Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Witness for the Prosecution (1982) Review

In my list of the Top 10 Movies I’d Love to Review, I mentioned finding Oliver 2: Let’s Twist Again on Diana Rigg’s IMDB filmography. During that trip on IMDB, I found another film I could review for the Other Than A Bond Girl Blogathon. As the title of this review says, that movie is the 1982 Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation, Witness for the Prosecution! I’ve gone on record to state how I’d like to watch as many Hallmark Hall of Fame titles as realistically possible. If I’m going to be honest, I didn’t think I would ever see Witness for the Prosecution. That’s because the film not only didn’t receive a DVD release, but it doesn’t seem to have received a VHS release either. So, imagine my shock when I found the full movie on Youtube! Mysteries are, arguably, the most popular genre on my blog. This is also not the first time I’ve reviewed an Agatha Christie adaptation. Back in April, I wrote about the 2022 film, Death on the Nile. In that review, I said the movie had a weaker execution than its 2017 predecessor, Murder on the Orient Express. How will Witness for the Prosecution fare against these aforementioned adaptations? All rise, as this review is now in session!

Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Witness for the Prosecution poster created by CBS Entertainment Production, Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, Rosemont Productions, and United Artists Television

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Diana Rigg is one of the eligible Bond Girls for the Other Than A Bond Girl Blogathon. Therefore, I will talk about her performance first. In Witness for the Prosecution, Diana portrayed Christine Vole, the wife of the accused party. Throughout the film, she carried her character as a woman from stories in the 1920s. What I mean by this is Christine held her own with confidence, never shaken by the probing of those involved in the legal side of the case. Even when she took the stand, Christine adopted a serious demeanor, as if putting on a “poker face” and refusing to show her deck of cards too early. These acting choices and the consistency of her performance allowed Diana to pull off a captivating and memorable portrayal!

Deborah Kerr is an actress I’ve talked about before on 18 Cinema Lane. While I have seen and reviewed five of her films, none of them were from the mystery genre. Despite this, Deborah held her own, acting wise, among the cast! She portrays Nurse Plimsoll in Witness for the Prosecution. While watching the 1982 production, her performance reminded me a bit of Donna Reed’s portrayal of Mary from It’s a Wonderful Life. Nurse Plimsoll cares about the health and well-being of the film’s protagonist, Sir Wilfred Robarts. Though Wilfred finds her overall nursing approach annoying, Nurse Plimsoll doesn’t give up on her mission. Even though she is stricter on other on-screen nurses, her heart is always in the right place. This can be seen through Deborah’s facial expressions, body language, and emotions.

Even though the cast as a whole was strong, there was one performance that stole the show. This came from Beau Bridges! Witness for the Prosecution shows Beau portraying an American named Leonard. Because his case is presented in a British/U.K. court system, he is a “fish out of water”. The situation itself provides an interesting dynamic for the cast, including Beau, to work with. It also gave Beau an opportunity to utilize a variety of emotions. During the case, one of the witnesses causes Leonard to have an emotional reaction. At the start of the witness’ questioning, Leonard presents a calm “resting face”. But as the questioning continues, he slowly becomes sadder, adopting a growing frown and his eyes filling with tears. This transformation was gradual, allowing Beau to adapt to the on-screen situation.

The set design: The majority of Witness for the Prosecution takes place within a British/U.K. court room. Despite the limited locations, there were some examples of set design that I liked! Inside the court room, the ceiling was domed, with clear glass exposing a view of the sky. Surrounding the dome are etched, white arches. With a green light shown on these arches, they gave the appearance of boasting an antique limestone material, which complimented the dark wood of the court room’s walls and furniture. In the lobby of the court room, painted murals are shown near the ceiling. The lobby’s walls appear to be covered in a two-tone marble material, with the floor revealing a black-and-white tile design. My favorite set in Witness for the Prosecution was Wilfred’s office! The room’s color scheme was brown, beige, and red. When this set was first introduced, a large, dark wood bookcase proudly stood. It was guarded by a dark wood table and two dark brown armchairs. While the walls were beige, the curtains on the window were red, giving the room a pop of color. The more time Wilfred spent in this space, the more the sophisticated, professional, and intelligent appearance of the office complimented his personality.

