Whilst Charles Laughton is now probably best-known for the only film he directed, Night of the Hunter, he was a versatile an indominable stage and screen actor. He made over fifty films across five decades and is probably best known for his performances in The Private Life of Henry VIII, Hobson’s Choice, Mutiny on the Bounty and Jamaica Inn. One of his best is Billy Wilder’s Witness for the Prosecution.

Despite his ill health, celebrated barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Laughton) decides to take on Leonard Vole’s (Tyrone Power) case. Vole has been arrested for the murder of a rich widow (Norma Varden) but the august legal heavyweight is convinced of his innocence. However, the evidence points to his guilt and his only alibi is his German wife Christine (Marlene Dietrich). Sir Wilfrid’s task is made that much harder by his relentlessly interfering private nurse Miss Plimsoll (Elsa Lanchester).

Witness for the Prosecution is a compelling drama which keeps its cards close to its chest. Wilder is a master of misdirection but is Laughton and Dietrich who steal the show. She is meant to have approached him with the script, and you can see why. It’s a great role which allows her to shine. However, it’s Laughton who really has free reign to explore his character and demonstrates impeccable comic timing. Witness for the Protection is a clever courtroom drama and twisting crime thriller.

Extras:

  • 1080p presentation of the film on Blu-ray
  • Uncompressed LPCM mono soundtrack
  • Optional English SDH subtitles
  • New and exclusive feature length audio commentary by critic Kat Ellinger
  • “Monocle and Cigars: Simon Callow on Charles Laughton in Billy Wilder’s ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ “
  • A new video interview with film scholar Neil Sinyard
  • Archival footage of Billy Wilder discussing Witness for the Prosecution with director Volker Schlöndorff
  • A collector’s booklet featuring new essays by film scholar Henry K. Miller and critic Philip Kemp; a letter from Agatha Christie to Billy Wilder; and rare archival imagery

Witness for the Prosecution is released on dual format DVD and Blu-ray by Eureka Entertainment as part of their Masters of Cinema collection on 10 September.