on August 19, 2004
"Judgment at Nuremberg" is Stanley Kramer's often stagy, often stoic, though never anything less than completely engrossing, post-WWII melodrama. It's high octane film making driven by star performances and masterfully scripted dialogue; a vital, tragic, yet overall life affirming message picture about the difference between abiding the law and doing what is just in an unjust world. The film stars Spencer Tracy as the honorable American Judge Dan Haywood, assigned to supervise the trial of four German justices, including Dr. Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster) who have been accused of sending innocent men to their brutal deaths in Nazi concentration camps. Put up in the home of a former high ranking Nazi official, Haywood gains personal insight into the aftermath of Germany's political climate through his engagement of the servants (Ben Wright and Virginia Christine) and through a chance meeting with their former mistress, Madame Bertholt (Marlene Dietrich). But the real spark of this film is to be found in the mutual bitterness between passionate Defense Attorney Hans Rolfe (Maximilian Schell) and the pronouncedly defiant Colonel Tad Lawson (Richard Widmark), who serves as lead prosecutor. In a cameo appearance Judy Garland is remarkably heartbreaking as Irene Hoffman, a middle-aged frump whose fatherly relationship with a Jewish gentleman resulting in his death. Nominated for an astounding 11 Academy Awards, and winner of 2, "Judgment at Nuremberg" remains a benchmark of 60s cinema - a powerful and emotionally satisfying film for the ages.
Although MGM's DVD is NOT anamorphically enhanced, it delivers a very smooth image that will surely not disappoint. The B&W picture is remarkably clean, with minimal film grain, accurately rendered contrast levels, deep solid blacks and very clean whites. The audio has been remixed to 5.1 (the original mono is also included). The two are practically identical in their spatial separation and fidelity, though in the 5.1 mix the music track is decidedly the benefactor. Extras include a 20 minute thoroughly insightful featurette in which screenwriter Abby Mann and co-star Maximilian Schell speak of their experiences on the film. Both are so well spoken and frank that they put many a new audio commentary track to shame with their genuine ability to talk on cue. Also included is a 15 minute tribute to Stanley Kramer that is very nicely done, if all too brief. A photo gallery, theatrical trailer and promotional junket materials round out the extras.
Judgment at Nuremberg started off as television movie. It was adapted and expanded for the big screen.
Spencer Tracey heads the star studded cast as American justice Dan Haywood. The Nuremberg trials have been going on for a while and all the high profile cases have been decided. Left are the minor defendants.
What writer Abby Mann has decided to explore is where does the blame and responsibility stop. He explores it from two points of view, minor officials and the general citizens.
Dan Haywood knows that he wasn't the first choice, nor even the tenth. But he is going to take his job as serious as if he was the first choice.
The defendants are judges Emil Hahn (Werner "Hogan's Heroes" Klemperer), Friederich Hoffsteder, Werner Lamper and Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster).
The prosecutor (Richard Widmark) is US Army and the defense attorney (Maximilian Schell) is a young German attorney/
The key witnesses are Rudolph Peterson (Montgomery Clift), a slightly slow baker's helper who was sterilized and Irene Hoffman (Judy Garland), who as a girl was sterilized for consorting with a Jew - the man was executed.
Justice Haywood tried to understand the public atmosphere through his servants and the woman who used to live at the house he is living at, Mrs. Bertol (Marlene Dietrich).
This film brings up many questions of when do you follow the law and when do you go refuse to enforce or follow unjust laws. The original teleplay was written just after the McCarthy hearings. This was a direct attack on what happened during the hearings. But it has grown to something bigger. The basic premise is when can you follow blatantly unjust laws and say you were just following orders.
In a time when people are asked to follow leaders blindly without question, this film makes you think twice.
Add to this stunning performances all around. Spencer Tracey is the greatest film actor of all time, this was one of his final films and showed that he was as still one of the best. Maximilian Schell was a virtual unknown and this made him a star in America. Burt Lancaster was at the top of his stardom and took a small but pivotal role. It was a great triumph for him and the film. But the best and biggest surprise was Judy Garland who gave a shattering performance and should have won the Academy Award.
