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Film Review - Judgment at Nuremberg
The Nuremberg trials were the first war crimes trials in modern history. The tribunal heard evidence of barbaric behavior on the part of the Nazi regime. Movies have the ability to bring the viewer to a place and/or time they would otherwise never experience. Judgment at Nuremberg is a film that brings the viewer into these tribunals.
Spencer Tracy plays Dan Haywood a District Court Judge who was voted off the bench back home for what appears to be using his conscience. Haywood will be the head Judge in a trial of four former German Judges. At this point in time, the trials of the most senior Nazi officials are over. The tribunals are working their way down through the Nazi party. These Judges are accused of turning their backs on justice and sentencing people they knew were innocent to death via the concentration camps.
To add a face to the German people, we see Haywood interacting with several people in Nuremburg. He has been given a house to live in while he is in Germany. There is a house keeper and her husband the butler. The lady whose husband used to own the house (he himself was executed as a war criminal) comes by to get her things and becomes acquainted with Haywood. So although this is a very long movie, we get out of the court room to see that life does go on in Germany after the war. We also see the fear people felt, even after the war, concerning the Nazi regime.
The crux of the case is interesting. Can Judges be held accountable for the deaths of people they sentenced? Do Judges have a special responsibility to justice that can not be legislated away? The other piece of the trial is to expose in a wide media the atrocities of Nazi Germany. This film was release some 15 years after the end of the war, and perhaps people had heard about the terror, but this film puts you into it.
This movie has a lot to offer, but it is long. At 178 minutes you'd think Oliver Stone had made it. The subject is large, and the details are fully explored. The Nazi history is dragged out in great detail. A face is added. Judy Garland plays the friend of one of the victims. The defense drags her through the same ordeal that she went through during the trial that one of the Judges who is on trial presided over. History repeats itself. This is the most powerful part of the film. It was a great role for Garland.
Judgment at Nuremberg is a great historical drama. If the key to reaching an audience is having a sounding board they can relate to, Spencer Tracy pulls this off perfectly. It also appears this was a prestigious film to be in, the list of A-List stars is amazing.
This is worth being on the look out for. You'll need to set aside a good chunk of time to get through it. This is not a superficial movie, and will take a little effort from you, but you will be rewarded.
Directed by Stanley Kramer
Released in 1961
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Reviewed by Mongo