Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1961. Roxlom Films Inc.. Screenplay by Abby Mann, based on his original story. Cinematography by Ernest Laszlo. Produced by Stanley Kramer. Music by Ernest Gold. Production Design by Rudolph Sternad. Costume Design by Joe King. Film Editing by Frederic Knudtson. Academy Awards 1961. Golden Globe Awards 1961. National Board of Review Awards 1961.
Abby Mann adapted his riveting teleplay for the big screen and the results are mostly impressive. Spencer Tracy is excellent as an American judge brought to Nuremberg, Germany after World War II to sit on the international panel of judges who are trying Nazi officers for war crimes. An incredible array of talents from stage and screen are assembled to play the vast assortment of characters, and this will still be a selling point for many who are curious to watch the film. Burt Lancaster stars as an officer on trial, Maximilian Schell is fantastic as a German prosecutor, Montgomery Clift is heartbreaking as a victim of Nazi torture, and Judy Garland stands out as a housewife being questioned for her fraternization with a Jewish storekeeper. Also featuring Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich and a very young William Shatner, the film is powerful and dramatic but suffers under the weight of its excessive length, giving it a sense of self-importance that should come from the material itself, not the way in which it is being presented. For its time, however, it stands as one of the first films to truly show American audiences a factual account of the Nazi Holocaust, including film footage and brutally honest testimonials.