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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Judgment at Nuremberg centers on a military tribunal convened in Nuremberg, Germany, in which four German judges and prosecutors stand accused of crimes against humanity for their involvement in atrocities committed under the Nazi regime. Judge Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy) is the Chief Trial Judge of a three-judge panel that will hear and decide the case against the defendants. Haywood begins his examination by trying to learn how the defendant Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster) could have sentenced so many people to death. Janning, it is revealed, is a well- educated and internationally respected jurist and legal scholar. Haywood seeks to understand how the German people could have turned blind eyes and deaf ears to the crimes of the Nazi regime. In doing so, he befriends the widow (Marlene Dietrich) of a German general who had been executed by the Allies. He talks with a number of Germans who have different perspectives on the war. Other characters the judge meets are US Army Captain Byers (William Shatner), who is assigned to the American party hearing the cases, and Irene Hoffman (Judy Garland), who is afraid to provide testimony that may bolster the prosecution's case against the judges.
Spencer Tracy is at his best in this film. It is a post World War II trial of four judges who made decisions during the reign of Hitler. We get a look at the causes of the German people's allegiance to the horrible tyrant. We get to see why the decisions made by the judges were not so simple and we get a sense of their humanity. We don't get a simplistic presentation of them as monsters. They were men who were forced to make decisions that may not be moral but which put country first. There is a real sense that we are the flies on the walls of Spencer Tracy's office. He is determined to make the correct decision and decide whether these men should be executed. Their crimes are pretty black and white. The screenplay is remarkable. It took into account the realities of the time and the aftermath of the German people. One thing to remember is that after the war, the people themselves were forward thinking. Remarkable performances by Tracy and, particularly by Burt Lancaster.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film is very dispiriting for many different reasons, but the
outstanding acting and writing, including some of the most powerful
courtroom presentations in cinematic history, as well as the importance
of its critical subject matter demand our attention as serious
Why do I find this movie so disheartening? I compiled an entire list of reasons.
1. It reveals the indisputable fact that so many high level officials in the Third Reich eventually were allowed to enjoy the carefree lives of retirement from which their millions of victims were deprived by the most cruel and inhumane means imaginable. In fact, how many of these high level Third Reich officials were even tried in the first place? We should not expect any true sense of justice in our world.
2. Defense Attorney Hans Rolfe, played magnificently by Maximillian Schell and earning him a well deserved Oscar for his efforts, is correct. The guilt for the genocide that occurred during World War II extends far beyond Germany. The human race itself is guilty not only for directly committing unspeakable acts of cruelty against itself but for allowing others to execute such acts when they were clearly known by so many all over the world at the time. This guilt exists today while hundreds of thousands of people, including many innocent civilians, are dying in the Syrian civil war, for example, while the so-called "leaders" of the world not only refuse to stop it but consciously support and promote the barbarity. We're not talking about the distant past in this case. It's happening today. It's happening now.
3. As the laws of the Third Reich were in themselves cruel and inhumane, the deeply felt bigotry and hatred of Judge Emil Hahn (Werner Klemperer) aside, how much should we expect from the average person in any position when the prevailing law of the land is intrinsically evil as well as enormously powerful? When I look around me today, how many respectable Americans in the place of Ernst Janning, played so well by Burt Lancaster as a renown legal scholar of his time, would actively resist a system of malevolence? Who among us would be strong enough to fight such an overwhelming, malicious establishment without fear of enormously dire consequences? Ernst Janning surely did not resist the Third Reich as he willingly and knowingly carried out its despicable laws.
4. In spite of the huge sacrifices of so many Americans on and off the battlefields of World War II, many Americans also believed as Judge Curtiss Ives (Ray Teal) did that these high officials, in this case very influential judges, were "merely" applying the prevailing laws of their government as they were supposed to do, regardless of how sinister and repellent they were, and therefore should not be punished at all. Chief Judge Dan Haywood, the no-nonsense and often very blunt Mainer, played very thoughtfully and skillfully by Spencer Tracy, reminded Ives that mere logic and the professional requirement to enforce evil laws did not overrule the need to do what is right to an even higher authority or to one's conscience. Unfortunately Ives, who obviously resented the inconvenience of his appointment to the tribunal from the very start, totally rejected Haywood's sage advice. Was he even listening to Haywood? If Teal, the actor, was supposed to annoy me to such an extreme, he surely succeeded in that task.
