Filmsite Movie Review
Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

A Strange Development in the Case - The Mysterious, Vengeful Cockney Woman With "The Goods" on Christine Vole:

During their discussion, Carter answered the phone - it was a call for barrister Sir Wilfrid from a mysterious but anonymous Cockney woman who offered to supply him with critical evidence regarding the Leonard Vole case. For a fee, she said that she had damaging information ("the goods" or "the lowdown") to sell against "that German wife" (or "that German bag") (referring to Christine Helm), that would help Wilfrid's client. She greeted Wilfrid on the phone as: "Well, hello, ducky." She demanded that they meet in the next 30 minutes in the bar at the Euston train station before she left on a departing train. She added: "Bring plenty of money" before hanging up. Although Wilfrid called the call "balderdash" and claimed: "I'm too old and too sick to go on a wild-goose chase," he urged Mayhew to join him. Before leaving the house, he had to bypass Miss Plimsoll who demanded: "Your bath, your massage, your dinner, your injection!"

In the film's most unusual sequence, set inside the station, they met the thick-accented, facially-scarred Cockney mystery woman, who refused to give her name. After she ordered them two whiskeys, she offered to supply the barrister with evidence to discredit Christine, in exchange for £ 40 pounds. Before providing the evidence, the woman showed Wilfrid the reason for her vengeance - she raised her hairline to show disfiguring scars on the right side of her face. They were deep cuts inflicted by Christine's new young lover/boyfriend Max (she didn't provide a last name) who turned against her when Christine stole him away: ("He cut me face up proper"). She proposed to Wilfrid:

"Wanna kiss me, duckie?"

At the time, she didn't report the attack to the police, but had waited for the right moment to seek retribution by turning over the evidence: "But I waited me time to pay 'er back. And it's come now." Feeling sorry for her, Wilfrid gave her another £ 5 pounds. Mayhew remarked on the letters and the payback: "Cold-blooded vindictiveness." The "unbelievable" evidence consisted of hand-written "juicy" love letters that the perjuring Christine had written to her mysterious lover named Max (so she could get rid of Leonard and be with him). The letters would suggest that Christine was actually having an affair and had a reason to lie under oath as an unreliable witness. The information to help Wilfrid's client set up the film's major twist ending.

Christine Proved to Be A Liar When Confronted on the Stand by Her Love Letters to Max - Leonard Declared "NOT GUILTY":

When the trial resumed and Mr. Myers was about to deliver his concluding prosecutory statement, it was thought that the trial would quickly wrap up. But then Sir Wilfrid arrived late, and requested that the case be re-opened (over Myers' objections), due to his need to recall Christine to the stand after new "startling" evidence had been uncovered.

Christine Helm was confronted with the content of a series of letters written to a man named Max (with evidence she was "on intimate terms" with him and wanted to be freed of Leonard). Christine screamed out: "Lies, all lies," but Wilfrid continued, and was able to trick her into identifying that the stationary was hers. She screamed at him for fooling her: "Damn you! Damn you!" and tried unsuccessfully to escape the witness box and courtroom.

Then he proceeded to divulge the contents of one of the damning letters, dated recently on October 20th. It was read outloud for the jury by Sir Wilfrid - proving that she wanted to be rid of Leonard:

"My beloved Max, an extraordinary thing has happened. All our difficulties may soon be solved. Leonard is suspected of murdering the old lady I told you about. His only hope of an alibi depends on me and me alone. Suppose I testify he was not at home with me at the time of the murder, he came home with blood on his sleeves, and that he even admitted to me that he'd killed her? Strange isn't it - he always said that he would never let me leave him. But now, if this succeeds, he will be leaving me because they will take him away forever and I shall be free and yours, my beloved. I count the hours until we are together. Christine."

Christine decisively confirmed that she was the author of the letter: ("I wrote the letter"). The letters proved that she was plotting to blame the murder on Leonard, and that she had deliberately lied on the stand. Therefore, it was obvious that she had perjured herself in earlier testimony for the prosecution. He had conclusively proven that Christine was a liar and unreliable witness. Sir Wilfrid declared the case for the defence was now complete.

