Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Dozen Mad Men

12 Angry Men
Director: Sidney Lumet
Cast: Henry Fonda, Martin Balsam, John Fiendler, Lee J. Cobb, E.J. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Edward Binns, Jack Warden, Joseph Sweeney, Ed Begley, George Voskovec, Robert Webber
Released: April 13, 1957

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (lost to The Bridge on the River Kwai)
Best Director - Sidney Lumet (lost to David Lean for The Bridge on the River Kwai)
Best Adapted Screenplay - Reginald Rose (lost to Pierre Boulle for The Bridge on the River Kwai)

I have a confession to make: I've only seen a handful of movies made before the '70s (and not that many movies from the '70s if I'm being completely honest!) However, if there are more old movies like 12 Angry Men out there, I can't wait to see them. There's a good reason why this is considered a classic.

The only names from the cast I was familiar with were Henry Fonda and Jack Klugman - who's the only surviving cast member - and I've heard of Ed Begley's son!

Except very briefly at the beginning and very briefly at the end, the whole movie takes place in one room where the twelve men, as jurors, are isolated to reach a verdict for an eighteen year old with sad brown puppy dog eyes who has been accused of stabbing his father to death. There is an adjoining bathroom, but for the most part these guys are stuck in this cramped and hot room on what is mentioned as "the hottest day of the year".

The fan isn't working and they all want to get out of there as soon as they can, especially Juror 7 (Jack Warden - the one wearing the hat) who has tickets to a ballgame. They can only leave if they all have the same verdict. When they take a vote, 11 vote guilty and only Juror 8 (Henry Fonda) votes not guilty. He admits he's not sure if the young man is innocent or not, but thinks they should give him the consideration of discussing his case as they will be sending him to face the death penalty if he is found guilty. (Man, they sure were harsh back then!)

Throughout the film they stop discussing the case to conduct another vote. For the first one, Juror 8 tells them he would abstain from voting and if everyone votes guilty, he will also vote the same and that will be that, but another juror votes not guilty and soon the verdict becomes tied as they are persuaded by Juror 8's arguments that the young man is not one hundred percent guilty. Soon it's 11-1, not guilty with Juror 3 as the one who won't budge. He's a cranky old man who thinks kids "these days" don't have any respect for their elders. (Oh, what would he think of today's youth!)

You never learn the names of the men until the very end when Juror 9 and Juror 8 have a small dialogue and tell each other their names. (Which I've already forgotten - ha!)

I've heard the movie is in real-time, but it seemed like they were deliberating for several hours instead of the hour and a half movie runtime, though I guess an hour and a half can seem like a long time when you're in a hot, cramped room.

Very good film and now I want to check out the made-for-TV movie they did in 1997 with Jack Lemmon, Tony Danza, and James Gandolfini among others.

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