What's new

"12 Angry Men" -- A Personal Review (1 Viewer)

David Von Pein

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Feb 4, 2002
Messages
5,752
A DVP "RETRO REVIEW":


12 ANGRY MEN (1957)


6ea9e03ae7a0ec15af412210.L.jpg


--------------------------------------------------------------

[NOTE -- This "retro" review is for the 2001 "Vintage Classics" edition of "12 Angry Men". A newer "50th Anniversary Edition" of the film, which includes a 16x9-enhanced video transfer, was released on DVD in March 2008. But I have not seen that "Anniversary" version, so I cannot comment upon the contents or quality of that DVD release. But regardless of which DVD version is being discussed or reviewed, this film is very good and is worthy of occupying a place on the shelf of all movie collectors.]

--------------------------------------------------------------

QUICK DVD STATS (FOR THE 2001 "VINTAGE CLASSICS" VERSION):
  • VIDEO -- Non-Anamorphic Widescreen (1.66:1)
  • AUDIO -- English DD 2.0 Mono, French DD 2.0 Mono
  • RUNNING TIME -- 1 hour, 36 minutes
  • SUBTITLES -- Spanish, French
  • SPECIAL FEATURES -- Original Theatrical Trailer
  • MOVIE RELEASE DATE -- April 13, 1957
  • DVD RELEASE DATE -- March 6, 2001 (MGM Home Entertainment)
--------------------------------------------------------------

How many times have you seen the "One Juror Holdout" theme played out in movies and (especially) on TV shows? Probably quite a few. But none done quite so well and so very convincingly as 1957's wonderful "12 ANGRY MEN".

This black-and-white classic court drama was directed by Sidney Lumet and co-produced by one its star actors, Henry Fonda. The film premiered in movie theaters on April 13th, 1957.

This was Sidney Lumet's very first feature film as a director. He had only directed television programs up until "12 Angry Men". Lumet's first theatrical effort turned out to be a very good one indeed, belying its low budget and short three-week shooting schedule.

Did you know ..... That "12 Angry Men" was originally written for a TV program? The teleplay version was aired in 1954, as an episode of the TV series "Studio One".

The film was remade in 1997 (as a Made-for-Cable-TV movie), with Jack Lemmon starring in the Henry Fonda role. In many scenes, that newer version is pretty much a word-for-word duplication of the '57 film.

The '97 version is OK, too. But the original is superior overall (IMO), with better jury-room atmosphere and that certain 1950s-period detail and aura that could never be replicated in later decades.

William Friedkin (one of my favorite movie directors) directed the '97 remake of "Angry Men". I hadn't realized that Friedkin was involved in the remake until doing some research for this review.

The '57 version of "12 Angry Men" earned three Oscar nominations, including one for "Best Picture" of the year (it lost out to "The Bridge On The River Kwai").

Henry Fonda stars in the film as "Juror #8". Fonda's arguments, as he attempts to persuade his fellow jurors of the defendant's possible but by no means certain innocence, play out exceptionally well in this film. This is due in no small part to Fonda's fine performance. Each of his eleven fellow actors (jurors), to a man, do quite nicely in their respective parts as well.

All but three minutes of this 96-minute film was shot in the "jury room", a perfectly natural setting for the movie considering the subject matter, of course. From what I've read, an actual jury room was used to shoot "12 Angry Men", which further enhances the gritty, realistic look of this black-and-white classic.

The old-time jury quarters come complete with high ceiling and big (sticky) windows. Another realistic touch was the rickety and troublesome electric fan that juror Jack Warden just can't seem to get started (until the light switch is flipped on).

We get to see outside of that confining 16x24-foot jury room for only a very few minutes -- at the beginning and end of the movie. Those brief scenes include a nicely-done courtroom segment which depicts the trial's judge (portrayed by Rudy Bond) giving the jury the appropriate instructions before turning the murder case over to them.

Take note of the bland, banal, and seemingly-uncaring manner in which the judge issues his instructions to the jury. I thought this was a good piece of writing here -- to have the judge, at the end of another long day in the sweltering non-air-conditioned courtroom, speak to the jury in a rather detached way. It's obvious that this judge has given out these exact same instructions many times prior to this trial. It's become merely "routine", and his robotic-like words are telling us that he could probably say this stuff in his sleep.