5. The war caused immense physical and psychological suffering, not only to the obvious victims of the Third Reich but to the German people themselves. If they had starved and deteriorated as a society to such an extent following the first world war, wasn't there another path to their recovery than the one that they had consciously chosen as a nation?
The fact that Nuremburg was the site of the enormous, delirious, and enthusiastic rallies of Adolph Hitler never escaped the mind of the director, Stanley Kramer, and he very effectively reminded the viewer of this highly tragic irony. Kramer also emphasized that Schell's and Lancaster's speeches were the most important in the courtroom by dramatically zooming in on them. Under the circumstances, I wonder if this technique was even necessary?
Aside from the first-rate performances of Schell, Lancaster, and Tracy, I was especially impressed by the character of Mrs. Bertholt, as portrayed by Marlene Dietrich. To me, Mrs. Bertholt effectively symbolized a shattered Germany in more ways than one following the war. As she sat in the frozen silence of last scene, what on earth was occurring in her mind as the phone rang unanswered? Although Mrs. Berthold felt an immense sense of injustice in her own personal sacrifice as the result of the war, did she even begin to understand her own personal responsibility as an upstanding German citizen while crimes on a mass scale were being committed in her name and in every direction? Did she not know or did she choose not to know about them? For Ms. Dietrich, who actively opposed the politics of the Third Reich but never abandoned a deep love for her native country and culture, this was a very important and emotional role. I could feel the intensity throughout her performance.
Not all great movies have happy endings with clear resolutions. This movie may not have had even one truly happy moment within it, but it must be seen by all serious moviegoers who seek to understand a very terrible time in human history. If there are no clear answers, we still need to ask the many, many required questions. If we don't ask them, we risk repeating the horrors of the past.
An all-star cast delivers top notch performances in Stanley Kramer's excellent courtroom drama, "Judgement At Nuremburg". Maximilian Schell is a revelation in his Oscar-winning turn as the defense counsel for four German judges being tried for war crimes during the Third Reich's reign in Germany.The judges are charged with handing out morally wrong convictions handed down to citizens who opposed the state, or were politically affiliated with parties who opposed the Nazis, and then passing cruel sentences to those citizens, which included women and children. Heinous punishments which included sentences to concentration camps, sterilization of citizens and mass executions are discussed at great length. Kramer gets superb performances out of Montgomery Cliff and the great Judy Garland, as broken victims of these verdicts. It includes messages of how the military establishment will continue to repeat mistakes of the past, as well as the message to the whole world that we should never forget the sins of war, whether it affects millions, or one human life. A powerful film, whose 3 hour length flies by as the drama grips you.
The stars come out to shine in this film but it is very rewarding to
notice some of the smaller roles that make "Judgement at Nuremburg".
1)Mr and Mrs Halbestadt as played by Ben Wright and Virginia Christine as representations of the ordinary German people. They have been caught up in something beyond their control although there is a hint that they were at least passive supporters of Hitler. "I won't say that Hitler didn't do some good things he built the autobahn," says Mrs Halbestadt. The pair are now caught up in another situation (The American occupation) in which they feel that passive subservience is the best strategy to survive. They have lost a son in the army and a daughter in the bombing and now they must feel the unease of being under the control of people they don't know and who do not understand them. Both actors do a great job of portraying an apprehensiveness that the whole nation must have felt.
2) Schmidt as played by Paul Busch. He is a driver for Judge Heywood and the first German we see. He is relatively young and stares straight ahead and beeps aggressively at the sparse traffic as he drives the American judge and senator through the bombed-out ruins of Nuremburg. We are sure that Schmidt feels much more than he is prepared to reveal as he drives on and follows the commands and answers the questions of his new superiors with a stiff obedience.
3) Otto Waldis as Pohl, a right hand man at a concentration camp. His emotionally detached response to the question of how the extermination of millions of people could be possible tells all. "It's possible. It all depends on your facilities." The response answered the question of the logistics but also the mental approach that could make it possible. Otto Waldis as Pohl is chillingly matter-of-fact as he eats his lunch and repeats what were the actual words of a real Nuremburg Trial defendant Rudolf Hoss.
