Plot: What’s it about?
A murder case has just ended and as the jury members retire to reach a verdict, eleven of them are ready to deliver a guilty decision. All the evidence seems to be against the defendant, a young man from the slums accused of killing his own father. But since this case holds the young man’s life in the balance, all twelve members must register their votes, one way or the other. And since one of them seems to think some doubt exists, he refuses to pass a guilty vote to send the young man to his death. Each of the jurors have their own unique mannerisms and background, but in this case, the facts at hand are all that matters. While others are ready to declare the young man as guilty and end the issue, Juror #8 (Henry Fonda) insists that while he is not sure of the innocence of the accused, he does believe some doubt exists and that warrants some discussion. The others are not pleased about sitting in a small room on the hottest day of the summer, but they have no choice and such, the debates, arguments, fights, and connections start and by the time all is said and done, the life of not just the defendant, but the jurors will be changed.
I love this movie and consider to be one of the finest films of all time, a claim I do not make alone, I’m sure. This excellent film is always found on the best of all time lists, which is an honor it deserves and even after all these years, it stands up as well as ever. I think while a certain time period can be placed on the events, I think 12 Angry Men is a timeless picture, as it touches on issues that never fade, such as justice, prejudice, and free thinking. As such, it never seems dated in the least and also never becomes too preachy, which could have happened a lot within this material. In addition to a terrific storyline and direction, this movie develops twelve character in rich, full form and to me, that is most impressive. The jurors could have been stereotyped and dulled out, but in this movie, they seem deep and complex, much more so as the film moves on. Some have more depth than others, but all are allowed time to open up, which makes the film shine and the actors the space to inhabit the characters. I wish this disc had some extras, but with a low price and one of the best movies ever included, this disc is a must see for film fans and a must own for film lovers.
This is an ensemble piece at heart, but I think Henry Fonda takes the reins and drives the film, never faltering in the least. As the lone juror who wants to talk things over, Fonda is forced to stand alone and as time passes, make his case and try to convince the others that he is right. But he never does so in an arrogant fashion, thanks to some wonderful writing and a terrific performance. We are able to see that he is conflicted at times, but wants to make sure he does his best to see justice done, even if it means putting his faith in his fellow jurors. Fonda is given some tremendous material to work with and he delivers on all counts, one of the finest performances I’ve ever seen. Other films with Fonda include How The West Was Won, Fail-Safe, On Our Merry Way, The Ox-Bow Incident, and The Grapes of Wrath. The other jurors were played by Martin Balsam (Two Minute Warning, The Delta Force), John Fiedler (Savannah Smiles, True Grit), Lee J. Cobb (Our Man Flint, The Final Hour), E.G. Marshall (The Chase, Nixon), Jack Klugman (Tv’s The Odd Couple), Ed Binns (Night Moves, Patton), Jack Warden (Used Cars, Dirty Work), Joseph Sweeney (The Fastest Gun Alive), Ed Begley (Billion Dollar Brain, The Unsinkable Molly Brown), George Voskovec (Butterfield 8, The Iceman Cometh), and Robert Webber (Private Benjamin, The Dirty Dozen).
Video: How does it look?
12 Angry Men is presented in a 1.66:1 widescreen transfer, which is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. I was pleased with this transfer, as the image looks very sharp and clean, though not without flaws. A few scenes do look pristine, but most show some debris or damage, with the worst being a couple bad reel change burns. But I was never distracted much in the end, so I suppose the marks weren’t that bad then. I’ve seen no cleaner editions of this film either, which leads me to assume this was made from the finest materials available. The black & white image looks razor sharp at all times and contrast is well balanced, no obscuration of detail is present in the least. I did see some edge enhancement here and there, but not enough to lower the score more than a shade.
Audio: How does it sound?
This is a dialogue driven picture and as such, the mono option has the chance to shine. No real sound effects to talk about, aside from some low key, normal ones and when those are present, this track handles them just fine. There is some music at times also, but not a lot and again, this track seems to more than hold its ground. The dialogue is the center of this one and thankfully, it comes across in rich form and never stumbles, flawless in all respects. I found no issues at all with this audio treatment, thus I am giving it marks as an above average presentation. The disc also houses a French mono option, as well as subtitles in English and French.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes the film’s theatrical trailer.