DVD Review HTF Review: Judgment at Nuremberg - Special Edition (Recommended!)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jason Perez, Aug 10, 2004.

Tags:
  1. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2003
    Messages:
    310
    Likes Received:
    0
    [​IMG]


    Judgment at Nuremberg: Special Edition





    Studio: MGM
    Year: 1961
    Rated: Not Rated
    Running Time: 186 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Letterboxed Widescreen (1.66:1)
    Subtitles: English, French, and Spanish
    Audio: English – Dolby Digital 5.1 and Monaural





    Release Date:
    September 7th, 2004



    Only after World War II came to a close did the world discover the totality of the horrifying crimes against humanity that had been committed by the Nazi regime. In 1948, an international tribunal held a series of trials in Nuremberg, Germany, to bring some of those responsible for committing these atrocities to justice. Unfortunately, by the time the first war crimes trials in modern history commenced, most of the major players in the Nazi regime were either dead or in hiding, and the judicial officers presiding over the Nuremberg proceedings were still wrestling with the questions over the level of responsibility that should be placed upon military/judicial personnel that had been following their nation’s laws/orders during wartime.

    Stanley Kramer’s masterpiece, Judgment at Nuremberg, is a fictitious interpretation of just such a trial for war crimes. In this particular case, Judge Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy) has been assigned to supervise the trial of four German judges, including Dr. Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster) and Emil Hahn (Werner Klemperer), who have been accused of sentencing men known to be innocent to brutal deaths in concentration camps. Other principals in the case included the passionate and intelligent Defense Attorney Hans Rolfe (Maximilian Schell), who was charged with defending the German judges, and Colonel Tad Lawson (Richard Widmark), who served as lead prosecutor.

    As far as details are concerned, the case forces the principals to treat with some tough issues. Namely, is it fair to holds judicial officers accountable for the deaths of people that they have sentenced under orders? Secondly, do officers of the law have an overriding responsibility to the concept of justice that they must refrain from carrying out orders they perceive to be unjust? In addition to answering these questions, the adjudicators were using the trial as a forum to expose the barbaric actions and blatant disregard for humanity that characterized the Nazi regime. Thus, as the trial proceeds, parties to the case, both American and German, are forced to confront the horrors of the War, and how the whole of the world was radically transformed in its aftermath.

    In my opinion, this is high drama in a courtroom setting at its very best, and director Stanley Kramer does a marvelous job of keeping the story moving along, so the movie does not exactly “feel” like a three-hour film. Via his direction, and Abby Mann’s masterfully written, Oscar®-winning script, Judgment at Nuremberg tackles the sensitive subject matter head-on, instead of dancing around the issues.
    Quite simply, there are no easy answers to the questions posed by this dramatization, so to his credit, Mann uses the gray area between the notions of “right” and “wrong” to recount the atrocities and injustices that the German judges were a party to. More impressively, the script does this in a manner that does not indict the German people as a whole, or serve as propaganda.

    Based on historical facts, Kramer’s Judgment at Nuremberg is an intense and socially significant film that realistically illuminates the intricacies of the legal proceedings carried out by the international tribunal, which were also subject to political pressures. Remember, during the time the film was released, the American government, concerned about the growing power of Russia, was concerned about the film’s content, since, since Germany’s geographic location had made it an “important ally”.

    Moving along, in terms of performances, Maximilian Schell usually gets the most notice for his brilliant, Oscar®-winning turn as Hans Rolfe. To stop there would be an injustice though, for Judgment at Nuremberg also features incredible performances by Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, and Montgomery Clift, all of whom portray witnesses at the judges’ trial.

    Other A-list stars make their presence known as well, particularly Spencer Tracy, who checks in with another very fine performance as the judge presiding over the case, and Burt Lancaster, who has a much smaller part, but delivers an absolutely riveting monologue (as he would later do in Field of Dreams). Finally, if you are a “Trekkie” like me, keep an eye out for a supporting performance by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) himself, who plays Captain Harrison Byers (what else would Shatner play but a Captain? [​IMG] )!

    Nominated for an astounding 11 Academy Awards, and winner of 2, Judgment at Nuremberg raised some serious issues – particularly how patriotism can become an evil – that are just as important today as they were nearly 60 years ago. Indeed, despite the passage of so many years, it is hard not to be flabbergasted by the complete disregard for basic human rights and dignity that the Nazi regime had, and how they butchered millions of human beings in the name of patriotism.

