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Plot: In 1948, an American court in occupied Germany tries four Nazi judges for war crimes. Runtime: 186 mins Release Date: 18 Dec 1961
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 heart 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 <more>
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.
When films like this can be made....... (by stanford-4)
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 <more>
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 <more>
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.
Cinematic Theater Of A Remarkable Kind (by littlemartinarocena)
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 <more>
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.
Would a film of that candor have a chance of being made today? (by Beaucoul)
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 <more>
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.
Fantastic acting, script, and direction in a thought-provoking movie (by gbill-74877)
Outstanding film. Star-studded with several fantastic performances. Highly emotional given the subject matter, but presented in a very intelligent, balanced way. I was struck at once by that, and by how well director Stanley Kramer gives us both sides of the argument – and avoids simply paying lip service to the defense of the German judges on trial. Maximilian Schell is brilliant as the defense attorney, well worthy of his Oscar, and is forceful and compelling in his arguments. There are also so many brilliant scenes. Spencer Tracy walking in the empty arena where the Nazi rallies were <more>
held, with Kramer focusing on the dais from which Hitler spoke. The testimony of Montgomery Clift and Judy Garland, both of whom are outstanding and should have gotten Oscars. Burt Lancaster in the role of one of the German judges, the one tortured by his complicity, knowing he and others are guilty. The devastating real film clips from the concentration camps, which are still spine tingling despite all we 'know' or have been exposed to. Marlene Dietrich as the German general's wife, haunted but expressing the German viewpoint, one time while people are singing over drinks. Her night stroll with Tracy, as she explains the words to one song, is touching. It just seemed like there was just one powerhouse scene after another, and the film did not seem long at all at three hours. Heck, you've even got Werner Klemperer and William Shatner before they would become Colonel Klink and Captain Kirk! In this film, the acting, the script, and the direction are all brilliant, and in harmony with one another.As for the trial itself, the defense argument was along these lines: they were judges and therefore interpreters , not makers of law. They didn't know about the atrocities in the concentration camps. At least one of them saved or helped many by staying in their roles and doing the best they could under the heavy hand of the Third Reich. They were patriots, saw improvement in the country when Hitler took power, but did not know how far he would go. If you were going to convict these judges, you would have to convict many more Germans and where would it stop? . The Americans themselves practiced Eugenics and killed thousands and thousands of innocents at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The one small weakness I found was that the defense never makes the simple argument that these judges were forced to do what they did, just as countless others in Germany were, and would have been imprisoned or killed themselves had they not complied. Anyone who's lived under a totalitarian regime may understand, or at least empathize.I'm not saying I bought into these arguments or that one should be an apologist to Nazis, but the fact that the film presented such a strong defense was thought provoking. How fantastic is it that Spencer Tracy plays his character the way he does – simply pursuing the facts, and in a quiet, thoughtful way. It's the best of humanity. How heartbreaking is Burt Lancaster's character, admitting they knew, admitting their guilt, knowing that what happened was horrible and that they were wrong, and yet seeking Tracy's understanding in that scene in the jail cell at the end – intellectual to intellectual - and being rebuked. Even a single life taken unjustly was wrong. Had the Axis won the war, I don't know which Americans would have been on trial for war crimes for the fire bombings of Dresden and Tokyo, or for dropping the atomic bombs, but the film makes one think, even for a war when things were seemingly as black and white as they could ever be. The particulars of this trial were fictionalized, but it's representative of what really occurred, and it transports you into events 70 years ago which seem so unreal today – and yet are so vitally important to understand, and remember.