An in-depth look at the British/U.K. court system: As I mentioned in my point about the film’s set design, the majority of this story takes place in a British/U.K. court room. That part of the movie exposed the audience to the British/U.K. court system. Even though Witness for the Prosecution is not the “end all, be all” when it comes to this specific court system’s portrayal in entertainment media, it gives viewers a chance to compare and contrast it to other court systems in other productions. The layout of the court room itself provides one example. Toward the front of the court room, the witness stand is located at the judge’s right-hand side. This part of the court room is separate from the judge’s stand. Meanwhile, in court room productions taking place in the United States, the witness stand can either be located at the judge’s left or right-hand side. It is also connected to the judge’s stand.  

The Other Than A Bond Girl Blogathon banner created by Gabriela from Pale Writer and Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews

What I didn’t like about the film:

The magical monocle: While working on the case, Wilfred wore a monocle when he was questioning the accused party and his wife. As he questioned them, a light shone through the monocle and directly landed on Leonard and Christine. But these were the only two times Wilfred used the magical monocle. The purpose of the monocle or Wilfred’s reason for using it was never explained. Was this monocle truly magical or was the monocle used as foreshadowing? I wish this part of Wilfred’s character was more consistent.

A dialogue heavy story: With any movie or tv show episode featuring a court case, there’s going to be a certain amount of dialogue within the story. But because Witness for the Prosecution mostly revolved around a court case, the 1982 production feels more dialogue heavy compared to Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express. Before watching Witness for the Prosecution, I had expected more showing than telling when it came to the mystery. Instead of watching the characters making discoveries related to the mystery, I heard about it through the questioning in court. Because of this creative decision, I didn’t find the movie’s mystery as engaging as it could have been.

An inactive detective: In a story where a detective, amateur or professional, is the protagonist, the audience expects to see this character actively solve their respective film’s mystery. Sadly, the viewers won’t witness that in Witness for the Prosecution. Wilfred is a lawyer defending Leonard in his case. However, Wilfred places more emphasis in resolving the case than playing detective. Even though this movie’s mystery was solved, it felt like Wilfred was served the answer on a silver platter instead of discovering it himself. Similar to what I said about the dialogue-heavy story, I didn’t find the mystery engaging because of Wilfred’s inactive detective role.

Sketch of London image created by Archjoe at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/hand-drawn-houses-of-parliament_1133950.htm’>Designed by Archjoe</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Archjoe – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Witness for the Prosecution shares a similar plot with 1997’s Red Corner: an American man is accused of murder, with his case in a court system outside of the United States. But where Red Corner succeeded and Witness for the Prosecution didn’t is how Shen, Jack’s lawyer in Red Corner, not only played a role in the court case, but also went above and beyond in attempting to solve the mystery surrounding the case. This allowed Red Corner’s story to be intriguing and engaging for the audience. With the 1982 production, Wilfred spends more time on the court case than the mystery wrapped around it. This decreases the audience’s engagement. The dialogue heavy nature of Witness for the Prosecution’s story also affected the mystery’s intrigue. Hallmark Hall of Fame’s presentation is the third Agatha Christie adaptation I’ve seen, which I wasn’t overly thrilled with. I still want to, one day, read her literary work. But based on my reactions to the three adaptations I have watched so far, I’m starting to wonder if I’ll find an Agatha Christie story I like?

Overall score: 6.1-6.2 out of 10

Have you seen any of Agatha Christie’s adaptations? Do you have a favorite Agatha Christie story? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Twilight of Honor Review

When Tiffany from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society invited me to join The Second Annual Claude Rains Blogathon, I was familiar with Claude as an actor. I’ve seen five of his movies, as I reviewed Caesar and Cleopatra back in September. While looking through his filmography on IMDB, I discovered that Claude starred in a film called Twilight of Honor. Because I happened to have this movie on my DVR, I figured it would be a great choice for the blogathon. This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about a courtroom film. Last year, I reviewed two movies from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Darrow Mystery series. What I enjoy about those films is the mystery component featured within the narrative. It creates an intriguing and interactive experience for the audience. Will I find a mystery in Twilight of Honor? Keep reading if you want to find out!

