Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Judgment at Nuremberg

Stanley Kramer, 1961, bw (8.6*)
Dramatic re-enactment of the famous Nuremberg trial of the major Nazi war criminals, held in 1948. German actor Maximilian Schell, as the defense attorney for the Nazis, steals this film from all the major American actors (which include Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, and Montgomery Clift), and won an Oscar® for best actor for the performance of his lifetime. In fact, it's one of the best of all-time, one of the most impassioned ever committed to film. Others in the all-star cast include Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, and Richard Widmark.

It's really little more than another courtroom drama, only in this case the defendants are the biggest criminals of the century, if not all time - those who planned and ordered the systematic execution of the Jews during WW2.

The film is based on the actual legal transcripts of the famous trial. Each defendant claimed to have been "just following orders, under penalty of death", so the trial becomes an issue of when does an individual draw the line when his country and his orders become immoral and inhumanitarian. To what higher authority does a man owe his utmost allegiance? To country, to self, or to God? Thus the film deals with universal issues that face individuals in any time of war, and becomes an indictment of mankind itself, for no war is really different as the innocent die along with combatants.

A black-and-white classic, one of the last from a nearly extinct art form as nearly all films today are made in color.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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