4) Howard Caine as Hugo Wallner. He plays the husband of Judy Garland's character, his wife who is being persuaded to testify against fellow Germans. The couple have a very modest shop as a new start after the war and fear retribution should Mrs Wallner testify. Caine's performance again gives the ordinary person's sense of despair and frustration at having the repercussions of the war continue to impact on their lives. The couple have obviously suffered and are now being asked to sacrifice by people who move in circles far above them. It is easy to say they have a moral duty to testify against injustice and evil but it is they who will bear the consequence and Hugo Wallner's response is not totally indefensible. "I say to hell with them and to hell with you."
5) Olga Fabian as Mrs Lindnow. A brilliant portrait of the dangers of giving ordinary, powerless people power over others the basis of why Nazism was so popular. She, even years later and after a devastating war, enjoys another chance at being party to the cruel persecution of Mrs Wallner. Nazism had given Mrs Lindnow her moment of power and importance. The power to be cruel to others and have it legitimized by law and government has never been better depicted than in the person of Mrs Lindnow.
There are others but I will let you look for them. There are no small parts in this film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie is perfect on every level - the casting; the acting; the
screen writing; the direction; the filming; the ambiance of every
scene, especially in the courtroom; the passion of every
actor...nothing could be remade any better.
Like so many remakes...to remake this movie would be a dishonor to this work of art!
Heading the cast as the leading judge of the trials, and, as the leading defendant, are two of my personal favorites...Spencer Tracy and Burt Lancaster, respectively. As with every other movie these two American icons have ever made, they are both impeccable in this classic as well.
Although this movie is 'very loosely based upon' the post-World War II Nuremberg Trails; and, doesn't mention real (names of) judges, lawyers, and/or, Nazi defendants (all characters are fictitious, although, the crimes are not) - this is still a great cinematic achievement starring miracle-working actors.
William Shatner (Captain Kirk from "Star Trek TOS" (1966), before he was Captain Kirk), is in this; as is Werner Klemperer (Colonel Klink from "Hogan's Heroes" (1965) before he was Colonel Klink - and, he's 'not funny' in this movie). Other greats are Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich, and, Maximilian Schell, whom need no introduction at all; Judy Garland from "The Wizard Of Oz;" Montgomery Clift from "From Here To Eternity" (where he also starred with Burt Lancaster); as well as great character actors like Ray Teal (the sheriff from "Bonanza"); and, Karl Swenson ("The Birds" and "Little House on the Prairie").
Another noted detail of this movie is the highly-versatile director, Stanley Kramer. Can anyone believe that he directed Spencer Tracy in this 'very serious' movie in 1961; then, two years later, directed Tracy in the 'very funny' "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" in 1963; then, again, in the highly-popular and controversial "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" in 1967 (Spencer Tracy's last movie)!?!? WOW! That's directorial mood control and eclectic charm!
This is just a perfect movie...about a very imperfect time in the history of mankind.
Judgment at Nuremberg is a 1961 film directed by Stanley Kramer and
starring Spencer Tray, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Marlene
Dietrich and Maximilian Schell. Based on the homonymous novel by Abby
Mann, which is based on true events, it portrays the events following
the World War II in Germany, focusing on the trial of four Nazi judges
by an American courtroom.
Much can be said about the technical work and the acting of this movie: Kramer's camera work explores the confined space of the court (stage to 90% of the movie), managing the plot development in a masterful way. His way of solving the language issue of the plot may look strange at first but it gradually turns into the most natural and simple option. As a whole, the brilliant direction places the viewer directly into the courtroom. Once there, one of the strongest casts in the history of Hollywood does the rest. There is no less-shining star on this brightful constellation, one can almost feel that every actor realized the genius of the script they had in their hands and gave it a life that a thousand of years of cinema won't surpass!