Before the jury returned with their expected verdict, in his dressing room, Sir Wilfrid was skeptical of how the trial was ending up: "It's a little too neat, too tidy, and altogether too symmetrical, that's what's wrong with it." Leonard was quickly declared 'not guilty' by the jury.

The Aftermath of the Case - a Major Twisting and Convoluted Ending:

Afterwards during a post-mortem in the courtroom, it was observed by Brogan-Moore how Leonard's fate had suddenly changed due to his acquittal: "An hour ago, he had one foot on the gallows and the other on a banana peel." Sir Wilfrid was uneasy about the entire case. While Leonard was signing receipts for his belongings with the Bailiff, Christine fled back into the almost-empty courtroom to seek refuge after being angrily assaulted and assailed by a crowd of spectators outside, who accused her of being a liar.

Alone with Christine, Sir Wilfrid reminded her that she would most certainly be charged with perjury and imprisoned. With a self-congratulatory tone, she described what had just happened - and revealed how it had been her strategy all along to absolutely guarantee her husband's acquittal and get her guilty husband off the hook. She reminded Sir Wilfrid how he had received unintended help from her:

"What a wicked woman I am, and how brilliantly you exposed me and saved Leonard's life. The great Sir Wilfrid Robarts did it again....You didn't do it alone. You had help....Leonard is free and we did it...."

Earlier, he had given her the brilliant idea of how to be assured of an acquittal - rather than play the role of a "loving wife," she should instead play the role of a hateful wife and double-cross her husband as a "witness for the prosecution":

"Remember when I came to see you, and you said that no jury would believe an alibi given by a loving wife, no matter how much she swore her husband was innocent? That gave me the idea...The idea that I should be a witness, not for my husband, but for the prosecution. That I should swear Leonard was guilty and that you should expose me as a vicious liar because only then would they believe Leonard was innocent."

Then came one of the film's most startling plot twists - she revealed that she had masqueraded as the Cockney woman by repeating her accent to Sir Wilfrid: "Wanna kiss me, duckie?" Sir Wilfrid was taken aback by the unexpected revelation. She claimed it was her greatest acting role: "It's been a long time since I was an actress and I never before played such an important role."

She had disguised herself as the informant with the fraudulent "blue" letters, invented "Max" ("There never was a Max"), and had actually forged the letters to her non-existent lover "Max" to discredit her own earlier testimony and deliberately appear as an entirely uncredible witness. She had devised the love letter ploy as the only sure way to have the jury believe that Leonard was innocent.

Sir Wilfrid asked why Christine had not trusted him as Leonard's barrister to win the case: ("My dear, could you not have trusted me, worked with me truthfully and honourably? We would have won"). She then delivered another incredible assertion - that she didn't want to risk letting Sir Wilfrid save Leonard. She had decided to save the obviously-guilty Leonard because of her deep love for him: ("There's never been anyone but Leonard, only Leonard"), even though she had known all along that he had committed the murder. The only way she felt that she could definitely save Leonard was to expose herself as a liar, although she knew she would be charged with perjury:

"I knew he was guilty....Leonard came home a few minutes past 10. He did have blood on his sleeves, he did tell me he had killed the woman, only I could save him. He pleaded with me."

She again asserted: "I love him."

An Unexpected, Surprise Ending:

The acquitted Leonard, who was standing by and listening to Christine's story, entered, hugged her, and complimented her for her fantastic acting job: "I told you she was an actress. And a good one....I knew she was going to do something for me, but I just didn't know what or how....Fooled you completely, didn't she?" Christine rushed to Leonard's side to embrace and kiss him. Sir Wilfrid was outraged, and felt that the entire case had been "a mockery of English law."

