Watch Witness to Murder
- 1 hr 23 min
In the 1954 film Witness to Murder, Barbara Stanwyck stars as Cheryl Draper, a woman who witnesses a murder from her apartment window. The murderer, played by George Sanders, quickly realizes that Cheryl may have seen something and begins to stalk her in an effort to keep her quiet. Gary Merrill plays the police detective assigned to the case, who initially dismisses Cheryl's claims but later becomes convinced that she is telling the truth.
The film opens with a shot of Cheryl relaxing on her balcony, soaking up the sunshine. She notices some commotion in the apartment across the way and sees a man murder a woman with a pair of scissors. She immediately calls the police, but by the time they arrive, there is no sign of a struggle or any evidence of foul play. The police are skeptical of Cheryl's story, assuming that she must have imagined things. Even Cheryl starts to doubt herself, wondering if she really did see what she thought she saw.
But the murderer, who we later learn is a psychologist named Albert Richter, knows that Cheryl poses a threat to his freedom. He begins to follow her around, lurking in alleyways and watching her every move. Cheryl starts to feel paranoid and agoraphobic, refusing to leave her apartment for fear of being attacked. She installs new locks on her doors and windows, but Richter is always one step ahead of her, finding ways to break in and intimidate her.
Throughout the film, both Cheryl and Richter manipulate the people around them in an effort to gain the upper hand. Cheryl's boyfriend, a struggling writer named David (played by Robert Preston), tries to support her but becomes convinced that she's lost her mind. Richter, meanwhile, manages to win over some of Cheryl's friends and colleagues, painting himself as a sympathetic and misunderstood figure. As Cheryl grows more desperate, she becomes convinced that Richter is framing her for the murder he committed, pinning it on her in order to avoid getting caught himself.
Gary Merrill's character, Detective Matthews, initially dismisses Cheryl's claims as hysterical nonsense. But as he investigates further, he starts to find evidence that supports her story. His investigation takes him to Richter's apartment, where he discovers a sinister chamber filled with mirrors and strange equipment. He also uncovers a history of violence and manipulation in Richter's past, underscoring just how dangerous the man truly is.
The tension in the film builds steadily as Richter closes in on Cheryl, using his psychological expertise to manipulate her and everyone around her. At times it's unclear who to trust, as both he and Cheryl are trying to outsmart each other. The film's climax is a nail-biter, as Cheryl and David race to the police station to present their evidence before Richter can stop them.
Overall, Witness to Murder is a gripping psychological thriller with strong performances from all three leads. Barbara Stanwyck is particularly impressive as the woman caught in the crosshairs, conveying her fear and paranoia with subtlety and nuance. George Sanders is likewise excellent as the sinister psychologist, bringing a quiet menace to the role. While the film may have some outdated gender politics and a few slow moments, it's still worth a watch for fans of classic suspense.
Witness to Murder is a 1954 crime movie with a runtime of 1 hour and 23 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.6.