No one who watches this film will be unmoved.
In Conversation: Abby Mann and Maximilian Schell - A 19 minute interview with the writer and the actor about the original 1959 Playhouse 90 television production, the subsequent 1961 film and the 2003 Broadway production.
The Value of a Single Human Being - This is a 6 minute tirade by Abby Mann comparing McCarthyism to the Nazis. I am not saying that he does not make a lot of salient points but it loses a little bit in the presentation.
A Tribute to Stanley Kramer - A 14 minute tribute to Kramer by his wife Karen and writer Abby Mann. They principally talk about Nuremberg but other Kramer films are discussed.
on September 15, 2004
4.5 stars. About five years ago I was in a Spencer Tracy mode, going out of my way to watch any film he had done, when I came across this gem of a film from 1961 called "Judgement at Nuremberg." The best aspects of this film are the incredible script, a phenomenal cast, and an inspired director named Stanley Kramer. The first time I saw this film I was in equal parts shocked and moved by all the excellent acting and enthralled with the magnificent screenplay. I cannot emphasize enough how well written the script is. Also, the cast is exceptional with standout performances from Spencer Tracy, Judy Garland, Maximilian Schell, and an amazing short scene from Montgomery Clift which got him an Oscar nomination for less than ten minutes screen time. All the actors here have their moments, the only slightly overdone performance coming from Burt Lancaster who conveys the proper emotional context to the fantastic words he is given, but he simply cannot speak properly with a German accent. Then there are a couple of moments shot on sound sateges with the actors speaking their lines in automobiles with a fake backdrop moving behind them; one of which was completely unnecessary. These two scenes standout mostly because the rest of the film is so honest and genuine and subsequently they feel manufactured and plastic. This film was nominated for 11 Oscars, winning 2 for Best Actor(Maximilian Schell) and Best Adapted Screenplay, respectively. The special features on this DVD are non-essentials. The most annoying being a conversation between Maximilian Schell and screenwriter Abby Mann where they basically praise each other for ten minutes or so for their contributions to the film. "No, no...your contribution was more important." "No, yours was more important." etc. This is a very solid film at a very good price. Just skip the special features section beacuse there is simply nothing special about it. Thank you.
on October 29, 2004
Fascism is defined in the American Heritage dictionary as "a system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."
Burt Lancaster's character, Ernst Janning, explains in his defense that the people of Germany remained silent "for love of country", and many other of their actions were motivated by that highest regard of theirs for their country. They remained silent when their neighbors disappeared at night, when innocent people were denied their rights etc. under the Nazi's administrations. The Nuremberg trials were held over a period of four years; there were thirteen different trials in all. This movie is based on the third military tribunal which tried judges and other legislative officials who sentenced people to death, deportation, or prison because of violation of laws enacted by the Nazis. The script was written by Abby Mann who won an Oscar for Best Writing; Maximilian Schell won an Oscar for Best Actor in a leading role. The Austrian born actor had worked with Clift before in Young Lions which also featured Marlon Brando. Most of the characters in the movie are fictional, though some, Judy Garland's role and Burt Lancaster's, were based on actual persons, yet the names were changed. I highly recommend that this movie be seen and that web sites on the subject be looked at, in that there is so much material to those trials that this 3 hour long movie couldn't contain. The trials were unique in many ways. The framework for these trials was suggested as early as September of 1944 by a Colonel in the U.S. War Department. Nuremberg was where the Nazis held their war rallies and where the Nuremberg Laws regarding citizenship and race were enacted in 1935 and was the chosen site for the 13 trials; the Justice Case, which this movie is based on, was governed by Military Tribunal III in 1947.
The acting is superb in this movie; I, personally, thought Judy Garland's was the most stellar, was moved to tears by her defense of herself accused of having a physical relationship with a non-Aryan, in her case, a jew, in violation of the Nuremberg Laws. The filming is very effective too; this 1961 movie was filmed in black and white which is fitting given the mood and atmosphere of the setting; Nuremberg was in ruins, 90% of its buildings had been destroyed, and the mood of its citizens in the war's aftermath and looming trial dark indeed.
