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LGM Film Club: Part 3: Preminger Meets Buckley


I rewatched Anatomy of a Murder the other night. It’s such a great film. Otto Preminger directed it and managed to get into difficult topics so directly that it feels like a film from twenty years later. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s a film about a soldier who murders a man who his wife claimed raped her. Jimmy Stewart gets hired as the defense lawyer. It’s never clear what the circumstances are, the soldier (Ben Gazzara) is a thug and his wife (Lee Remick) hardly acts like someone who has gone through a traumatic experience. But all of these morally questionable events and people are dealt with matter-of-factly. Preminger was the first person, or at least one of the first people, to get words such as “slut,” “sperm,” “penetration,” and “bitch” into film. Plus I really could use a loop of Stewart saying, in his inimitable voice, “panties,” which he does throughout the film. Moreover, who plays the judge but one Joseph Welch, famous for taking down Joseph McCarthy a few years earlier, speaking on inimitable voices. I kept hoping for the following exchange:

Welch: “In the end sir, have you no decency?”
Stewart: “Of course I have decency. I’m Jimmy Stewart!”

Anyway, the film is astounding. One of the extra features on the disc (yes I own the media I treasure) is a 1967 interview with Preminger by William F. Buckley on his show Firing Line and this is tonight’s film club. The special features on the disc condenses this down to about 10 minutes, which is probably better than the full 48 minute show here, but this will do. Preminger routinely defends freedom of expression and Buckley is the smug prick that he always was. Buckley’s voice and face are the textbook definition of punchable. Anyway, enjoy.

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