After the jury files into the back room, we get our only look at the defendant in this murder trial -- a young 18-year-old Hispanic boy who is accused of knifing his father to death late one night.

The boy glances at the jurors as they leave the courtroom; and it's hard at that early point in the film to not feel some compassion and sympathy for this young man whose life is in the hands of the twelve men he just watched leave the room. It's another fine piece of (silent) writing here, to give the audience one brief look at the person whom the film's story is really all about. The young defendant, played by John Savoca, never says a word here, and never utters a sound, but he says a lot with just his facial expressions during those few short seconds he's on camera.

Very little music accompanies this movie (besides the low-key theme that plays under the opening credits and some additional music at the end of the picture). I'm guessing that Mr. Lumet was of the opinion that the tension in the jury room was ample enough to propel the film forward, and that a minimal amount of music was required. I think that's correct too.

The cast here is comprised of all men. Not a woman juror to be found. Even the two "alternate" jurors who were dismissed at the start of the picture are men (we get a brief glimpse of those two male alternates in one shot during the short courtroom scene).

I think it might have been interesting if one or two female jurors had been inserted into this Reginald Rose screenplay. But it was decided to go with an all-male jury instead. And I certainly can't fault the results. It's a film that works extremely well, despite the cliched premise (i.e., "11 vs. 1 in a jury room").

Screen time is divided up pretty evenly between the "twelve angry men" throughout the film. And each and every one of these twelve actors is worth watching here. They're all very good. If the words "top-notch ensemble cast" ever applied to a motion picture, that phrase certainly would adequately describe this film's troupe of actors.

It's a cast filled with familiar faces (or soon-to-be-familiar faces, from a "circa 1957" perspective). As I look over this cast of twelve, I'm reminded of something from a TV fan's standpoint -- and that is the connection between 8 of these 12 actors and one of the best-written television series ever aired, "The Fugitive" (which ran from 1963 to 1967). Eight of these "jurors" made guest appearances on "The Fugitive", some of them appearing in multiple episodes of that TV show.

The majority of this angry dozen also showed up on lots of other television programs in the years following the release of this film -- including many episodes of "The Twilight Zone", which (like "The Fugitive") proved to be a familiar stomping ground for several of these actors, with five of them logging guest appearances on that Rod Serling-created anthology program.

---------------------

Here's a rundown of the film's exceptional cast (complete with some random chunks of miscellaneous info and bio data concerning each of these "jurors"):

Juror #1 (The Jury Foreman) -- Played by 37-year-old Martin Balsam. Martin was one of the last "holdouts" in the film, changing his vote from Guilty to Not Guilty quite late in the movie.

Balsam is possibly best-known for his part as "Detective Milton Arbogast" in Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece "Psycho". His "meeting" with "Mother" on the stairs is a memorable scene in that 1960 shocker.

Balsam passed away of a heart attack in February 1996. He was 76.


Juror #2 -- John Fiedler. John was the youngest of the twelve jurors (at age 32), besting Robert Webber for this "youngest" honor by just four months.

Fiedler made scads of TV guest-starring appearances, including his memorable recurring role as "Mr. Peterson" in "The Bob Newhart Show" during the 1970s. He was also famous for providing voices for cartoon characters.

The Wisconsin-born Fiedler died, at the age of 80, in June 2005.


Juror #3 -- Lee J. Cobb (age 45). A distinguished film actor ("The Exorcist"; "The Three Faces Of Eve"; "The Dark Past"), Cobb was the very last "Angry" juror to have his vote swayed. His emotion-filled breakdown at the end of the film put a cap on the roller-coaster ride of feelings he exhibits throughout the movie.

An extra nice touch is when Henry Fonda's character helps Cobb on with his jacket after all the other jurors have left the room. Fonda shows his compassion toward Cobb here, despite the violent outbursts Cobb aimed at Fonda earlier. A nice finishing touch of humanity here.

Cobb was 64 when he passed away in 1976.


Juror #4 -- E.G. Marshall (42 years old). Marshall acted in dozens of movies and made over 130 television appearances (mostly in the early days of TV). He was born in Minnesota in 1914. He died in 1998.


Juror #5 -- Jack Klugman (34 years of age during filming). Famous for his TV characters ("Oscar Madison" and "Quincy"), Jack's acting career began in the very earliest days of television (in 1950). Klugman is also remembered fondly by this writer for his parts in the TV series "The Twilight Zone".