I think this film, more than its 2000 counterpart, best reveals the sentiments of the Germans post war, mainly through Judge Haywood's (Spencer Tracy) interactions with Germans he came in contact with, for example, the servants of the innkeeper who housed him during the trial. Also, the feelings of the Germans were also effectively expressed by Lancaster's character and Schell's during the trial. Judge Haywood is fair minded and commends Mr. Rolfe (Maximilian Schell), the defense attorney for the 16 Nazi defendants, for his logical skills, agreeing with some of the things he said. Yet, he then goes on to say that in consideration of the crimes "to be logical is not to be right." In meeting with Ernst Janning at the trial's end, Judge Haywood accepts the gift of Janning's court papers, yet is not swayed by the logic that Janning had no idea that millions of people had been killed the way they had been. Judge Haywood replies, "it came to that the first time you sentenced to death a man you knew to be innocent". Hans Rolfe (Schell) stated that the blame for the crimes should be shared by everyone all over the world who supported Hitler financially, materially, or spiritually, for example, the Vatican, American industrialists, and others who shared Hitler's ideology. Yet, historically, German military officers condoned the Armenian genocide of WWI and as early as 1903, funded by the Deutsche Bank, were working on completing a railway going from Baghdad to Berlin, see Sander's The High Walls of Jerusalem.
The footage shown during the trial of concentration camp atrocities was the actual film shown on November 29, 1945 in the first trial which is the subject matter for Nuremberg, the film of 2000. The list is too long to mention the many ways the Nazis terrorized their own citizens; the other testimony in this trial was of Mr. Petersen (Monty Clift) who is sterilized because the Nazis, in their Spartan approach to citizenship, would sterilize the mentally infirm, disabled, or non-Aryan, in order to obtain a pure race. (Violence against homosexuals in Nazi Germany began on June 30, 1934 when a military officer, Ernst Rohm, an SA chief of staff, was murdered by Himmler and Goring, an event nicknamed "the night of the long knives"; Clift had only one male partner all his life, so his role was fitting in that gays under Hitler were undoubtably similarly abused).
Of the 16 men tried, 10 were found guilty, 4 were acquitted. The other 2 were seriously ill, one dying before the verdict. My favorite statement of Judge Haywood, at the trial's end, was that the decisions were a result of "what we (the tribunal) stand for: justice, truth, and the value of a single individual". This movie is a MUST SEE.
on September 13, 2004
'Judgment At Nuremberg' is perhaps my favorite film. The story is relevant to all Huamnity. It offers a fair and in-depth accounting of how both sides (America and her allies and the Germans) allowed a Hitler to bring humankind to the brink of insanity and genocide. One human being can't bring the world to its bloody knees by himself, it takes a conspiracy of silence and passivity to have brought events to such a horrific conclusion. 'Judgment' reveals the cruelity and mindlessness of not just a Hitler or the Nazis, but of all men in all ages. History spares and exonerates no one or country. The theme is that we must all take responsibility, and dare to act when our conscience compels us.
Every performance evokes the strongest emotions. Judy Garland and Montgomery Clift are raw and brave in their performances. Marlene Dietrich brings elegance and dignity. Spencer Tracy is the struggle of everyman's conscience to understand and be compassionate, yet hold strong to what is right and what is wrong. Maximillian Schell plays the defence counsel with a dignity and pride of being a German, even when being a German is at the moment a disgrace. Every perspective has a reason for being as it is, every human being has a struggle between blind alligence and thinking for oneself. It is not only the Germans who are being held accountable for their actions, but everyman and all of Humanity.