    Shot simply and in black and white, which gives the film with an air of authenticity, the excellent cinematography helps viewers remain involved with this compelling drama for its entire186 minute running time! The superb performances and thoughtful screenplay, not to mention masterful work at the helm by Stanley Kramer, also play a large role in making this one of my all-time favorite courtroom dramas. If you have not yet seen Judgment at Nuremberg, I cannot recommend it highly enough…this film is intense, finely crafted, and thought-provoking enough to have you thinking about it long after the credits roll. I don’t think one can ask much more from a dramatic film than that.







    SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
    Judgment at Nuremberg is truly a classic movie, demanding of special treatment. Thankfully, MGM has turned in a brand new letterbox (1.66:1) transfer for it that looks absolutely wonderful!!! Really, the print is surprisingly clean and detailed, with only a minute number of instances where the image even hints that it is four decades old!

    To be more specific, contrast is just about perfect, whites are stark and clean, and the grayscale was nothing short of impressive! Another plus is that blacks are deep and noise-free, so the image boasts a tangible dimensionality and depth, as well as above average detail in sparsely lit settings! As I alluded to earlier, the clarity and detail in the image is more than a bit impressive, as the textures of characters’ wool suits, silk (presumably) judges’ robes, and the other objects/materials are readily apparent.

    This level of detail also extends well into the background of most scenes, which is nice for the most part, although it also makes it even easier than usual to tell that characters are not really traveling by car during close-up shots! [​IMG] I guess there is sometimes a price to pay for such a sharp, clean transfer of an older film!

    Perhaps most impressively though, since the film is over three hours long, there are no overt signs of edge-enhancement are evident and the compression of the feature seems to have been handled delicately as well, so digital artifacts are absent. For all of these reasons, I must say that not only is this a transfer befitting of such a lauded film, but it is above and beyond what I was expecting! [​IMG] [​IMG]




    WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
    After listening to the new 5.1 surround mix and monaural soundtrack for Judgment at Nuremberg, I have to admit that I am not quite sure a surround remix for this film was necessary. As you may be aware of by now, I am not the biggest fan of monaural sound, but honestly, the characters in this film are inside of a courtroom for nearly the entire three hours, and dialogue between them is far and away the prevailing source of audio information. This being the case, although it sounds slightly cleaner, I really cannot hear much else in the way of aural benefits that this remix has to add to the listening experience.

    In any event, since dialogue comprises almost all of the source material, I’ll start there, by telling you that on the both tracks, characters’ speech is presented in a fairly pleasant, easily discernable, and distraction-free manner, so the soundtrack gets high marks there. Other audio information, like music and ambient noise, does not fare quite as well, as the soundstage is very narrow, the source material obviously does not have the best fidelity, and ambient sounds seem to be barely audible at times. Frequency response is also slightly uneven, specifically in terms of the “bright” midrange and anemic low end, but again, this is only really obvious during the minimal amount of times effects or music are used in the film. Of course, this is likely a product of the source material more than anything MGM did to encode it for playback.

    Surround channel use, as you might expect from an older, very dialogue heavy film, is nearly non-existent, even in terms of supporting the score. To be honest, this might as well be a monaural track, as the audio information is emitted almost exclusively from the front of the listening space. One interesting exception, however, is that characters speaking from off-screen are sometimes panned to the left or right front speaker. An interesting choice, but I personally, I found the way it was executed to be mildly distracting.

    All in all, even though the source material for Judgment at Nuremberg does not offer a very dynamic aural experience, I can still say characterize the 5.1 remix as slightly better than average, for the clear, robust way in which it reproduces dialogue (the monaural mix also offers a very pleasant listening experience though). I just wish more could have been done to make the score sound more full and spacious…





    EXTRAS, EXTRAS!!!


    In Conversation: Abby Mann and Maximilian Schell
    This interesting and thoughtful bonus feature consists of an approximately 20-minute long talk between Abby Mann and Maximilian Schell, both of whom are well spoken and insightful. Over the course of their discussion, the two men talk cover a variety of topics, including the caliber of both the writing and performances in Judgment at Nuremnberg, Mann’s effort to keep the story from becoming a “propaganda piece”, and some of the other projects based on the story.