And then, in the shocking ending set in the courtroom, the acquitted defendant Leonard confirmed what Christine had avowed - he was guilty of Emily French's murder. After the damning admission, he gloated about his solid verdict to Sir Wilfrid, and how "double jeopardy" laws protected him from a retrial: "You got me off and I can't be tried again for this." Christine agreed: "You can't touch him now, nobody can." Obviously, Leonard had indeed murdered the elderly wealthy woman - the suspected charge that was made against him from the very start.

However, in order to be fair to everyone that was wronged and to balance out the scales of justice, Leonard proposed that he would take care of everyone with his newfound cash inheritance: ("I'm not cheap, I want everybody to get something out of this"). He would double Sir Wilfrid's fee for the trial just conducted, purchase a new hearing aid for Janet MacKenzie, replace Wilfrid's thermos with an 18K gold version, and he would also provide £ 5,000 pounds for Christine's perjury defense. Leonard seemed uncomfortable when Christine came over and hugged him:

"I don't care, Leonard, just so we'll be together again. You don't know what I've been through. Standing in the witness box, having to face you in the dock, saying I never loved you."

After Leonard had made many exorbitant promises, Miss Plimsoll and a brunette (who had been sitting near her in the spectator's gallery) entered the room. Miss Plimsoll urgently reminded Sir Wilfrid that they were short on time to catch the 9:40 pm train to his Bermuda cruise ship: "The luggage is in the car and we've only 20 minutes to catch the boat train."

Leonard admitted to another major double-cross when the brunette named Diana (Ruta Lee) threw herself into Leonard’s arms, passionately kissed him, and revealed that she was his girlfriend ("I'm his girl!"). Diana announced that she had been the philandering Leonard's girl for many months - Christine was stunned. Diana was revealed to be the "clinging brunette" who had accompanied Leonard to the travel bureau to inquire about a luxury cruise, and was now planning to run away with him. Diana affirmed who she was and then denounced Christine:

"That's right. That's who I am, and I know all about you. You're not his wife. Never have been. You're years older than he is. We've been going together for months and we're going away on one of those cruises, just like they said in court."

To add further insult toward Christine who had just saved Leonard's life in the courtroom, he denounced her. Christine grabbed him to restrain him from leaving: "You can't Leonard, not after what I've done. I won't let you." He claimed how they were now even and he was abandoning her - he had saved her in Germany, and now she had saved him from execution:

"Don't be silly. I saved your life getting you out of Germany, you saved mine getting me out of this mess, so we're even. It's all over now."

Flabbergasted and shocked, Christine cried out: "Don't, Leonard! Don't leave me!" Leonard shook and grabbed her, and pushed her backwards to reject her: "Pull yourself together. They'll have you up for perjury. Well, don't make it worse or they'll try you as an accessory. And you know what that means." In furious and jealous anger, Christine reached for the knife on a table that had been held in evidence (the one that Vole had cut himself with), that was highlighted by reflected light from Wilfrid's monocle (this was its third and final deadly use). The spiteful Christine responded with venomous, murderous rage:

"I don't care. Let them. Let them try me for perjury, or an accessory, or... Or better yet, let them try me for...!"

She shockingly stabbed Leonard to death in the stomach for his infidelity AND guilt. Diana screamed and became hysterical, as Miss Plimsoll reached to check Leonard's non-existent pulse. She reported her diagnosis to Sir Wilfrid: "She killed him." Sir Wilfrid delivered a classic line to correct his nurse:

"Killed him? She executed him."

Christine was taken away by the police, and would now be charged with the climactic murder, and presumably defended by Sir Wilfrid. He mused to himself: "A remarkable woman."

The film ended with a lighter tone - Miss Plimsoll arranged with Carter for the cancellation of Sir Wilfrid's Bermuda vacation for recuperation, realizing that Sir Wilfrid would continue to be busy with Christine's defense. She handed Sir Wilfrid his court wig as he ordered for Brogan-Moore and Mayhew to join him in his chambers. The last line was delivered by the all-knowing Miss Plimsoll as she reminded Sir Wilfrid to take his thermos (of "cocoa"):

"You've forgotten your brandy."

He extended his arm around her as they left the courtroom.

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