Paul Biegler (Stewart) is a former prosecutor who's at a professional turning point. Now out of the district attorney's office, he's a defense lawyer, and needs a high-profile assignment to establish himself. He finds it in the case of Lieutenant Fred Mannion (Gazzara), an army officer accused of killing the man who raped Bannion's wife Laura (Remick). The case grows more complex the deeper Biegler investigates, and it doesn't help that he's also up against a ruthless young prosecutor (Scott) intent on winning a conviction at all costs.
Preminger's crackling courtroom drama makes for a twisty, racy, irresistible film. A mature, restrained Stewart is in his element as the dogged Biegler, but junior players Gazzara, Remick and Scott are every bit as good. Gritty atmosphere and a smoky Ellington score (with Duke himself in a rare on-screen appearance) help make this daring, distinctive picture hum. Mystery fans, here's an "Anatomy" lesson worth taking.