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This is a fine film by a fine director, but I can only hope that Stanley
Kramer, in committing to full length film a television story, knew at
the message his movie was trying to say. Because this is truly a message
movie, for all mankind, but if the reviews I've read on this site are any
indication, the message has been lost to some degree.
I've entitled my review "Revelation of Horror", but the horror revealed was not the Holocaust. That had already been revealed, although Kramer's film certainly lent its emotional impact. The revelation was a deep, true insight into how it happened, and the horror is that it happened in a civilized country. Few on this earth can imagine the true horror of Nazi Germany--I've read criticism of Widmark's Colonel Lawson as too preachy, but the character and the acting conveyed the mission of one who actually saw the horrors, beyond any scope we can identify with.
Kramer's achievement is that everything in this movie reminds us that the Nazi's used every facet of civilization, no matter how minute, to foster their extermination of their enemies, to inculcate it as an ordinary part of life. That was why judges were chosen to portray the issue of "obeying orders" versus "human decency." Herr Rolf is "forced" to defend the worst criminals imaginable, and yet his very defense and the principles behind it are abused in the process, used as a weapon against the very law they represent. Thus did the Nazis prevail with the willing acquiescence of the German people, and the abominable disregard of the rest of the world.
The other horror revealed in this film is the incessant excusing of it. Beyond the obvious pleas of the guilty ("We didn't know", or as one judge says to another, "Was it possible to kill like that?") are the multiplicity of subtle excuses: the reminder of centuries' old German culture, Rolf's plaintive cry of "unfairness" at the showing of the death camp films because of their inflammatory nature, the invocation of "Lili Marlene" throughout the film, to name just a few. While the song evokes sadness, a guilty German society meant for it to invoke sadness. Long before Germany had its country destroyed by bombs, it had its soul destroyed by Hitler.
Because this is a courtroom drama, respecting the sacred role of the Rule of Law in safeguarding humanity, almost every scene, every line is a statement that Nazi Germany perverted the Rule of Law, as did the very defense of the war criminals. But what is principle on a small scale of a single man being judged by society becomes outrage when used to defend the indefensible on an impossibly massive scale. Tracy's character at the film's end has a realization that this is so, as well as an awareness that what happened in Germany during the Third Reich was an Aristotelian tragedy for anyone touched by it, even remotely, so that any personal considerations (such as Mrs. Berthold) are made utterly impossible.
Rolf's speech about the guilty responsibility of the rest of the world was valid--but he was indicting the world to save one man. Where have we heard that in our own time? This quality about "Judgment at Nuremburg" makes its message forever fresh--and its warnings.
If this is not considered as one of THE great films of all time, then
all of us film fans should pack up bags and go home I cannot fault
anyone, any scene, anything in this film. The dialogue races along in
its smooth yet supremely captivating style. You grab a film like this,
see a whole host of famous actors, and wonder if such a mix could ever
work. It does, believe me, it really, really does.
Tracy. He was given the most powerful of dialogues, he presents it to us in a way that does not shout at you, yet holds you in a vice like grip every time he comes on screen. With his characteristic method of looking down whilst talking, hands in pocket, that small sly look up that he does, vintage Spencer, just how you would imagine a judge to be, or should be.
The supporting cast, again, never lets the film down. Some have the opportunity to step up a notch, Snell, Widmark, and others play their roles in a more subtle manner, Garland and Dietrich. And others just wipe away the floor with their presence, Clift and Lancaster for example.
And the story by Abby Mann - incredible.
Shot in black and white, it makes you think, it makes you smile, it will make you sad, and in the end you will be all the better for having seen one of the greatest films ever made, you will be richer for the experience, and you will be wiser.
You will also be able to say that you saw what Hollywood can do, you saw what great actors can do when put amongst their peers and are not 'stars' of a movie but are part of a larger ensemble.
And you will also see why this particular group were, genuinely, the very best Hollywood had to offer, period.
