Reversal of Fortune

1990 film by Barbet Schroeder

Reversal of Fortune is a 1990 film about the defense by Alan Dershowitz and his team of Harvard Law students of wealthy socialite Claus von Bülow for the attempted murder of his wife, Sunny.

Directed by Barbet Schroeder and written by Nicholas Kazan, based on the book by Alan Dershowitz.

Sunny von Bülow edit

  • [narrating] I never woke from this coma, and I never will. I am what doctors call "persistent vegetative" -- a vegetable. According to medical experts, I could stay like this for a very long time -- brain dead, body better than ever.
  • [narrating] Claus von Bülow was given a second trial, and acquitted on both counts. This is all you can know, all you can be told. When you get where I am, you will know the rest.

Alan Dershowitz edit

  • If the rules don't work, you change them.
  • One thing, Claus. Legally, this was an important victory. Morally -- you're on your own.
  • Claus, let me explain something to you: the less you tell me, the more options I have.

Raj edit

  • A frame-up doesn't mean he's innocent. The kids could have framed a guilty man.

Dialogue edit

Alan Dershowitz: I'm not a hired gun. I've got to feel there's some moral or constitutional issue at stake.
Claus von Bülow: But I'm absolutely innocent, and my civil liberties have been egregiously violated!
Alan Dershowitz: I've got two black kids facing the electric chair for a crime they did not commit. THEY are innocent.
Claus von Bülow: Well, before you assume I'm guilty, won't you hear my story?
Alan Dershowitz: No. Never let defendants explain; puts most of them in an awkward position.
Claus von Bülow: How do you mean?
Alan Dershowitz: Lying.

Alan Dershowitz: You do have one thing in your favor: everybody hates you.
Claus von Bülow: Well, that's a start.

Alan Dershowitz: Reminds me of my Hitler dream. You know, Hitler calls up, he's alive... needs a lawyer. I say, "Sure, come on over." Then I have to decide: do I take the case, or do I kill him?
Elon Dershowitz: You? No question.
Alan Dershowitz: I would take the case...
Alan/Elon: Then kill him.

Alan Dershowitz: We've got two big problems here. The case against him is very strong but more importantly is the absolute certainty that Claus is guilty, finding grounds for reversal won't be enough here. Judges on the Rhode Island Supreme Court will have to go home to their wives and explain to them why they reversed. To do that we have to totally obliterate the States case so that they have no other reason to affirm. Total victory or we are dead in the water. Now, I assumed you've all had a chance to go over the transcripts and materials, first impressions?
[Minnie raises her hand]
Alan Dershowitz: Yeah, Minnie.
Minnie: I think this whole case stinks! I think von Bülow stinks! He's obviously guilty of something pretty despicable and if we free him we become his accessories, accomplices after the fact. I'm really shocked with your reputation for defending the poor and oppressed that you've taken this case. [Stands up] I won't have anything to do with it, and I hope my fellow students won't either.
Alan Dershowitz: Can I exercise my First Amendment right to free speech? If lawyers only defended innocent clients there would only be 12 defense attorneys and none of you would be able to find a job.
Minnie: Why help guilty people get off?
Alan Dershowitz: Oh you're sure he's guilty, 100% sure?
Minnie: He had a lawyer. He had a trial. He was convicted.
Alan Dershowitz: Are you sure he had a fair trial?
Minnie: Come on!
Alan Dershowitz: It's the basis of the whole legal system! Everyone gets a defense. So the system is there for the innocent person falsely accused. OK, say it's you OK? You decide you're gonna get a divorce, you're gonna divorce your husband. A week later you're accused of child abuse. [Minnie smiles in disbelief] Oh, no don't give me that people do it all the time. Suddenly you're alone it's a disaster. Everyone thinks that you are guilty. Even the mailman is looking at you a little funny. There's only one person who can help you. There's only one person who you can trust, your lawyer.
Minnie: Yeah, okay, so, someone's got to defend Claus. But why you, why us?
Alan Dershowitz: Look, you're my student, you, you have a choice. You don't have to do anything you don't want to do; that is your choice. The reason I take cases -- and here I'm unlike most other lawyers, who are not professors and therefore have to make a living -- I take cases because I get pissed off. And I am pissed off here. The family hired a private prosecutor: unacceptable! They conducted a private search! Now if we let them get away with that, rich people won't go to the cops any more. You know what they're going to do? They're going to get their own lawyers to collect evidence -- and then they are going to choose which evidence they feel like passing on to the DA. And the next victim isn't going to be rich, like von Bülow -- but it's going to be some poor schnook in Detroit who can't afford, or who can't find, a decent lawyer. I think it's a little more complicated than your simple moral superiority, hmm?