Klugman, like two of his fellow jurors in "12 Angry Men", was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (The other two Philly-born actors in the cast are Ed Binns and Joe Sweeney.)


Juror #6 -- Edward Binns. There's a nifty little "connection" between Binns and Henry Fonda (besides this motion picture) -- they both appeared in the 1964 film "Fail-Safe" as well ("Grady, this is the President!!"). Binns was playing bomber pilot "Grady" when he was being screamed at by "President" Fonda.

Another "Fail-Safe"/"12 Angry Men" tie-in is the fact that Sidney Lumet directed both movies.

Ed Binns passed on in December of 1990 (when he was 74). He was 40 when he played "Juror Number Six".


Juror #7 -- Jack Warden. Jack provides most of the comic relief in this movie. He gets in several zingers at the expense of Baltimore Orioles' baseball fan Jack Klugman -- "Baltimore? What have they got, except good groundskeeping?" -- "And pop-ups are fallin' for base hits wherever we look!"

Warden, who passed away on July 19, 2006, was 36 years old in early 1957 when "Angry Men" was filmed. His acting career, in both TV and in the movies, extends back to 1951.


Juror #8 -- Henry Fonda. The most recognized name in the cast, Fonda was 51 when he made "12 Angry Men". Henry was famous for his many highly-memorable big-screen roles, in such films as "Mister Roberts", "The Grapes Of Wrath", "Young Mr. Lincoln", and "On Golden Pond".

I'm also very partial to Fonda's performance in "Fail-Safe", in which (as mentioned previously) he portrayed the President of the United States.

Henry Fonda left behind a legion of faithful fans and a legendary roster of film roles when he died on August 12th, 1982, at the age of 77.


Juror #9 -- Joseph Sweeney. Sweeney was the oldest (72) and one of the most likeable of the 12 jurors in the film. Joe was one of only two jurors whose name was revealed in the movie (Mr. "McCardle").

Sweeney only made six movies, with "12 Angry Men" being his last. His first film was a 1918 silent flick called "Sylvia On A Spree".

The 79-year-old Sweeney passed away on November 25, 1963 (the very same day that America buried its assassinated President, John F. Kennedy).


Juror #10 -- Ed Begley (Sr.). Begley, 56, played the bigoted "Juror Number Ten", whose "Not Guilty" vote does not come without a vigorous fight ("Ya know what I mean?"). https://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/8/8d/htf_images_smilies_smile.gif">

I've always liked this guy in everything I've seen him in, from Barbara Stanwyck's father in the screen version of the famous radio play [url=http://www.hometheaterforum.com/htf/3520725-post.html][I]"The Fugitive"[/I][/url] in 1964, to his very funny part as a court judge in a 1965 episode of [url=http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000OCZMRA][I]"The Dick Van Dyke Show"[/I][/url] ([I]"Mr. Petrie, is it your intention to go through the ENTIRE alphabet?!"[/I] [img]https://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/d/d9/htf_images_smilies_biggrin.gif">).

In April 1970, Ed Begley died at the age of 69.


[b]Juror #11[/b] -- George Voskovec. The 51-year-old Austrian-born Voskovec was the only juror (actor) who was not a native of the United States. His lineup of credits includes several movie parts and better than fifty television roles. Voskovec died on July 1, 1981. He was 76.


[b]Juror #12[/b] -- Robert Webber (age 32). Like many of these other actors, Webber's list of TV acting credits is about a mile long. Just prior to his death (of Lou Gehrig's Disease) in 1989, Robert had been a regular in the television series [I]"Moonlighting"[/I]. He was also a common sight in 1970s-era TV crime dramas.

=============================================

[SIZE=3][b]THE DVD:[/SIZE][/b]

MGM Home Entertainment placed this DVD on the home-video market on March 6th, 2001. [I]"12 Angry Men"[/I] is part of MGM's "Vintage Classics" series of DVDs.

The disc sports a very pleasing Widescreen (1.66:1) image and two Dolby Digital audio soundtracks (English 2.0 Mono and French 2.0 Mono). It's not an anamorphic video transfer we see here, but picture detail looks excellent nonetheless. Very little to complain about, in my opinion. French and Spanish subtitles are on the disc, too.