They say that time heals all heartache. In the case of the Third Reich,
I'm not sure that the old saying is true. Out of respect for the
Holocaust victims, and as an important history lesson, there's
something to be said for not forgetting the evils of Hitler.
Fortunately, we have this great film to help us not forget.
"Judgment At Nuremberg" is a dramatization of one of the many real life post WWII Nuremberg trials of high ranking Nazis. Most of the film focuses on the 1948 courtroom trial of four judges who helped to carry out Hitler's decrees. As part of the prosecution's case against the judges, real life, graphic film footage showing the horrors of the death camps engenders a gut level impression that is both powerful and persuasive. The film thus educates viewers in ways that a dry textbook of facts and figures never could.
But there's more to the film than the trial. In other parts of Nuremberg we see ordinary Germans trying to get on with their lives as best they can, three years after the war's end, in a bombed out and bleak city. One of these persons is Madame Bertholt (Marlene Dietrich), the wife of a dead German soldier. In contrast to the harsh and contentious trial, Madame Bertholt's kindness toward the tribunal's lead judge, Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy), provides an example of the innocence and decency of ordinary Germans, and thus adds a softer, more contemplative perspective to the ordeal. In these non-courtroom scenes, the melancholy background music and the soft production lighting create a mood of depression and sadness.
I find very little to criticize in this three hour film. Perhaps the plot could have been clearer in identifying the legal counsel of three of the four defendants. And maybe in those scenes wherein the four defendants conversed among themselves, the dialogue should have been in German, not English. But these are trivial points. Overall, this is a film that is well written and directed, a film with credible actors giving stellar performances, and most of all, a film that assures preservation of that era's historic significance, with a political and social message that has enduring value.
Beyond its compelling subject matter "Judgement At Neuremberg" revolutionizes the court room drama genre. The camera swings and swerves and dives between the lines of this exemplary Abby Mann script. Stanley Kramer conducts his orchestra of iconic stars with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker. The language barriers and the confinement of the action masterfully resolved. Spencer Tracy is simply magnificent and, as per usual, we believe every word that comes out of his mouth. His judge is an American monument of unsentimental humanity. Twentynine year old Maimilian Schell won the Oscar as best actor and his performance survived the test of time with the vigor of his conviction. Montgomery Cliff makes his short minutes on the screen, one of those memorable moments that nobody that has ever seen it will be able to forget. The man and the character merging into one chilling, shattering truth. "I am half the man I've ever been" Marlene Dietrich gives to her German aristocrat a legendary star quality. And Judy Garland, overweight and almost unrecognizable breaks your heart and gets her last Oscar nomination. My only troubles came with the stoic Burt Lancaster because I could never forget it was Burt Lancaster and with Richard Widmark's strident prosecutor. I have seen "Judgement At Neuremberg" more than a dozen times and it never ceases to amaze me that no matter the darkness of the subject it always manages to entertain and inspire.
Judgement At Nurmeberg is a 1961 film about four Nazi Judges are in
trial for crimes against humanity. Well let me just start out by saying
that this is a very sad, powerful film. I was expecting it to be very
boring and I guess I underestimated it. The film is also very well
written, so well written that actually it makes you really think. I'm
happy that it won an Oscar for writing.
The best quality about the film HAS to be the acting. Judy Garland, I think should of won a Supporting Actress. This is her finest performance ever, and I'm sad she didn't win one. Maximilian Schell gives the performance of a lifetime in his role as the defense attorney for the judges. He truly deserved his Oscar because he was very powerful. Spencer Tracy also gave a quite exceptional performance as he always had. (He isn't a Two-Time Oscar Winner for nothing. As for Montgomery Clift he deserved his Oscar Nomination. I am kind of ticked off that Marlene didn't get an Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actress. I always feel she is underrated.
As for Stanley Kramer (The Director) he had real talent and this film shows it. The 9-Time Oscar nominated Director should've of won an Oscar for Best Director for Judgement at Nuremberg. I hope his talent though will be remembered for many years to come.