The quality and extras of this dvd are excellent. This is an important film to be viewed again and again by everyone and each generation.
on March 27, 2007
I saw this film for the first time a few days ago and it will stay with me a long time. Are you embarrassed to think that you've read and seen enough already about the Holocaust? This film is only tangentially about the Holocaust. It is mostly about how morality shifts depending on who is in power and who wins the war, and how easy it is to accuse others of crimes that most of us under similar circumstances might commit or ignore. It is about standing up and saying out loud that you have made a terrible mistake. It is about not going along with the prevailing winds just because you tell yourself you'll try to do better later.
The film is in black and white, which gives it a semi-docuemtary look,
There are interesting shots, including zoom close ups used to great dramatic effect. The actors never gave better performances, including
Montgomery Clift, Judy Garland, and of course Spencer Tracy. Maxmillian Schell was fifth or sixth in billing for the film, yet he won the Oscar for the thankless role of being a defense attorney for German judges on trial in 1947 for committing crimes against humanity because they worked for and supported the Nazi regime. This was a second-string trial, the famous criminals like Hess had already been tried and convicted. Yet, Spencer Tracy's character, as head of the military court tribunal (written a little too nobly perhaps)takes this trial, and its implications, as seriously as if it had been the first time the issues of complicity and "just following orders" had ever been raised. The film is 3 hours long and yet moves right along, and there are few slow moments. I'm not sure if the Marlene Dietrich character (widow of an executed Nazi general) was essential to the story, but it was entertaining to watch Dietrich and Tracy play off each other. Watch them in the coffee-drinking scene in her apartment. This is still a great film, equally for the story and the issues it raises, and for the cinematic techniques and choices.
on July 10, 2005
JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG is a splendid fictionalization of the "Justices' Trial" held at Nuremberg after World War II. While much less well-known than the initial War Crimes Trial of 1945-46 which sentenced Hermann Goering and other leading Nazis, the actual "Justices' Trial" was unique in that it put sixteen leading German jurists on trial for participating in the Nazi legal system.
Spencer Tracy plays a rural American Federal District Court judge who is selected to preside over the trial of four defendants accused of sentencing prisoners to torture and death for such 'crimes' as mental incompetency, anti-Nazi statements, and race defilement (i.e., having personal relationships with "Untermenschen" such as Jews and Gypsies). Tracy is bewildered as he struggles to understand how the Germans, an obviously cultured and gregarious people, could fall into the destructive death grip of National Socialism. His final conclusions are shattering and should resonate in the inner core of any viewer.
While in Nuremberg, Tracy strikes up a relationship with the aristocratic widow of a German military officer executed for butchering American soldiers at Malmedy (played by Marlene Dietrich) who expresses nothing but disdain for Hitler, and yet fails to grasp the enormity of the vast societal crime committed during the war years.
Played out against the background of the rapidly spreading Cold War, the later Nuremberg Trials were seen by most as unnecessary excesses; the need to enlist the Germans as allies (in 1948) threatens to derail the legal process as American officers begin to unconsciously parrot the pragmatic language of wartime Germans who "went along" with Nazism in a spirit of expediency.
Richard Widmark plays the American prosecutor who unrepentingly dedicates himself to exacting punishment for Nazi crimes against humanity. Among his evidence are documentary films of the concentration camps. JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG marked the first time these horrifying images were used in a mass-media entertainment production.
Maximilian Schell plays the young, earnest defense counsel whose dedication to Germany virtually forces him into the Nazi mold. Schell, a newcomer at the time, won an Academy Award for his intense and frightening performance. His cross-examination of Frau Wallner (Judy Garland), a witness once accused of kissing a Jewish male friend, is a study in controlled hatred, and one of the finest character portrayals ever committed to film.
Schell's moral descent is punctuated by his demand to know why only Germany is on trial when the Russians, British, the Americans, and even the Vatican turned a blind eye to the obvious degeneracy of Hitler who made no secret of his intentions. Schell's closing argument is impassioned, rational, and terrifying in its implications.