Magnificent film based on actual events with top-notch performances by all star cast (by ma-cortes)
A stimulating portrayal of the Nuremberg trials in which members of the German judiciary were brought to response their crimes in the immediate post-war period.The movie initiates with scenes of Nuremberg, Germany, 1948. The destruction of the war is clear everywhere. Judge Haywood Spencer Tracy is driven through the rotten buildings. Judge Hayward along with two other judges Ray Teal, Kednneth Mackenna , to preside over the trial of Ministry of Justice, judges and Nazi prosecutors for their complicity in Third Reich. Hayward is helped by his assistant Harrison William Shatner . In its <more>
opening declaration , the prosecution an excellent prosecutor played by Richard Widmark calls these defendants to account not for violation of due process or other constitutional violations but for killings, tortures, and cruelties committed during WWII. The accuser statements that the accused cannot claim ignorance that they should have known better for their high position and knowledges.Defender Hans Rolfe Maximilian Schell counsel's opening statement he declares that the aim of this judgment is the reestablishment of the code of justice with honor and innocence, because of judges don't make the laws . He argues the disobedience to the Fuehrer would have been choice between patriotism and treason for the justices with the subsequent firing squad. Finally the defending explains that not only are the judges on trial, so are the German people.One of the more dramatic portions of the film centers around Judge Janning's Burt Lancaster performance during the Feldenstein case in real life, the Katzenberger case . Fedlenstein was charged with race mixing, of having relations with an Aryan, Irene Hoffman Judy Garland . The trial was to be used as a showcase for National Socialism. Emil Hahn Werner Kemplerer had been the accuser and he was determined to find Feldenstein guilty despite evidence that he had merely been a family friend to Irene Hoffman. Hahn had told Irene that it was no use to deny having relations. That if she protected Feldenstein she would be arrested for perjury. She said she couldn't lie and was arrested. She said that Emil Hahn mocked Feldenstein, ridiculed him. Janning had been the presiding judge and he took no action to prevent the injustice. He had been the only hope for the defense since he had a reputation for being fair. Feldenstein was found guilty and executed.Prosecutor Lawson Richard Widmark submitted documents by which the judges and prosecutors had sent thousands to their deaths. A film was shown , a short-documentary is based on real events by means of photographs and stock-footage. As appears work camps are transformed into extermination centers to implement the policy of genocide thought at the Wannsee Conference . At the concentration camps was some minor industrial activity linked to the war effort but the main work was the execution of inmates.Millions of prisoners died in the concentration camps through mistreatment, disease, starvation, and overwork, or were executed as unfit for labor. More than six million Jews died in them, usually in gas chambers, although many were killed in mass shootings and by other means . As the documentary showed a gas chamber at Dachau , but it is a mistake because of it was never used, prisoners died from mistreatment or from execution by means other than gas. The archival footage shows tattooed skin , but Buchenwald prisoners with unusual tattoos were killed , then their skin was preserved for the tattoo collection of convicted war criminal Ilse Koch. Defense counsel speaks to the content of the films shown the previous day. He states that there is no justification for what happened, but, that it was wrong and unfair to show such films in court against these defendants. He claims that the extremists are responsible, not the defendants. He says that very few Germans knew what was going on. He claimed that the defendants stayed in their positions to keep things from getting worse. The defending then calls Irene Hoffman. In this unseemly portion of the defense, the defense counsel tries to portray Irene Hoffman as a law breaker and Judge Janning as merely doing his duty. The hypocrisy is evident and seems to bother even defense counsel Rolfe. Yet he continues to badger Irene, trying to break her down, to show that she did in fact have an affair with Feldenstein. Janning interrupts him and stops him from continuing.The next day Janning testifies about the Feldenstien case. He tells that there was fear in the country. That Hitler told the people to lift their heads. That once the gypsies, Jewish, and others were destroyed all would be well.Janning was content to sit by during his trial until he realized the same arguments were being used in this trial in his defense that had been used in the Feldenstien trial. Janning denies that Germans were unaware of the exterminations. He says that all were aware of what was going on, maybe not the details, but only because they did not want to know the details.Judge Hayward affirms the value of a single human life, and the responsibility of the justices, and by implication the German people, for their actions and inaction. This graphic account of the Nuremberg trials were immediately brought to book and subsequently adapted by Stanley Kramer in ¨Playhouse ¨ style. Judge Haywood is perfectly played by Spencer Tracy, he gives us the uneasy feeling that the German people never really came to terms with their innocence or guilty. This film takes the point of view that Germany, at the time of the picture was realized, was moving beyond the war a little too fast, and was doing so with the help of the US and other allies because of the Cold War. For his passionated acting of the defending advocate Maximilian Schell won an Oscar as the years's best player and special mention Montgomery Clif, also uncredited as screenwriter. Rating : Excellent, better than average.
While I seem to never tire of the Holocaust as a subject...it's both grotesque and fascinating for me to read accounts especially first hand of the way in which humans treated other humans during this war...I am tired of Holocaust movies. Most of them are terribly slanted to make the enemy evil and the victims righteous. I take exception to films that make all Germans look bad. I have German relatives and friends from both sides of the war and their story is so much more complex than a single movie or book could ever portray. Like most middle class Americans, genocide is a difficult <more>