My Overall Consensus is that the movie definitely succeeds due to the Extraordinary Performances and the Quite Exceptional Writing.
You Should see this Film. 10/10
Probably one of the best movies on Justice and Nazism. Probably one of the
best performances of actors that I know. Probably one of best pictures of
the post war... and yet almost forgotten as if sacrificed on the altar of
the cold war.
Too intellectual and too realistic, not enough young and fresh heroes.... Pointing an accusing finger where nobody wanted it to be pointed for so many years.
This movie is a compelling experience and historically so true. Watch it now and keep it for your children.
I have always been fond of Stanley Kramer's work , but this movie proved to be quite extraordinary and exceptional .The movie has every thing you can desire and human sentiments are at there level best. The plot is written by Abby Mann who won best screenplay Oscar from that and quite deserving one. The story based on Nuremberg trials held after fall of Nazi's in Germany but this movie is nice blend of history with fiction as the major characters were fictional but the evidences and indictments presented in the trial ever authentic and truly depicts the conditions of Nazi occupied Germany. The most intriguing thing of the movie was the true representation of aftermaths of Nazi's occupation in Germany and the feeling of German toward the trial and immaculate direction of Kramer made possible to convey these types of sentiment on cinema for the very first time. The cast was also fascinating with big names like Tracy and surely he did justice with his role as he was very compelling and humble as Judge Haywood. Maximilian Schell was at his best as a compassionate enthusiastic zealous and patriotic attorney to defend the dignity of Nation. He won best actor Oscar for his role. Montgomery Clift was also the one who made this movie special as he played a role of feeble minded sterile man who was nominated for best actor in supporting role though he only played for 9 min in the movie. Burt Lancaster gave one of the most extraordinary cinematic performances as Ernst Janning. This is one of those movies which provokes our mentality and also our morality and is a treat to watch.
This quote is one of the most shocking and yet truthful quotes I have
ever heard. It is one of many shocking and intense quotes in the movie.
Furthermore Judgment at Nuremburg is one of the most absorbing movies I
have seen. Even though most if not all of it is dialog it is very much
a haunting film. This film is loosely based on the trials in Nuremburg
in 1948. Right from the start the movie captures your mind and never
lets it go.
The acting was collectively amazing. One of the best casts ever assembled which included Spencer Tracy, Montgomery Clift, Judy Garland, Richard Widmark, Burt Lancaster as well as international stars Maximilian Schell and Marlene Dietrich. It is not just the fact that this is a star studded cast that made it so great, it was the way everyone appeared to blend in together. Maximilian Schell gave the performance of his life in this film playing the defense lawyer for Burt Lancaster who give two superb narratives that will certainly stay in your mind forever. Schell's character use of logic is that of something which will mesmerize use you whether or not you agree or disagree with what he says. Richard Widmark playing the prosecutor gave the type of supporting performance that was necessary for Schell to shine. The way both actors fed off each other was a joy to watch. Then of course the tiny appearances of Garland and Clift were excellent and worth every second they spent on camera. I usually find myself frustrated with cameos and actors receiving recognition for them but this film used cameos the best way I have ever seen. Then of course Spencer Tracy and Marlene Dietrich provided such great presence were perfect for the lead.
The direction of Stanley Kramer was spectacular as the film intensified more and more as it wore on. It was always engrossing and never let up. The writing of Abby Mann was great, filled up with great material and narratives allowing every actor in the cast to give a superb performance. There were many memorable quotes as well. The writing carried the film forward and allowed all the potential and talent to push this film to another level.
Judgement at Nuremburg is not just another movie. It is a very thought provoking movie. More than that though it is haunting. Just thinking about the course of the events being talked about in the movie became subtly haunting in a way I really didn't expect. What was the most compelling though was the way we need to separate what we feel with what has to be truly done, with what is truly right.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Judgment at Nuremberg" is one of the great films of all time. This can
be attributed to the excellent script written by Abby Mann, its
skillful direction by Stanley Kramer and possibly one of the greatest
casts ever assembled for a motion picture.