And this takes us to the writing. To tell you about how much the whole premise and the writing meant to me I have to tell an episode from my own life: Last year I had the opportunity to visit Anne Frank's House in Amsterdam. After 2 hours of waiting under a cold rain to enter the house, I finally started what would become one of the most terrifying and unforgettable experiences I ever had. I left completely overwhelmed by the whole atmosphere inside those walls, practically bursting in tears and I had to walk for hours to ease my mind. I still have a poster with Anne's face on the wall of my room - so I won't forget it. This movie made all those memories come back. Made me have to pause a lot of times to take a deep breath, made me want to scream of frustration and of hate for all that made so many deaths possible. I have to think really hard if I want to think of any movie better written than this one, and being me a huge fan of great scripts, that says a lot. This is what cinema is all about, in my opinion - create situations and atmospheres that resonate inside oneself like as if they were real. I am not German nor Jew. I wasn't born when World War II took place. My country didn't take part in it. But I felt like I was ageless and countryless. I felt like all mankind should feel about what happened in Europe during the Third Reich. The fact that the Europe is slowly going in that direction again is as frightening as is infuriating. Another reason this masterpiece should be exhibited world-wide so they won't forget.
Thank you Stanley Kramer
"Judgment at Nuremberg" is a history movie in which we watch as the
title says the judgment which did in Nuremberg. There an American court
in occupied Germany judges four Nazi for war crimes. This trial takes
place is Germany and at a time that Cold War is heating up and no one
wants any more trials. Tribunal has a difficult task ahead and has to
be very careful with this because it reminds a lot to people and is a
very delicate topic.
I really liked this movie because of the plot which I found just brilliant and because the direction which made by Stanley Kramer was also very good. I have to admit that I liked a lot the interpretation of Maximilian Schell who played as Hans Rolfe and he was simply outstanding (won the Oscar for the Best Actor in a Leading Role). Another good interpretations made by Spencer Tracy who played as Chief Judge Dan Haywood and Burt Lancaster who played as Dr. Ernst Janning.
Finally I have to say that "Judgment at Nuremberg" is a must see movie in which we learn some very interesting facts about the World War II which are presented very well. I also believe that because this movie is based on some real facts that had happened in the past, that is something that makes this movie even more special and unique. I strongly recommend it to everyone.
I've seen this movie, all or in part, I don't know how many times.
It's a long movie. There are parts that are just filler.
But there are also scenes in which an intelligent, nuanced, well-constructed script, delivered by truly great actors led by a great director, rises to a level that has never been surpassed, not even by Shakespeare performed by our greatest actors.
I do not say this lightly.
The scene where Maximillian Schell's character grills Judy Garland's character until he is finally stopped by Burt Lancaster's character, rips your heart out.
Burt Lancaster's character's subsequent condemnation of himself and his fellow judges - and Germans - is good dialogue delivered with such great delivery that you truly believe you are hearing greatness. And, I guess, you are, because of how Lancaster delivers the text.
Schell's character's subsequent speech arguing that Germany's guilt was a shared guilt is brilliantly written. I don't care for his delivery of it, but the text is remarkable nevertheless.
Listening to great actors deliver dialogue that they can raise to the highest levels is a wonder. It makes us marvel at what is truly great acting.
What a work of art!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie is a great courtroom drama! It is interesting as it speaks
of a very evil time of Nazi Germany. The plot of the movie is very well
done, but this movie is about 30 minutes too long. Some "non-courtroom"
scenes could easily be cut. I loved the cast in this movie. Which is
always pretty much the most important factor determining the greatness
of a particular movie.
** SPOILER ALERT **
As 4 judges of Nazi Germany are judged for their cooperation with Hitler's Nazi Germany, viewer himself can participate in observing his own opinion and how the prosecution and defense may sway his or her stand on the issue.
The high point of the movie is the Janning (Lancester) taking a stand and giving a testimony about how he believes he actually is guilty.
Overall a great movie. But not the easiest to watch due to it's length and some dull moments. A big minus for that.
My real rating: 8.0
MY RATING SYSTEM:
9.4 - 10 = rating 10 ***** 8.9 - 9.3 = rating 9 ***** 8.4 - 8.8 = rating 8 ***** 7.9 - 8.3 = rating 7
7.4 - 7.8 = 6 7.0 - 7.3 = 5 6.0 - 6.9 = 4 5.0 - 5.9 = 3 4.0 - 4.9 = 2 1.0 - 3.9 = 1
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