Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


12 ANGRY MEN (1957). Director: Sidney Lumet.

12 men have to decide the fate of a young man who's been accused of murdering his father. One of the jurors (Henry Fonda) is a doubting Thomas when it comes to the defendant's guilt right from the get-go and slowly he encourages the others to take another look at the purported evidence. While well-meaning and very well acted (Martin Balsam, Lee J. Cobb, E. G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden etc. are also in the cast), the picture is too theatrical, a bit cliched, and rather superficial all told. The implication that a death penalty advocate is a secret sadist is simply dime store psychology at its worst. It's also odd that no one ever brings up the simple notion of self-defense, which of course would make the defendant not guilty.

NOTE: I watched this on TCM with a friend who is hard-of-hearing, so I had the closed captioning turned on. I was appalled at the difference between what was being said by the actors and what I read in the captions. For instance, a line about the "electric chair" was changed to "lethal injection." Another pivotal line had its meaning carelessly reversed. It was as if the person doing the captioning just felt like writing whatever the hell they wanted instead of sticking to the script. I recognize that dialogue is often changed in a caption to make it shorter and more easily and quickly read, but that's not what was going on here. TCM should get another company to do its captions or whoever captioned 12 Angry Men should find work elsewhere.

Verdict: Movie -- **. Captions -- 0 stars.


Neil A Russell said...

This is one of those "performance" movies that I just love.

I missed a recent showing on TCM and haven't seen it in years but it still sticks with me for all the characters in it, Klugmann, Cobb, Marshall, Begley, Warden, even a very young Robert Webber all made this thing jump off the screen.

The only thing that comes to mind that I've seen in recent years was Mamet's "Glengarry Glen Ross".
You just don't find a movie with every single role filled with a top drawer performer anymore.

William said...

I actually think Glengarry is the much better movie, but you're right that the acting is tops in both films.