Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

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Released 14-Jul-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1961
Running Time 178:49
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (92:08) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Stanley Kramer
Studio
Distributor

MGM
Starring Spencer Tracy
Burt Lancaster
Richard Widmark
Marlene Dietrich
Maximilian Schell
Judy Garland
Montgomery Clift
Ed Binns
Werner Klemperer
Torben Meyer
Martin Brandt
William Shatner
Kenneth MacKenna
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Ernest Gold


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Dutch
Finnish
Greek
Romanian
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This film had its origins as a television play scripted by Abby Mann in 1959. In transition to the big screen in this lengthy film by Stanley Kramer it has retained Maximilian Schell as the German defence counsel but gained a raft of famous stars. Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy) is an old district court judge who has accepted an invitation to preside over a tribunal in the eponymous city, where four jurists under the Nazi regime are tried with various crimes against humanity. Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster) is a senior jurist who thought that he could hold back the excesses of the regime from within. The other defendants were either pro-Nazi or simply made of weaker stuff than Janning.

    The bulk of the film takes place in the courtroom, where prosecuting counsel (Richard Widmark) matches wits with Janning's defence counsel Hans Rolfe (Schell). Various witnesses are called, including a mental defective who was sterilised (Montgomery Clift) and a woman who fell foul of the anti-fraternisation laws (Judy Garland). Outside the court, Haywood meets the former owner of the plush house he is staying in, the widow Bertholt (Marlene Dietrich).

    This is a very long but mostly engrossing film. The literate script attempts to tackle all manner of issues, such as the complicity of ordinary people in the Nazi era, the rule of law, racial prejudice, sterilisation, and Communism. It is very much a piece of the late 1950s in the view of the world that it presents. And it is a very American view, which is probably more obvious now than in 1961.

    The performances are very good, especially Tracy as the veteran judge, who tries to keep sight of human and moral values. Schell too is excellent, though his performance is a little bit theatrical. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, he won the Best Actor Oscar that year. Widmark is solid as the prosecuting attorney, and a plump Judy Garland does very well as Irene Hoffman. The most surprising performance is that of Montgomery Clift, who is quite stunning in a difficult role. The one disappointment for me is Burt Lancaster. Most of the film he sits there with a serious look in his old man makeup, and when his turn comes to speak he delivers in a mannered way some very clipped speech. He is acted off the screen by two of the other three defendants, Werner Klemperer as the unrepentant Nazi and Torben Meyer as a baffled old man. You can throw a quiet William Shatner performance into the acting mix as well, with Ray Teal taking time out from tending bars in the Old West as one of the tribunal members.

    Stanley Kramer was noted for high quality pictures and this is no exception. The film works best in the courtroom scenes, which Kramer directs well, piling on the suspense, though he overuses the zoom lens.

    The DVD usefully contains the overture and exit music from the original roadshow release, though there is no intermission.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in black and white in what appears to be the original aspect ratio of 1.66:1, but is not 16x9 enhanced. This would normally be a major disappointment to me, but as the video quality is very good it looks quite sharp even when zoomed in on a widescreen television. The level of detail is excellent, with Tracy's individual white hairs being visible, though due to the contrast being boosted there is little in the way of shadow detail. All of the action occurs in well-lit rooms, but the dark clothes of many of the actors show little definition or detail. Black levels are very black and show no low level noise.

    There are a lot of straight lines in this film, and unfortunately this leads to regular aliasing. The effect is relatively mild and less annoying than this artefact normally is. Apart from that, there is an instance of moire effect at 155:10.

    There are some occasional white spots, but nothing out of the ordinary for a film of this vintage. There are some reel change markings at 34:13 and 105:20.

    The optional English subtitles are clear and match the dialogue very well.

    This is an RSDL-formatted disc with the layer change placed at 92:08 during a black screen between scenes, and so is not disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are audio tracks in several languages, all Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. There is no surround encoding.

    This is a dialogue-driven film, and so a clear audio transfer is a must. Thankfully, MGM come to the party here with a nice transfer, with all dialogue audible and intelligible. There is no hiss, but there is some minor distortion towards the end of the overture. There is also some slight sibilance to the dialogue. Otherwise this is just as you would hope for in a mono soundtrack from 1961.

    The music score is by Ernest Gold, and consists mainly of German songs, Norbert Schultze's Lili Marleen, one of Beethoven's piano sonatas, and some music from the overture to Rienzi and themes from Tristan und Isolde, perpetuating the myth that Wagner provided the soundtrack to the Third Reich.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    No extras are provided. There is no scene selection menu, and the main menu has no text whatsoever, just icons. Anyone new to DVD may be mystified.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The US Region 1 release has the following:

    The UK Region 2 appears to be identical to the Region 4. A clear win for Region 1.

Summary

    A long but well made film, this is well worth seeing, though Region 1 gets some extras.

    The video quality is pretty good despite the lack of 16x9 enhancement.

    The audio quality is pretty good.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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Comments (Add)
Just As I Saw It On the Big Screen in 1961! - Hal Evans