With our Australian visit behind us, Kat and I are now relaxing in Los Angeles for a few days before heading back to New York. Almost immediately after arriving back in the States, America's penchant for large food portions became obvious. That's what you get for eating at The Cheesecake Factory, I guess.
And now, the final movie to review from 1961's Best Picture race...
Judgment at Nuremberg
Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich, Maximilian Schell, Judy Garland, Montgomery Clift, William Shatner, Werner Klemperer
2 wins, for Best Actor (Schell) and Best Adapted Screenplay
Soon after the end of World War II, a down-to-earth judge from Maine, Dan Haywood (Tracy), arrives in Germany to fill his post as the chief judge in a military tribunal. Accused of crimes against humanity, the defendants are four German judges, including the internationally renowned Ernst Janning (Lancaster). The jurists are all represented by German attorney Hans Rolfe (Schell), while leading the prosecution is Colonel Tad Lawson (Widmark). Along with the testimony in court, Haywood converses with Germans outside of the courtroom, including Frau Bertholt (Dietrich), the widow of a German general, in order to gain a deeper understanding of how such blatant atrocities could have occurred in a seemingly civilized country.
This one's definitely a courtroom drama, folks. It's over three hours long and most of that takes place inside the courtroom. Director Stanley Kramer keeps things from getting dull, however, with some creative camera tricks, including sudden zooms and long circular pans. But even if these gimmicks were absent, the subject matter alone is certainly enough to keep you invested. It's deep and often unsettling stuff, particularly when the prosecution shows disturbing real-life footage from the concentration camps.
It may sound odd to liken this film to fellow nominee The Guns of Navarone, but despite the lack of action sequences in Judgment at Nuremberg, both films wax philosophical about sensitive moral issues. In this case, the focus is drawn towards how much responsibility should be held by those who enforce immoral laws. Were the defendants at the centre of the story justified in carrying out their government's orders to save their own skin? Or should they be considered complicit in all that followed? That theme is further explored by asking questions of ordinary civilians. Were average Germans aware of the atrocities their government was committing? And if so, how should they have dealt with that information?
Along with the two lawyers, Judgment at Nuremberg boasts a star-studded cast. As the judge at the head of it all, the always calm and amiable Spencer Tracy represents the audience, trying to make sense of everything he hears. He is supported by strong performances from Burt Lancaster, Marlene Dietrich, Montgomery Clift and particularly Judy Garland, who delivers an incredibly heartbreaking turn on the witness stand. Also look out for two soon-to-be television stars. That's Star Trek's William Shatner (pictured, with Tracy) as Judge Haywood's charming aide Captain Byers, and despite Werner Klemperer's steely portrayal of defendant Emil Hahn, I couldn't help imagining him as Colonel Klink bellowing, "Ho-o-ogan!"