The Original Theatrical Trailer for [I]"12 Angry Men"[/I] is the only bonus supplement offered up on the disc. Run time for the trailer is 2:13. As with many trailers of this era, watch for the "alternate" takes of scenes (which are not quite the same as what ended up on screen in the final cut of the movie). Lee Cobb's "fuming tirade" scene, for instance, is a different version than the scene in the finished film, with some extra (snarling) dialogue added as well.

I get a kick out of old trailers. And while this one for [I]"12 Angry Men"[/I] doesn't include the melodramatic screen-filling written passages that some (even older) movie trailers contain, the narration we find here has that same [I]overdone[/I] effect. An example being when this completely-inaccurate narration is heard in the trailer: [I]"Twelve men turned into twelve clawing animals!"[/I]

Huh?? Twelve clawing animals? This is not true at all. Only one of the jurors would even remotely fit that description (Cobb).

The overly-dramatic music used for the trailer is not to be found in the movie itself either. Fun-to-watch stuff though. And you can watch the trailer [url=http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050083/awards]three[/url].

=============================================

[SIZE=3][b]CONCLUDING THIS "ANGRY" DISSERTATION:[/SIZE][/b]

[I]"12 Angry Men"[/I] has been one of my favorite motion pictures for a long time now. It's certainly one of the best-written and competently-acted dramas of its kind ever produced. And this good-looking DVD edition only makes me want to revisit this film all the more. And I'll bet that the odds are 11-to-1 in favor of other DVD owners feeling that same way after viewing this Digital Disc.

Pretty good odds, huh? (Or are they?) [img]https://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/8/8d/htf_images_smilies_smile.gif">

David Von Pein
November 2005
June 2009

=============================================

[b][url=https://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/4/43/htf_imgcache_43366.jpeg][img]https://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/4/43/htf_imgcache_43366.jpeg">[/url]
 

Joe Caps

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Dec 10, 2000
Messages
2,166
Yes, I see - another "personal" review. What other kind is there - an impersonal review?
 

Jeff Willis

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2005
Messages
3,386
Location
Dallas TX
VP,

Awesome retro review of this all-time classic! This one's also been one my favorite movies in my collection and I pull it out every 2-3 years and watch it again. There were so many memorable scenes in this film and with that talent-rich cast, they were all delivered to perfection.

Among my favorite moments in this film was
where Henry Fonda pulled out that switchblade and stabbed it on the jury room table. [Jack Warden right before Fonda pulled out that knife] "The odds are a million to one!" (finding an identical knife as the murder weapon)

Another one was where Ed Begley's prejudicial character flaw was exposed by Fonda's character:

[Fonda] "Let me ask you something. Why are you so anxious to believe the woman's testimony? After all, she's one of them too, isn't she?"

The other one was where Voskovec and Ed Begley had that exchange.... [Begley] "I beg pardon, beg pardon....why are you so polite all the time?!" [Voskovec] "For the same reason you're not...it's the way I was brought up." :laugh: That's one of the all-time put-downs, imo.

Thanks VP, for a great retro review!
 

David Von Pein

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Feb 4, 2002
Messages
5,752

I merely use the word "Personal" in my review titles so as to differentiate them from the "Official HTF Reviews".

Ten-four?
htf_images_smilies_smile.gif
 

Michael Elliott

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2003
Messages
7,965
Location
KY
Real Name
Michael Elliott
I always enjoyed the all male route. Had there been a female I can't help but think a romantic side plot would have been added. IMO there are far too few films that feature no women. Carpenter's THE THING is another one that comes to mind.

I recently watched Hitchcock's MURDER and it opens up with a courtroom scene where pretty much one guy goes against the rest. While watching the film I couldn't help but wonder if the filmmakers of this had seen that when they were younger.
 

Cees Alons

Moderator
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jul 31, 1997
Messages
19,789
Real Name
Cees Alons

I suggest you keep the spoiler tags here.

You review is indeed not so much a personal review as it is an extensive version of your personal opinion that the Henry Fonda character in this film did wrong and therefore the outcome of the film isn't correct.

You're opinion is a respectable one and of course you have every right to it, but as it happens, the film makes a different point - to which it is entitled too, of course.

If people like to discuss these various opinions, I would suggest someone opens a discussion thread in the Movies Section (and if the name of the film, the words "discussion" and "spoilers" are included in the thread title, there would be no need to use those tags extensively inside it).