    A Tribute to Stanley Kramer
    As you probably guessed from the title, this 15-minute extra pays tribute to the brilliant career of Stanley Kramer (1913-2001), via interviews with his wife Karen Sharpe Kramer and Abby Mann. Karen discusses some interesting things, such as how she met and finally ended up marrying Stanley Kramer, his thought process when taking on a project, his directorial style, and how he liked to make his pictures as authentic as possible.

    Writer Abby Mann plays a lesser role in this extra, but does elaborate on both the “Playhouse 90” treatment of the story and the important part Spencer Tracy played in getting Judgment at Nuremberg made. All in all, it is not the most comprehensive look at Kramer’s career, but this featurette does provide a glimpse into Stanley Kramer, the human being, so I think fans will still find plenty to like about it.


    The Value of a Human Being
    As this very brief extra begins, Abby Mann reads a passage from the script and then goes on to describe the philosophy of this statement, as still photos from the film are displayed. Again, Mann proves to be a very engaging and thoughtful speaker, as he opines about how easy it is for ordinary human beings to get sucked into the commission of barbaric crimes, and how patriotism can become a great evil.


    Photo Gallery
    The photo gallery consists of approximately 100 stills, many featuring Stanley Kramer! It is divided into five different sections: Costume Design, Set, On Location, Stanley Kramer at Work, and Premiere in Berlin.


    Theatrical Trailer
    The theatrical trailer for Judgment at Nuremberg is included.


    Promotional Materials
    Cover art for a handful of other MGM Releases is included:
    --- 12 Angry Men, Inherit the Wind, and Witness for the Prosecution



    SCORE CARD

    (on a five-point scale)
    Episodes: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Video: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Audio: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Extras: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Overall: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]



    THE LAST WORD
    Without question, Judgment at Nuremberg is one of the most compelling, thoughtful courtroom dramas ever made, and deserves a place in any complete film collection. The A-list ensemble cast, particularly Maximilian Schell, Spencer Tracy, and Judy Garland turn in first-rate performances, and Stanley Kramer’s direction is as good as ever!

    Even more importantly, this film deals with both a horrible moment in human history, and the ease with which human beings can get sucked into such evil and unjust actions in the name of patriotism, from a humanistic perspective and with complete dignity. If you want to see a well written, precisely made, well-acted film, then look no further!

    As far as the DVD goes, MGM has created a very respectable presentation of Judgment at Nuremberg. To be more precise, despite placing a three-hour film on one disc, the black-and-white visuals are sublime, the audio tracks are fine (although I am not sure the 5.1 remix was needed), and although relatively short, the extras provided look at the film in an intelligent and insightful manner. In my estimation, that makes Judgment at Nuremberg both a good value and an easy recommendation, especially at a list price of only $14.95!


    Stay tuned…
     
  2. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    590
    Likes Received:
    0
    You leave out one very important detail about the transfer: As usual, MGM/UA refuses to do 1:66 ratio films enhanced for widescreen televisions. The transfer is lovely, but there is no reason they couldn't do it enhanced and for those with widescreen TVs it would look truly incredible. Furthermore, the film was not projected at 1:66 it was projected in the US at 1:85, so there really is no reason for them not to have done the right thing. I think your "highly recommended" regarding the transfer sends the wrong message to MGM/UA, but maybe that's just me.
     
  3. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2002
    Messages:
    3,530
    Likes Received:
    0
    Arthur, are you sure that it was projected at 1.85? It may have been 1.75:1.

    It is a bit of a let-down, especially as MGM just gave us a stunning 1.75:1 anamorphic transfer of The Manchurian Candidate, also labelled as a "Special Edition". Is the transfer for Manchurian windowboxed slightly - I cannot tell from looking at my screen, which overscans 3-4%, but some have said that it is, in fact, windowboxed.

    The whole Warner / MGM, 1.66:1 situation is pretty frustrating. The thing is, if they started encoding 1.66 as anamorphic now, folks like me would expect them to re-release older titles in anamorphic 1.66 and we'd enter a new cul-de-sac! [​IMG]

    Excellent review, as ever, Jason - thanks! [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  4. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2002
    Messages:
    6,546
    Likes Received:
    1
    given the good price point i'll be interested in picking this up- never seen it before.
    although i'm a big fan of vintage movies, and Burt Lancaster in particular, the premise seemed to be a little too one sided to me to generate any compelling drama- Nazis on trial...hmmm...who to root for?
    thanks to your review, Jason, i now have a better sense of the what to expect.
     
