunity to take credit for the entire thing. Christine had earlier set up the entire thing when she heard Roberts say that her testimony wouldn’t be convincing. She’d set the entire thing up so that her testimony would be given to a prosecution and would then be discredited. She knew that Vole was guilty, and her testimony would be the truth. However, Max never existed, and her letters were a fraud. She confesses her love for Vole when asked why to do it.

Vole later appears, and because he has double jeopardy protection, he nonchalantly confirms what his wife had said. A young woman rushes to his arms. When Vole admits he will go away with the young woman, Christine uses a knife to kill him out of fury. Roberts remarks that Vole’s wife didn’t commit murder but rather executed him. Miss Plimsoll cancels Robert’s holiday after realizing that he can’t resist leading Christine’s defense.

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