Judgment at Nuremberg
starring Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Maximilian Schell, Montgomery Clift, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Verner Klemperer and William Shatner
written by Abby Mann
directed by Stanley Kramer
This is an old, black-and-white movie. It is full of great stars: William Shatner before he made his fame on the 1960s Star Trek television series as Captain Kirk; Werner Klemperer before he played the bumbling World War II POW camp kamandant,Colonel Klink on the 1960s sitcom Hogan’s Heroes; July Garland before she died, and Spencer Tracy before he died.
Set in 1948 post-war Nuremberg, the film deal with the war crimes trial of Class B Nazi war criminals. In this case, collaborating members of the Nazi judiciary. I picked the video from my local rental shop to watch just by chance. Or perhaps not. Maybe it was because I enjoy spencer Tracy who was a great actor and sort of a calm, grandfatherly character like robber Young. I thought Tracy’s performance admirably illustrates the moral dilemmas that continue to this day about international law and justice, and the prosecution of so-called “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity.” He illustrates how common men and women have to try to wrestle these BIG issues that cut to the very bone of our civilization, even when we feel unqualified to do so. I suppose the moral is that we all must be prepared to define and defend civilized life and conduct at any time, against any foe. War crimes, war crimes tribunals and so-called “crimes against humanity” are still much in the news today with events in the Balkans over the last nine years as Yugoslavia has broken apart in a series of regional civil wars.
The film also features an array of other great talent that we should not ignore. Marlene Dietrich, Richard Widmark, Maximilian Schell and But Lancaster especially. Burt Lancaster is my second-favorite actor (after Cary Grant), and Maximilian Schell and Werner Klemperer are authentic German actors. It is satisfying to watch talent that is not American for a change, and it is also nice to hear them speaking German.
I think this is a relevant film that has not lost its timeliness. Perhaps that is a sad commentary about 20th century history. But it is a thinking film, a story that makes you think, which is a good thing.