As Schell descends into a relativistic darkness, the preeminent German jurist, Defendant Ernst Janning, (played by Burt Lancaster) struggles with his inner demons and begins to rise from the abyss, gaining a modicum of moral respite as he forcibly rebukes Schell, changes his plea to "Guilty," and testifies as to the soul-destructive nature of "a passing phase which became a way of life." Lancaster's Janning is truly tragic, more so because he so clearly understands that "he made his life excrement when he walked with [the Nazis]."
Ultimately, Janning is faced with his own irredeemable failings. Yet, Janning (and the others) are not demons in human form, they are just men, men who chose the easier path. Just as any other human beings, the Nuremberg defendants were presented with the choice between morality and amorality. That they chose amorally is not an inherent defect of the Germans as a people; but it is a defect of the people of World War II Germany, and potentially of any people. The message of JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG is that every person must make the same choices with the same results, and with the same consequences.
No actors today could carry such roles. The performers in JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG literally swallow the scenery, and the intensity of the story has rarely been matched, even by SCHINDLER'S LIST, the only war-era film worthy of comparison.
The DVD transfer is excellent, though the DVD lacks very much in the way of special features. A particular oversight is the absence of any kind of real documentary on the actual Nuremberg Trials, something which would seem to be almost mandatory.
JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG is a film which must be seen. It is a catalogue of the worst of human failings and an indictment of blind jingoism. It is also a paean to the value of every single human life.
on September 29, 2012
What is justice? Who gets to decide right from wrong? Who must be held accountable when a wrong is committed in the name of the state, in the name of the nation as a whole, and in the name of the law itself? Do the people bear a collective guilt for the actions of their leaders, or do we reserve blame only for those at the top? What is the patriotic duty of the citizen when the government is in the wrong? What is the duty of the civil servant, the soldier, the policeman, the judge? And who gets to decide that the government is in the wrong? If the government insists that its actions are necessary and proper, then what right does the citizen, the soldier, or the civil servant have to reject that claim and openly defy the authority of the state? Who has the right to make the laws? Who has the right to judge whether a law is just? Who has the right to defy unjust laws? Who has the duty to do so? What is the proper role and responsibility of the judge? Is it to uphold the law even at the expense of justice, or is it to do justice even in defiance of the law? And who is to say whether or not a law is just? Who judges the judges?
These are the sorts of tough questions that are raised by this movie. And it actually takes them seriously, presents well-reasoned and passionate arguments for competing points of view, and doesn't try to give the audience easy answers. You should feel uncomfortable after watching this film. You should have a lot more questions, doubts, and uncertainties about the true meaning of justice at the end of this movie than you had at the beginning. It should leave you with the nagging feeling that, although the final verdict in this case may have been just, the big issues raised by this case have not really been resolved, and may never be resolvable. Justice is not the mechanical application of some universally agreed-upon legal formula that is guaranteed to produce an intellectually and emotionally satisfying verdict. Justice is messy; it is controversial; and it is never quite as satisfying as we'd like it to be. Judges simply have to do the best they can, and try to wrestle a just outcome out of the laws they are sworn to uphold. So, the irony of judges being put on trial for the "crime" of upholding the law should not be lost on anyone. Yes, in this case, the law itself was unjust; but the judges didn't make the law, nor could they have changed it. But did they have a legal duty -- a duty, not to the existing law of the land, of course, but to a higher law with universal jurisdiction -- to refuse to uphold unjust laws? And does any court have the authority or the right to punish them for failing to do so? This is, perhaps, the ultimate legal dilemma.
