Saturday, June 4, 2011

Witness to Murder

It doesn't get shown very often: the fun if flawed Witness to Murder is getting an airing tomorrow morning at 8:30 AM ET on TCM.

Barbara Stanwyck stars as the title character, an older unmarried woman who looks through the window of her apartment, and in the window of the apartment across the courtyard, she sees a murder! And she knows who did it, too: George Sanders, who came to the US after World War II as a refugee but has an interesting past. Shades of Orsown Welles in The Stranger. Sanders knows that he's in danger when the police come to question him, but he's got some things going for him. First, there's no body, and second, he's got the intellect of John Dall and Farley Granger in Alfred Hitchcock's Rope. So, Sanders convinces the police that Stanwyck must be seeing things, or had a dream, or any of the standard excuses. Like James Stewart in Rear Window, nobody will believe Stanwyck.

Or, you could compare Stanwyck to Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight. This is especially so because Sanders starts going after her in such a way as to get the police to think that she might be going insane. However, Stanwyck is fortunate in that she's got at least one person from the police on her side, a detective played not by Joseph Cotten, but by Gary Merrill. Eventually Sanders decides to get rid of Stanwyck in a way that will make it look like she jumped off a building because nobody believed her....

Witness to Murder is entertaining enough, but a huge problem it has is that it seems like so many other other movies you've seen before. I've named four movies above, but could probably name half a dozen others: Dangerous Crossing comes to mind, as does The Lady Vanishes or yet another Hitchcock film, Suspicion. Also, the movie looks more like a B movie beneath what all three of the stars were used to. It's worth a watch, though, as it's the sort of "popcorn" movie that's more about enjoying a good ride than a serious message picture. The movie isn't on DVD either, so you're going to have to catch the rare TCM showing.

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