Cees
 

Jeff Willis

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2005
Messages
3,386
Location
Dallas TX
Matt, Crawdaddy,

Bingo! Many Thanks for the tip on the anamorphic release last year. I missed that one when it was released. This film is one of my all-time favorites so the anamorphic release is a sure-buy.

Crawdaddy's right about the Amazon $7.99 price.

HTF's tops on the 'net :emoji_thumbsup:
 

David Von Pein

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Feb 4, 2002
Messages
5,752
For the record.....

I didn't forget about the new anamorphic version of "12 Angry Men" in my review. I mentioned it (with an Amazon link) in the "Note" near the top of the review.

Also.....

Nice review, Joe Karlosi. I enjoyed it. You raise some very good points. And while reading your comments, I couldn't help but think of the parallels to a real-life murder case -- President Kennedy's -- and the never-ending desire of conspiracy theorists to try and exonerate a double-murderer.

Those type of thoughts crossed my mind especially when Joe wrote this:

"I think Fonda plays a "game" very well. .... I can't help thinking he let a killer fall through the cracks to satisfy his own conscience."
 

David_B_K

Advanced Member
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jun 13, 2006
Messages
2,411
Location
Houston, TX
Real Name
David
Joe, I enjoyed your "rebuttal" review as well. However, I wonder if you didn't merely uncover some plot holes/plot devices? Either way, you payed close attention and caught some interesting inconsistencies.
 

Charles H

Screenwriter
Joined
Jan 7, 2004
Messages
1,526
A kinescope of the 1954 tv production directed by Franklin (PATTON, PAPILLON, PLANET OF THE APES) Schaffner is included in the STUDIO ONE ANTHOLOGY dvd, and I recommend it highly. I find it more compelling by virtue of its immediacy (we're talking live television here) and the casting was fascinating. Voskovec and Sweeney were portaled over to the film version, but the Fonda and Cobb parts were played by Robert Cummings and Franchot Tone. The movie had "type casting"--particularly in the cases of Fonda, Cobb, Begley, and Klugman. That is the nature of Hollywood adaptation. Tone and Cummings, both had reputations as light comics, thus it is more than a bit startling to see them in these parts. Cummings in particular has an "everyman" quality that eludes Fonda (who may be a bit too Presidential in the part) and Cobb and Begley may have been to the well a bit too often with the "Angry Bigot" routine. THE WALL STREET JOURNAL in a very favorable review of the tv version suggests the spontaneity of Cummings might be the result of merely trying to remember his lines. Felix Jackson, the producer of the show, was once married to Deanna Durbin and had used Tone and Cummings each in three Durbin films. I recommend the STUDIO ONE ANTHOLOGY highly.

Surprisingly, TWELVE ANGRY MEN was never performed on Broadway until the eighties, and it may well be the most Aristolean observance of the unities in modern times.
 

jim_falconer

Screenwriter
Joined
Nov 11, 2004
Messages
1,005
You know, I have always loved this film, and I still do today (been watching it since I can remember). But I have close friend who started out as a lawyer, and is now a judge. When he was a lawyer, he use to tell me a funny story relating to this movie. Every time the jury was taking a long time to come back with a verdict, he'd be joking that one of them was back there, detailing out to the other jurors how long it would take to walk from a bed to a doorway, with a game leg. Still makes me laugh, to think about him, enacting that scene from this great movie.
 

Bob Cashill

Premium
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Aug 15, 2001
Messages
3,755
Real Name
Robert Cashill
TWELVE ANGRY MEN wasn't produced as a Broadway play until the 2004-2005 season. That (excellent) production toured in 2007-2008.
 

sestamuch

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Jan 15, 2009
Messages
246
Real Name
Jonas
Some interesting inconsistencies I didn't noticed at first so good job.
Edited by sestamuch - 6/30/2009 at 09:30 pm GMT
 

Jeff Willis

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2005
Messages
3,386
Location
Dallas TX

VP,

My apologies for missing that part in your review. Thanks again for an outstanding review, as always!

Crawdaddy,

Thanks for the info on the recent DVD release.
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Forum Sponsors

Latest Articles

Forum statistics

Threads
353,186
Messages
5,010,775
Members
143,417
Latest member
bolorkay
Recent bookmarks
0
Top