This movie is a work of fiction, though it is based on actual events (much in the same way that director Stanley Kramer's previous film, "Inherit the Wind", was a fictionalized portrayal of the infamous Scopes "Monkey" Trial). The events depicted in this film take place near the end of the Nuremberg war crimes tribunals that were held shortly after the end of the Second World War. The Nazi leaders responsible for the war and the Holocaust had already been tried and sentenced; and many of them had already been executed. Interest in the tribunals had waned, as both Germans and Americans wanted to get closure on the war and the Nazi era, and get on with their lives. The Western allies were preoccupied with the emerging Cold War and the ongoing dispute with the Soviets over the status of Berlin; and they needed the support of the German people. Under these circumstances, the Nuremberg trials were starting to be seen as a nuisance. Zealous prosecutors, having hanged or imprisoned most of the top Nazi leadership, were now starting to go after the "little fish", including a number of officials in the German government who were not involved in the formulation of Nazi policies, but who went along with those policies once they were in place. As the legal and moral culpability of the defendants became more disputable, the trials themselves became more controversial. Many Germans were starting to feel that what had begun as a high-minded effort to bring notorious war criminals to justice was starting to degenerate into a petty postwar settling of scores, in which bitter Americans were seeking to punish ordinary Germans for allowing Hitler to rise to power and wage war against the United States and its allies. After all, by what legitimate authority can an ad hoc military tribunal set up by an occupying power pass legal judgment on the civilian officials of a (previously) sovereign state -- officials who have not personally committed any war crimes under the generally recognized laws of war, or any crimes under the laws of the state that (formerly) had jurisdiction over them -- solely for the alleged "crime" of serving under an evil regime and carrying out its immoral policies? A tribunal of this sort would represent an unprecedented challenge to the very notion of state sovereignty -- the principle that every state has the absolute right to govern itself according to its own laws, and that no state has the right to interfere in the purely internal affairs of any other state. But, in the aftermath of the most destructive war in history, and especially after the truth about the Holocaust had come to light, the American occupation forces were in no mood to debate the finer points of international law when it came to bringing the perpetrators of Nazi atrocities to justice; so a number of German government officials were put on trial essentially for doing their jobs, and acting in accordance with the law of the land, while Hitler was in power.
Some of the officials put on trial were judges and prosecutors. They were charged with aiding and abetting the Nazis' oppression of their political rivals (especially communists) and of racial minorities (especially Jews). In essence, these judicial officials were alleged to have prosecuted, tried, and convicted people whose only "crime" was belonging to the wrong political faction or the wrong ethnic group, in some cases sentencing them to death or to forced sterilization. But these accused officials insisted that they were not trying to pervert justice in order to advance the Nazi cause. Rather, they were simply doing their jobs as officers of the court: insuring that the law of the land was followed to the letter by all who fell under the court's jurisdiction, without prejudice. They claimed that all those who were prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced by German courts were actually guilty of crimes under German law. During the Nazi era, a number of laws were passed that many people, including many judges and prosecutors, saw as unjust. But, in Germany, just as in the United States, it is the duty of every judge and prosecutor to uphold the law, whether he agrees with it or not. Judges and prosecutors are not meant to be legislators or politicians. Their job is to see that the law of the land is followed, not to dictate what that law ought to be or how the country ought to be run. If laws are unjust, that is the fault of lawmakers, not judicial officials. So it's not really fair to hold judges and prosecutors accountable for bad laws passed by evil politicians. Or at least that's what the German judicial officials tried at Nuremberg would have us believe.
This movie is a fictionalized account of the trial of these judges and prosecutors for their (alleged) complicity in the crimes of the Nazi regime. It is brilliantly acted, especially by Maximilian Schell, who plays the young German lawyer responsible for defending the accused judicial officials, and by Montgomery Clift, who gives an amazing performance as a man who had been forcibly sterilized for feeblemindedness under Nazi-era eugenics laws. Also of note are Spencer Tracy, who plays the presiding judge over the tribunal, and Burt Lancaster, who plays the chief defendant, a highly respected German jurist who, though he hated Hitler, felt he could still do some good as a judicial official, even under Nazi rule. The movie also features Richard Widmark as the chief American prosecutor, Judy Garland as a key witness at the trial, Marlene Dietrich as the widow of a German general who had been tried and hanged in an earlier phase of the Nuremberg trials, and a young William Shatner as the military aide to the presiding judge.
