88 of 92 people found the following review helpful
Drama at its finest about right, wrong and very hard choices,
This review is from: Judgment at Nuremberg [VHS] (VHS Tape)
There's a serious and timeless theme to this award winning 1961 courtroom drama of four former Nazi judges on trial for war crimes in occupied Germany in 1948. It's not the story of the military leaders who had already been tried and convicted. Rather, these were the men who survived the war by following the laws that ruled the nation. There are deep moral questions here, such as what a judge's responsibility is. After all, judges do not make the laws; they just carry them out.
Stanley Kramer, the director, had great material to work with. The screenplay by Abby Mann was powerful. And the cast included some of the finest actors of the time. Spencer Tracy plays the judge, a widower from Maine with simple tastes. He's a bit embarrassed to be given a large house, formerly occupied by a high ranking Nazi officer whose surviving wife is played by Marlene Dietrich. The judge has a difficult job and he ponders it as he walks through the ruins of the city with wide-eyed wonder. How could all of the horror have happened? And who is responsible?
Responsibility, however, which is the theme of the film, is not so clear cut. And as the trial progresses, all the shades of gray involved in this concept are brought to light. Burt Lancaster is cast as one of the judges on trial, a dignified and respected man of the law. Richard Widmark is cast as the prosecuting attorney, a colonel who had personally been present at the liberation of the concentration camps. And Maximilian Schell, in an Academy Award winning performance, plays the part of the defending attorney whose outstanding legal expertise keeps shedding new light on the evidence. Judy Garland is one of the witnesses, and so is Montgomery Cliff. The entire cast is excellent. I found myself holding my breath as the twists and turns of the legal implications were examined with fine-honed brilliance.
The film takes up two videotapes and runs for three hours and six minutes and there is not one slow moment. I watched it with a sense of total involvement. I couldn't help but transpose all the legal and moral arguments to what is happening in our world today. And my own mind went though its own little debate as to the subtleties of right and wrong and the hard choices that must be made. This is drama at its finest. And a truly magnificent film. I give it my highest recommendation.
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Initial post: Jun 16, 2015 6:45:38 AM PDT
Judges have a role in shaping the laws -- a point made in this film.
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