Raj: I agree von Bülow is guilty, but then, that's the fun -- that's the challenge.
Alan Dershowitz: Now THERE is a lawyer.

Claus von Bülow: Well, so much for the first coma. The second, of course, was much more theatrical.
Alan Dershowitz: Theatrical? What is this, a fucking game? This is life and death; your wife is lying in a coma. You, you don't even make a pretense of caring, do you?
Claus von Bülow: 'Course I care, Alan. It's just, I don't wear my heart on my sleeve.

Alan Dershowitz: This is the most dangerous case I have ever worked on.
Claus von Bülow: You find that exhilarating?
Alan Dershowitz: No, I do not. I am breaking every rule. 'Cause the best way to win is to proclaim your innocence, and I have never done that for anybody. And the problem I got is, I see who you are. You'd do anything to win.
Claus von Bülow: So would you.
Alan Dershowitz: Yeah, but you don't trust the legal system.
Claus von Bülow: You're saying I'd manufacture... witnesses? Affidavits?
Alan Dershowitz: No. But you would sacrifice me.
Claus von Bülow: Oh, please.
Alan Dershowitz: See, the more I believe that you are innocent, the more nervous I am. I go out on a limb for you, you're proven guilty, I look like an asshole. My reputation, my credibility, my career, destroyed.
Claus von Bülow: That's the risk you're taking, isn't it?
Alan Dershowitz: Well, fuck you, fuck you, man... I'm glad we understand one another.

Alan Dershowitz: Why -- why do you think this case fascinates people? 'Cause, one time or other, every man is driven crazy by his wife, and in his secret heart, he wants to do exactly what Claus is accused of: kill her in some sly, silent way that can't be detected. Claus is a scapegoat: someone has to suffer for the sin that we all want to commit.
Team member: Alan... that's ridiculous.
Alan Dershowitz: It's ridiculous, you're right.

Alan Dershowitz: All right, my friend...
Claus von Bülow: "Friend"? I like that.
Alan Dershowitz: Nothing personal.

Alan Dershowitz: Our new evidence will clearly indicate...
Judge: Professor, you know there isn't a single case which allows you to introduce new evidence on appeal.
Alan Dershowitz: Well, there is one, your honor, and you wrote it. Derrick. In Derrick, in Derrick, you yourself said that a case based on circumstantial theory rather than fact only stands up if no other theory makes sense. The only way to show a better theory is to present it!

Alan Dershowitz: A priest? Well, a priest is the ideal witness: it's like getting the word of God
Claus von Bülow: I checked. God is unavailable.

Minnie: He says he doesn't have anything that'd help us.
Alan Dershowitz: You with me?
Sarah: Paydirt.
Raj: What's paydirt?
Alan Dershowitz: He's a lawyer. If he really didn't have anything, he'd give it to us. But there's something there, and he's going to fight like hell to hold onto it.

Claus von Bülow: I'm not afraid, Alan. Let the chips fall where they may.
Alan Dershowitz: That's what an innocent man would say.
Claus von Bülow: I know.

Claus von Bülow: [To the law team] What do you give a wife that has everything?
Claus von Bülow: A shot of insulin.

Claus von Bülow: What do you call a fear of insulin?
Claus von Bülow: Claus-traphobia.

Alan Dershowitz: You are a very strange man.
Claus von Bülow: You have no idea.

Cast edit

External links edit

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