The subject trial takes place in 1948 long after the trials of the major German military generals when most people had lost interest in such proceedings. Writer Mann chose to write about the trial of German judges, the people who above all, should have seen the evil of Hitler and his followers coming.
Assigned to the trial as Chief Judge is Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy) a low profile justice who by his own admission was not the original or subsequent choice. The prosecutor is Col. Tad Lansing (Richard Widmark) an "army man" who vows to convict the four ex-German Judges. Defending the accused is Hans Rolfe (Maximillian Schell) who must convince the court that the defendants were acting only for the love of their country.
Among the defendants are respected Judge Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster) who has written several books on law accepted the world over. Lawson accuses the defendants of signing orders for the sterilization of innocent men and the execution of those who opposed to the Reich and the extermination of the jews. He puts Rudolph Peterson (Montgomery Clift) on the stand as a victim of sterilization. Rolfe manages to expose the pitiful Peterson as mentally challenged. Later Irene Hoffman (Judy Garland) is put on the stand to explain her alleged affair at the age of 16 with an elderly jew. As his coup de grace, Lawson shows a film depicting the horrors of German concentration camps.
In between the sessions, Judge Haywood strikes up a friendship with Madame Bertholt (Marlene Dietrich) the widow of a former German general, in whose former home the judge is staying. In spite of their differences they begin to grow fond of each other.
The army pressures Lawson to ease up and suggests that acquittal or light sentences would best serve American interests since this was the time that the blockade of Berlin was beginning. Judge Haywood is also pressured to go easy on the sentencing.
Maximillian Schell deservedly won an Oscar for his outstanding performance as Rolfe. Any one of the other principals could have easily won as well. Clift and Garland are simply outstanding as are Widmark and Lancaster. And Tracy, did he ever give a bad performance? The still beautiful Dietrich was also excellent.
Others in the cast are a very young William Shatner as Capt. Byers, a court officer, Werner Kemperer as Emil Hahn the most militant of the defendants and Ray Teal as Judge Ives. Teal had long been a fixture in westerns and is probably best remembered for playing Sheriff Coffey on TV's Bonanza.
The DVD release contains an excellent conversation between Abby Mann and Maximillian Schell plus an interview with Kramer's widow, the still beautiful former actress Karen Sharpe.
A true cinematic masterpiece.
I watched "Judgment at Nuremburg" on PBS the other night. I had never
seen it before. I expected an empty-headed, Hollywood-style,
quasi-melodrama, but I was pleasantly surprised. Even Spencer Tracy,
that universally beloved actor whose appeal has always escaped me, gave
an honest and heartfelt portrayal of a "simple man" who was also a
deeply conflicted judge.
What I liked most about this movie was that it didn't pull any punches, in the manner of other "controversial" films of its time. The defense attorney, superbly played by Maximilian Schell, weaves a simple, but undeniable web of logic:
- Sterilization of "undesirables," one of the charges against the Nazi war criminals, was at one time condoned by the U.S. courts, and encouraged by none other than Oliver Wendell Holmes. - Numerous leading industrialists in the U.S. contributed to the development of the Nazi war machine. - Encouragement was given to Hitler's expansionism by both Russia and England. - Churchill is quoted as having admired Hitler. - The Vatican actively collaborated with the Nazis.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but it must have taken major cojones to present that kind of message to American filmgoers in 1961. Would a film of that candor have a chance of being made today?
I tend to doubt it.
One further note. The film describes how the Nazis went about stripping the German judiciary of judges who were known for their objectivity, and replacing them with judges who were appointed based solely on their party loyalties.
The mind boggles at the implications and yes, the prescience of this well-written, well-played masterpiece.
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