Anatomy Of A Murder (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

On October 12, Sony released the Columbia Classics Collection: Volume 2. The set is a follow up to their now out of print and very well received first volume that found many legendary and important films of all types and genres from different eras featuring notable filmmakers and big star turns in the history of Columbia Pictures together on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray for the very first time. These sets receive immaculate care in terms of restoration and come in fantastic packaging complete with a hardcover mini coffee table book with added essay and high quality photos (You can find my detailed look at the packaging by clicking HERE). The second volume picks up on the greatness that set left off on and includes the films Anatomy of a Murder, Oliver!, Taxi Driver, Stripes, Sense and Sensibility and The Social Network. You can order yourself a copy of the Columbia Classics Collection: Volume 2 (while it lasts) using the paid Amazon Associates link following the review. This first review of the set will take a look at the James Stewart starring, Otto Preminger helmed 1959 courtroom drama Anatomy of a Murder.


A riveting courtroom drama is brought to life with an all-star cast in the suspenseful and highly acclaimed ANATOMY OF A MURDER. Nominated for seven Academy Awards® including Best Picture (1959), the film pits a humble small-town lawyer (James Stewart) against a hard-headed big-city prosecutor (George C. Scott). Emotions flare as a jealous army lieutenant (Ben Gazzara) pleads innocent to murdering the rapist of his seductive, beautiful wife (Lee Remick).

Anatomy of a Murder is a shining example and trailblazer for all courtroom dramas to follow in its footsteps. You can even so much as find traces of it in HBO’s take on Perry Mason. The film blisters through at a wonderful pace that has its two hour and forty minute runtime fly by as you sit, taking in information and soak in the suspense of James Stewart and George C. Scott exchanging questioning blows on the courtroom floor. And while the film carries plenty of drama and suspense, it never forgets to smile, providing plenty of humor and a sense of fun from Stewart’s Paul Biegler.

While surely an old timey bit of slang or behavior here and there, its to the credit, thoughtfulness and care in the script that film can hold up to even the most modern of scrutiny. This film boasts some very modern and progressive ideals and attitudes toward women while in the face of old hat adversity. When Lee Remick’s “Laura Manion” is on the stand being grilled for her attire on the night of the murder by George C. Scott, you’re shocked at the realization that there is still this mentality floating around today. Even more surprising is its (for the movie) it winds up not a damning accusation against her and Stewart’s Biegler pulls in on her side and in the argument of women in general in how their dress and attire should never be used as guilt against them.

Preminger’s film does good with having recognizable faces and character types, giving everyone time to shine and be an important part of the film no matter how few scenes. Its built through a lot of the first hour of the film and then plays like spades in the proceeding courtroom material that takes us to the end of the picture. He also knows when to take a break, change the scenery, change the vibe, give a lighthearted break or to steer in a new intriguing direction. For a movie that spends A LOT of time in the courtroom, it magically makes the viewer not want to leave it either.

Courtroom dramas in the history of film all owe a lot to Anatomy of a Murder. Its interesting to see how adult it was for its time, and what was considered to be more adult material for its time (the word “panties” being risky and something that causes mass snickering from the courtroom audience). The film is also about the little guy from the small town fending off the big city hot shot, while never stooping to his level and always maintaining a strong sense of self, character and honesty in doing so. Its a film about character, its a film about suspense and its a film that is interested some some legal education as well. Its a fine addition to the Columbia Pictures 4K collections just as it is a fine one in the canon of film history.


Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are taken from the standard Blu-ray disc, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-100

Clarity/Detail: In the history of gorgeous black and white transfers from Sony, Anatomy of a Murder is another standout beauty. This has a lusciously filmic look with a great silver sheen and wonderful depth to it. Details are quite rampantly clear and the image is stunningly crisp and full of texture and spacing. If you’re familiar with how Dr. Strangelove looked on the last set, then you know what you’re in for with this one.

Depth:  The film has a nice, three dimensionally look to it, with great spacing, well rounded characters and plenty of pushback. Many impressive and confident camera movements come about to show off this depth of field. Movements are smooth and filmic with no issues coming from any sort of motion distortions causing blur or jitter.

Black Levels: Blacks are natural and deep and really ink out and bring this image to life. No information is hidden and textures, patterns and such are all quite visible even in the darkest of corners in the frame. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: N/A

Flesh Tones: Skin tones come with a gray/white hybrid and are consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures like sweat, wrinkles, make-up, lip texture, bruising and more come through clear as day.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.


Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA, French 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA, German 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA, Italian 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA, Portuguese 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, Spanish (Castilian) 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA, Spanish (Latin American) 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese Traditional, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian), Portuguese, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin American), Swedish, Turkish

Dynamics: Anatomy of a Murder comes loaded with a brand new Dolby Atmos track. Which is probably overkill for a movie of this ilk. The lossless mono is probably enough for the film, but nonetheless the Atmos track is pretty good and amusing at many times. Its a well balanced mix, very focused on building its environments through ambiance choices.

Height: Not a whole heck of a lot coming from teh top, but there are some nice touches here an there.

Low Frequency Extension: Nothing too bold on explosive from the subwoofer, but the film doesn’t really demand it either. Mostly it comes from musical bumps, car engines, doors shutting or many a chair or stool popping or sliding across the floor.

Surround Sound Presentation: Most of the action here is up front. Rear and side channels focus on ambiance a lot of the time. There’s some neat stuff, like in Biegler’s office where you can hear the traffic outside and its so well done, it actually feels like there’s something going on outside your room.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are quit clear and crisp with ever the faintest of hiss service as a soft base for them to platform.


Anatomy of a Murder comes with the standard Blu-ray version and a redeemable digital code for the film. All bonus features are found on the standard Blu-ray disc. This edition of the film is currently only available as part of the Columbia Classics Collection: Volume 2.

Audio Commentary

  • With Film Historian Foster Hirsch

Gary Giddins Interview (HD, 21:45)

Pat Kirkham Interview (HD, 14:52)

Foster Hirsch Interview (HD, 29:43)

Excerpt From Firing Line Featuring Otto Preminger (HD, 10:22)

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 4:49)


Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder remains one of the finest courtroom dramas ever put to celluloid and a trendsetting example by that which followed it even to this day.  Sony’s restoration, transfer and presentation of the film comes with a pristine audio and video that is about as perfection as it comes on the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format. A new commentary is here for this version and interviews from over the years have been brought over to this new disc. What a fine way to start off a boxed set of classic films throughout different eras.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com). He is also the Moderator/MC of the Live Podcast Stage and on the Podcast Awards Committee for PopCon (popcon.us). In the past 10 years at Why So Blu, Brandon has amassed over 1,500 reviews of 4K, Blu-ray and DVD titles.

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