  5. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    590
    Likes Received:
    0
    I do believe that the standard ratio in the US for projection was 1:85 from the mid-fifties on. Certainly that's the way I saw Judgment at Nuremburg projected.
     
  6. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 1999
    Messages:
    9,815
    Likes Received:
    6,276
    Real Name:
    Robert Harris
    There is no longer any excuse for the release of modern product in non-anamorphic configurations.

    That is, unless this new edition is based upon the laserdisc transfer.

    RAH
     
  7. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 1998
    Messages:
    30,398
    Likes Received:
    5,660
    Location:
    Michigan
    Real Name:
    Robert

    Actually, Jason "recommended" the dvd and though, I'm very disappointed with it not being an anamorphic presentation, I'm still going to buy this dvd.






    Crawdaddy
     
  8. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    590
    Likes Received:
    0
    I understand what you are saying, Robert Crawford, but in not even mentioning the fact that it was non-anamorphic and that that was problematic in this day and age, my point was it sends the wrong message to MGM/UA. Everyone should mention that fact AND complain about it until MGM/UA do something about it. As Mr. Harris says in the post above yours, there is no excuse. I mentioned in my initial post that the transfer looks good, but that's not the point really.
     
  9. Thommy...M

    Thommy...M Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2004
    Messages:
    53
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks for the early review. JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG truly is courtroom drama at its very best.

    This film can soon be ticked off of my instant purchases of yet to be released DVDs list. I've waited awhile for JUDGMENT. As an added bonus, I feel so great when I can purchase a film this great for around ten or twelve dollars. I feel like I'm ripping the studios off instead of them ripping me off. "Feeble minded? Tell me, am I feeble minded?" Only those that do no add this film to their collection qualify as feeble minded. Can't wait. The review makes the wait harder.
     
  10. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 1999
    Messages:
    3,756
    Likes Received:
    1
    My dad took me to see this film in 1962 when I was 12 years old. In my opinion it is one of the most significant films ever made and long overdue for dvd release.

    It is far from being a propaganda piece, even points out that the sterilization of the "feeble minded" originated in the US, not Nazi Germany.

    The corruption of the German justice system under the Nazis is explored-to be expected-but also the desire on the part of some to temper the Nuremberg trials in order to gain the support of the German people in the then-emerging cold war is brought to light.

    The caliber of the performances by Garland, Clift, and others in relatively minor roles is amazing.

    One warning--there is some of the most graphic Concentration Camp footage I've ever seen in this film, not to be watched with the kiddies.
     
  11. Dick

    Dick Producer
    Supporter

    Joined:
    May 22, 1999
    Messages:
    6,013
    Likes Received:
    2,011
    Location:
    Maine
    Real Name:
    Rick
    Did this movie ever have an intermission (and/or en'tracte)? There weren't many (if any) movies of this great length in the 50's/60's that didn't. BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI doesn't, either, although I can spot the moment where I think one had been intended to go once.
     
  12. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 1998
    Messages:
    30,398
    Likes Received:
    5,660
    Location:
    Michigan
    Real Name:
    Robert
  13. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 1998
    Messages:
    30,398
    Likes Received:
    5,660
    Location:
    Michigan
    Real Name:
    Robert

    Dick,
    I'm pretty sure it had an en'tracte.






    Crawdaddy
     
  14. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 1999
    Messages:
    9,815
    Likes Received:
    6,276
    Real Name:
    Robert Harris
    Bridge... Kwai was set up for an intermission, which was used as desired.

    The intermission came at as James Donald notes that British bridges have stood for decades... made of elm (or some other specific wood), I believe.

    Many other films from this era also had intermissions, which were not used at all venues.

    Mary Poppins went to intermission after the scene with Jane Darwell on the steps of St. Paul's.

    Wild Bunch had intermission and entr'acte, but not overture.

    Guns of Navarone also had intermission.

    RAH
     
  15. Charles H

    Charles H Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2004
    Messages:
    1,526
    Likes Received:
    0
    DVD EMPIRE has changed the release date for Judgment at Nuremberg to "TBA." They've been pretty accurate on other such changes.
     
  16. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2003
    Messages:
    4,533
    Likes Received:
    324
    Location:
    Bolton, Lancashire
    Real Name:
    John


    Hmmm; mine's 'packing' at dvdsoon.com.
     
  17. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    590
    Likes Received:
    0
    And I've had mine for three weeks.
     

Share This Page