If you are a student of law, political science, or philosophy -- in fact, if you are studying any of the humanities or social sciences -- you really need to see this film. It is definitely thought provoking, and would be a great catalyst for group discussion. It's a bit too long for classroom use (about 3 hours); but if you're an educator and can somehow arrange for your students to watch it, it would really be worth it, whether you're teaching law, ethics, political philosophy, history, critical thinking, or rhetoric and debate. (Or drama, for that matter, since there's some really good acting in this movie.) I encourage you to take the time to watch it. It truly is an excellent film.
on December 13, 2014
Ernst Janning: "What about those of us who knew better? We who knew the words were lies, and worse than lies? Why did we sit silent? Why did we take part?" Why indeed? Ernst Janning is the only tragic figure among the judges tried in this courtroom drama, but can his heartfelt remorse absolve him of his guilt? As the story unfolds, it has been three years since the end of WW II in Europe and most of the important Nazis have been tried and punished. This trial is about four German judges who used their offices to enforce Nazi sterilization and ethnic cleansing policies. Retired American judge, Dan Haywood, has the daunting task as the chief judge of a three-judge tribunal to render a verdict on the crimes committed and pass sentence on fellow judges. The Cold War is heating up and America and the rest of the allies are losing their taste for punishing Germans...can Judge Haywood put politics aside and render judgement for the crimes committed? This is an outstanding courtroom drama and indictment of Nazi Germany; and a masterful performance by director, Stanley Kramer...and though it was critically acclaimed, sadly it did not even recoup production costs at the box office. In addition to Kramer's performance behind the camera, look for.outstanding dramatic performances by several actors. That includes Spencer Tracy, as Judge Haywood; Maximilian Schell, in only his second Hollywood performance, who won an Oscar playing the defense attorney attorney; Burt Lancaster as Ernst Janning; and Richard Widmark as the prosecuting attorney. Also look for Marlene Dietrich as the widow of a Nazi general who befriends Judge Haywood; Judy Garland and Montgomery Clift as witnesses for the prosecution; and in their film debuts, William Shatner, and Werner Klemperer. One of my all-time favorite films; if you have any interest in WW II and Nazi Germany, you will want to see this!
on July 20, 2011
When a nation is facing insurmountable issues and problems, what is moral and what is right can take a backseat to political expediency. History has shown that a nation in crisis can take a misguided path with tragic consequences.
Judgment At Nuremberg takes a meticulous look at four German jurists who sacrificed the principles of justice and decency for their homeland and Fuehrer. In many ways this film as written by Abby Mann, Oscar winner, and directed by Stanley Kramer explores this human tendency to allow the good of the state to replace the rule of just law for all citizens.
This film has a stellar cast headed by the incredible Spencer Tracy as Chief Judge Dan Haywood, a country lawyer from Maine given a difficult case which was a Catch 22. No matter what the outcome there were no winners.
Maximilian Schell in his Oscar winning performance as the defense counsel for the German jurists is pure brilliance. He is just a great actor.
Burt Lancaster, as Dr. Ernst Janning, Minister of Justice, is an excellent look at a man lost in his guilt. One could not help but feel for Janning, especially when he gives his passionate speech about the "fever" in the land. The closing scene between him and Haywood is priceless as the iron jail door closes on him as he realizes the magnitude of that one decision he made back in 1935 and the ultimate consequences.
Richard Widmark played the prosecutor Colonel Tad Lawson flawlessly. His crusade for justice overrode his humanity and compassion.
Judy Garland and Montgomery Clift as two victims were riveting in their testimonies. Marlene Dietrich as the widow of a German General executed by the Americans was a tragic figure who did not or could not accept what her country did to millions of innocent victims. Her defense of her husband was commendable.
A very young William Shatner played Captain Harry Byers to a tee. Of course, he had the only romantic interest in the film with a German girl.
In many ways the film is a commentary on McCarthyism. What happened during this time period in America ( late 1940s and 50s ) demonstrate that truth, justice and the American way can be tabled when fear grips the nation, especially fear inspired by the powerful few.
The film was nominated for 11 Oscars and 6 Golden Globes. It is 186 minutes/Black and White. The Special Features are worth a view.