(director: Stanley Kramer; screenwriter: Abby Mann; cinematographer: Ernest Laszlo; editor: Frederic Knudtson; music: Ernest Gold; cast: Spencer Tracy (Judge Dan Haywood), Burt Lancaster (Ernst Janning), Richard Widmark (Col. Tad Lawson), Marlene Dietrich (Mme. Bertholt), Maximilian Schell (Hans Rolfe), Judy Garland (Irene Hoffman), Montgomery Clift (Rudolph Petersen), William Shatner (Capt. Harrison Byers), Werner Klemperer (Emil Hahn), Ray Teal (Judge Curtiss Ives), Alan Baxter (General Merrin), Ed Binns (Senator Burkett); Runtime: 186; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Stanley Kramer; MGM; 1961)

Important fictionalized intense courtroom drama, which at times was engrossing.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director Stanley Kramer (“Inherit The Wind”/”On The Beach”/”The Defiant Ones”), known as a crusading liberal whose films are filled with political messages, is the right choice for this important fictionalized intense courtroom drama, which at times was engrossing. The B/W pic is on the war criminal trials in Nuremberg, in 1948, whereby the major figures of the Nazi regime were either dead or long missing, and in the resulting tribunal proceedings against lesser figures in the Nazi regime the American judges faced the question of how much responsibility someone held who had “just followed orders.”

Kramer directs with conviction the trial of four judges accused of knowingly supporting Hitler’s inhuman mandates against humanity. But it’s a long slog and heavy-going (not that it was bad and wasn’t essential viewing, but that it went on for too long and lost some of its entertainment value).

Nuremberg is the city where the Nazis held huge rallies, making the atmosphere of the bombed-out city eerie for the trial as it brings back such unpleasant memories. It’s fervently written by Abby Mann (who originally wrote and produced it), and features an all-star international cast.

The elderly Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy), a competent and sensitive American judge recently defeated for reelection in Maine, is chosen as judge after several other candidates refuse the opportunity because the big shot Nazis are no longer on trial. The trial begins with the prosecuting attorney Col. Tad Lawson (Richard Widmark) making an emotion-packed opening statement calling for the harshest punishment. The defense lawyer, Hans Rolfe (Maximilian Schell), passionately argues that by charging these men as guilty because they upheld the laws of their country, would be like saying all of Germany must be tried.

Judge Haywood oversees the trials of the four German judges — most notable are Dr. Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster) and Emil Hahn (Werner Klemperer) — accused of willingly sentencing innocent men to death in collusion with the Nazis.

It also features fine supporting performances by Marlene Dietrich as the aristocratic widow of a German general executed previously for war crimes, Judy Garland as someone accused in the Third Reich of polluting the Master Race by intermingling with a Jew, and Montgomery Clift as a victim of a Nazi sterilization program. Judgment at Nuremberg was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, with Maximilian Schell and Abby Mann winning Oscars for Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

REVIEWED ON 4/14/2010 GRADE: B+   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/