Twilight of Honor poster
Twilight of Honor poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Image found at commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Twilight_of_Honor_FilmPoster.jpeg.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: The overall cast in this film was pretty good! Everyone’s performance appeared believable, especially for their character’s situation. Even though Claude Rains was in the film for a limited amount of time, his portrayal of Art Harper was memorable! He brought a pleasant persona to his character and was a joy to watch on screen. The lead star, Richard Chamberlain, also gave a good acting performance! His character, David Mitchell, had a healthy balance between the seriousness of a lawyer and the charm of a gentleman. That’s because his acting abilities were well-rounded enough to pull off this specific kind of portrayal. The supporting cast was just as talented as the starring cast! Joey Heatherton was a standout in this film as Laura-Mae Brown! With an on-screen personality that was feisty and bold, Joey found a way to shine among her co-stars. Her character certainly brought an interesting element to the story.

 

The dual screen special effect: Whenever one of the characters shared their perspective on the case, the screen was split to show the flashback on one side of the screen while the character was speaking. After this was shown, the flashback was presented in a full-screen format. This element made the project appear ahead of its time. Because the ‘60s weren’t known for experimentation with technology in film, it makes the creative team behind this movie appear innovative. I respect their decision to try something new. They took a creative risk and it worked in their favor.

 

The Clinton house: At one point in the movie, David visits the widow of the murder victim, Mrs. Clinton, at her house. Despite this location being featured on screen for a short amount of time, this house looked very appealing on film! The way it was staged and decorated gave the impression that the creative team was going for: the living environment of an affluent family. From the winding staircase to the large door-frame, everything about it spoke volumes about the characters that lived there. It was also just a nice-looking place in general. I’m not sure if this was a real location or a set, but the people associated with bringing this place to life did a good job in doing so.

Claude Rains Blogathon banner
The Second Annual Claude Rains Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2019/10/18/round-up-the-usual-suspects-the-second-annual-claude-rains-blogathon-is-coming/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The run-time: Twilight of Honor is almost two hours. Because of this, it makes the story feel drawn out and some scenes last longer than they need to. One example is some of the courtroom scenes. I understand that court cases in film take time to be explored and discussed. But, personally, I don’t think this particular story needed to be as long as it was. If this movie was an hour and ten or twenty minutes, then the script could have been a little bit tighter and the run-time would be more condensed.

 

Very little intrigue: When I first heard about this movie, I was expecting the story to have a mystery element. Similar to programs such as Matlock, Perry Mason, and Hallmark’s Darrow Mystery series, I was ready to figure out whodunit. Sadly, that’s not the kind of story Twilight of Honor is. It’s a courtroom drama with a surface level narrative that’s “cut and dry”. Because the story was so basic, I found the final verdict to be anti-climactic. It wasn’t a boring story, but it wasn’t exciting either.

 

David and Susan’s relationship: I have nothing against David and Susan’s relationship. The issue I have with it is how little emphasis it was given in the film. David and Susan’s relationship feels rushed and under-developed. They are seen spending so little time with each other that when their relationship does progress, it just comes out of nowhere. There’s no build-up to where this relationship ends up. It just seems like it was placed in the movie just for the sake of being there.

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Scales of Justice image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Twilight of Honor is not what I expected it to be. That intriguing, courtroom mystery that I was looking to ended up becoming a straight-forward drama with a simplistic story. Because of that, I found the movie to be just ok. While there were things about it that I liked, the story itself could have been stronger. But that doesn’t mean that the movie is void of purpose. Twilight of Honor does have its place in film history with the use of the dual screen special effect that was featured in the movie. It also gives people a good excuse to watch Claude Rains perform on screen. This isn’t one of the best movies I’ve seen this year, so far. But it’s definitely not one of the worst films I’ve seen either. I’m glad that I saw Twilight of Honor, though, because now I can have an honest opinion about it.

 

Overall score: 6 out of 10

 

What do you think of this review? Which movie from Claude Rains’ filmography is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen