Witness To Murder (1952) – A Review
Barbara Stanwyck innocently looks out of bedroom window one night and see George Sanders strangle and murder in an apartment across the street. She does what any responsible and humane person would do by reporting what she saw to the police.
However, the police find no evidence of any murder. Sanders smoothly refutes this woman’s outrageous claims. Being dismissed by the police and even Police Lt. Lawrence Matthews who despite taking a liking to her doesn’t believe her claims, Stanwyck takes it upon herself to investigate what exactly Sanders is up to.
It’s a risky move that Sanders, who’s guilty as can be, can’t allow. He works diligently to throw off suspicion on himself and make everyone convinced that Stanwyck is the unhinged, dangerous one who should be put away.
Predating Rear Window by a few months, Witness To Murder doesn’t come close to being as good or doing as much with its premise of a long distance witnessing of a murder and the consequences that befall on our hero or in his case our heroine, as Hitchcock’s film did.
This movie ends up as a very routine, at times outlandish story and left me not feeling the least bit satisfied.
It begins fine. After witnessing the murder and unable to convince the police of what she saw, Stanwyck manages to get inside Sanders’ apartment in the hopes of finding some kind of evidence. It’s still not enough, but she doesn’t let up on declaring what she saw was real and Sanders is indeed a murderer.
Sanders is naturally concerned with Barbara squawking and needs to shut her up. The avenue he takes I always thought was a too hard to swallow and ends up working way too conveniently for me to believe. This is where the the film leaves me behind.
Despite Barbara being such a level-headed individual all her life, having no suspicious behavior in her background or motives for concocting such a story, Sanders easily convinces everyone she is insane. The police, doctors, even Matthews who has just fallen for her, all question her sanity.
Stanwyck is placed in an asylum and has to feign what she saw is now something untrue and dream in her head. Sanders then proceeds to make it look like this woman is now suicidal and can easily do her in.
I mean, I would think anyone would take a closer look at Sanders. Yeah, he looks just as normal as Stanwyck on the surface, but dig into his history and we learn he’s an ex-Nazi and is marrying a wealthy woman. It doesn’t appear this case would be that cut and dry as just saying, “Oh this woman is nuts”. Yet, everyone seems to go along with it.
This plays out way too easy for Sanders. He doesn’t have much of a problem with this lady. It also makes everyone who is buying into this insanity diagnosis and dismissing Stanwyck seem so naive I can never go along with it. It just really seems like a lazy way to proceed with the story.
On the upside, Sanders is good as the sophisticated killer. I love the guys voice. He’s got one of those classic smooth sophisticated voices that you can just enjoy listening to. He would have been great for audio books. Stanwyck is her usual dependable self and there are some glorious black and white cinematography that runs throughout the film. During the climactic climb up a construction site I’m more dazzled by how it’s filmed than how these characters actually got there in the story.
There’s nothing particularly unique or compelling going on here. It’s not a movie that stays with me. Now Rear Window on the other hand, that’s one worth watching over and over again. Witness To Murder, you can skip.
The trailer is kind of funny with Stanwyck narrating it in a frantic tone. You’ll get an idea of the great cinematography on display at least.