phenomenon for me to comprehend. It terrifies and upsets me but at the same time I am overwhelmingly compelled to find out why and how it actually happened s. I grew up in New York and have friends who's parents are camp survivors. Most of these people do not talk about the war. Nor do my relatives and friends who fought on the American side or my husband's relatives who were imprisoned or almost starved to death surviving against the grain of Hitler's regime. Also, I know from first hand experience most Germans do not talk about this war either. I think because it is so unbelievable painful that it's easier just to try to forget it. But of course, forgetting it is the very thing people should never do! I really hate the recent Holocaust denial sub-text going on around the world. It frightens me to think that people actually believe the extermination of millions of people never happened! And film is the perfect media to insure that genocide...be it Jews and Gypsies, Cambodian and Laotians, Tutsis in Rwanda, Serbs in Kosovo, and history's indigenous peoples every where...is never forgotten or tolerated. Therefore, I am recommending this movie with aplomb, as I think it was well made and has been sorely overlooked for too long.Born in 1952 , I was not alive when these events took place and it is my guess that this particular rendition of The Justice or "Nazi Judges" Trial Case No. 3 is only partially based on fact. Still, 'Judgment at Nuremberg' is really worthy of our attention. Like 'Schindler's List,' another good holocaust movie, it is filmed in black and white. This falsely gave me the impression it was made right after the war, when in fact, it was filmed in 1961. It is 3 hours long and maybe should have been edited but I am glad it was not. Although, it did drag... I liked the sequences in which an older Spencer Tracy Chief Judge Dan Haywood walks around the city scene of the crime as it were trying to 'assimilate' the era in an attempt to understand culpability. I also felt the documentary footage of actual camp and street violence while painfully inevitable...was highly educational. Especially for those of us who were not around when it all happened.There are so many note worthy actors in this movie! Made back in the days when studios tried to get as many big names in a movie as possible...you will be amazed at the talent. Oscar winning Maximillian Schell creates a magnificent achievement as the defense attorney for Dr. Ernst Janning played very subtly by Burt Landcaster. There are numerous other well know actors involved in this court room drama...Judy Garland and Montgomery Clift give somewhat deflated performances as witnesses for the prosecution...which is kind of ironic because both of their careers were also pretty flat by the time this movie was made. Judy looks drugged, which she probably was and Montgomery Clift actually got an Oscar nod for playing a crazed bug eyed idiot...which IMHO is not really acting on his part. Also, there is an incredible role with a straight Marlene Dietrich portraying a once prominent member of German nobility and a war widow,who tries to enlighten Spencer Tracy's character to the fact that not all Germans were monsters. I loved just having another chance to see her on screen. There's even a small but funny...in a hind sight kind of way...bit part in which a much younger and less arrogant William Shatner plays Judge Haywood's Aide. Like I said...what a cast!In the end of the movie as in the end of the war...it all comes down to culpability! Some of the worst Nazi offenders were never put on trial The Fuhrer, Heinrich Himmler, Bormann, and Joseph Goebbels which is felonious given the tremendous human suffering they instigated. But this movie is not about the big gun offenders...it's about the every day complacency of folks just doing their jobs...which was then and now the culprit for many a crime against humanity...not to mention full scale genocide.
I'd been meaning to see this movie since I can remember but never made it happen until it was on PBS last night. What makes this movie a classic is the message it conveys as well as the way it conveys it. The screenplay has many layers and makes it's points very subtlety-As a first generation American of parents who were both concentration camp survivors, the message had particular meaning for me. It's a message especially poignant as Americans today better understand the pitfalls of confusing constructive political criticism/dissent with not being Patriotic -and putting political <more>
party before country."The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing", is a quote attributed to Edmund Burke- and is entirely what "Judgement at Nuremberg" is all about. What happened in Nazi Germany is not confined to the German people, it could happen in almost any country of the world, given the right circumstances. The defense "I was just following orders" is without merit.... -that is, if we are serious about wanting to live in a society we can be proud of.Spencer Tracy is so good in this movie it's difficult to put into words. His role is a very delicate one and he pulls it off like few actors in history could ever hope to. Tracy's role is all the more impressive in the company of scores of Hollywood stars that grace this film.There are weaknesses in the movie. I was surprised that, even given the subject matter, I found "Judgement at Nuremberg" too often melodramatic- the pacing and dialog often so slow that it bordered on comical. In this regard Director Stanley Kramer overdoes it IMHO.Spoiler: The full weight of the story is brought to bear at the end when the guilty verdicts are given. Spencer Tracy, as the lead judge, pronounces the sentences on the Nazi government officials. Many of the accused officials are unrepentant and antagonistic to the idea of being judged by the American court, but Burt Lancaster plays the role of a German official who takes shame in his actions during the war.Lancaster was a Nazi court Judge who allowed himself to take orders from party officials. His testimony shows that he did things against his better judgment and we see him as a relatively good man who got caught up in the political momentum and Nazi system.When Tracy pronounces life sentences to the hard core Nazi's, he does so in a voice that betrays little emotion or anger. When he gets to Lancaster's character you're expecting Tracy to be more lenient on him, but instead he raises his voice in great anger and emotion as he also sentences him to life imprisonment. Tracy was angrier with him because he expected more from Lancaster -because he knew better yet didn't act.In the last scene Lancaster is a broken man seeking some form of forgiveness from the man who sentenced him, and asks to see Tracy in his cell-room. Tracy obliges and takes his time to listen. Lancaster expresses his sorrow and pleads for the judge to understand that no one could have predicted the incredible evil that resulted from the Nazi regime... as the times were so chaotic it was impossible to not get caught up in it all. "I couldn't know".As Lancaster is broken and repentant, one is tempted to forgive him for his actions. The camera goes to Spencer Tracy- he pauses and, with a soft voice, respectfully states... "you should have known as soon as you sentenced men to die who you knew were innocent". Understanding the point is inescapably true- Lancaster's face falls, Tracy leaves and the movie ends.It's powerful stuff and a poignant lesson for all of us who like to think of ourselves as "good people".