It’s happened again.
I walk in at the last moment from grocery shopping to discover that one of my unreviewed Ultimate Rankatron movies is playing on the TV in less than 3 minutes to spare. And like last time during “It’s a Wonderful Life vs The Rankatron“, there was something else one that I would’ve preferred watching…but my honorarily duty to complete this list falls to you, my humble Rankers.
Unlike the previous incarnation, I didn’t have the luxury of commercials. So before I get started, let’s run down some stats:
- Adapted from the play written by Reginald Rose.
- Released in 1957 starring Henry Fonda and directed by Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon, Network)
- The film runs in real time (how apt!) during the jury room scenes (which takes up 93 minutes of the 96 minute running time).
- No characters are given names in the play or movie with the exception of the very end when Henry Fonda’s character is given as “Davis” and the old man’s name is given as “McArdle”.
- Fonda’s only film as Producer.
- The first scenes in the jury room are filmed with wide-angled lenses but, as the movie progresses, the shots become close-ups from a lower angle to portray the feeling of claustrophobia in the small room.
- Nominated for 3 Oscars (Best Director, Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay) but lost all three to The Bridge on the River Kwai.
- Remade in 1997 starring Jack Lemmon in Henry Fonda’s role. The dialogue and action is identical to the original but with updated cultural references. And by Monsterpiece Theatre:
- Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor declared this movie as one of her influences and that the wide-ranging assumptions would never be allowed in an actual jury. Party pooper!
So let’s get into real-time with 12 Angry Men. With the exception of additional editorial notes found in brackets, everything was written as I watched the movie.
6:57pm – Football. Football. Football. Football. Football. Football. Playoff Football. 12 Angry Men. Football. Foot… d’oh! I gotta do it.
7:05pm – Took a few minutes to get settled. Hey, is one of the jurors a young Bob Hope? (Checking infotron…nope. Guilty of assumption.)
7:06pm – If I didn’t already know the movie and play, I would’ve been bored by the dull beginning. But I know it and it will be AWESOME! (Note: I should be unbiased in this review but I can’t…I love this movie.)
7:07pm – Ed Bagley???? Related to “Six Feet Under“‘s Ed Bagley Jr. Yes!!! (This cancels out my earlier assumption. Back in the positive.)
7:08pm – I’ve never seen the 1957 version before. Just the great 1997 version with Jack Lemmon doing his best Fonda impression.
7:10pm – So far everything right down to the choreography and dialogue is identical to the 1997 version…or should I really say the other way around. It’s not like there’s a time machine involved here where Reginald Rose went to 1997 and saw the movie then traveled back to 1954 to write his version. But why does he have a DeLorean???
7:13pm – First vote. 11 Guilty. 1 Fonda. Time to play the Game.
7:15pm – The dialogue is AMAZING. “I think if we’re putting some kid to death, we owe it to him to talk about it.” I know I got that quote wrong but the paraphrased version should be used on any judgment that serious.
7:23pm – Love the little things. The guy rushing to get to the Yankees game keeps looking at his watch periodically all the time. Could almost be a drinking game. Watch out for it.
7:25pm – It’s like a dance but with words. Every single comma and period is important to the characters who say them. This should be required watching for anyone in the entertainment industry who wants to write, act or direct. The nuances are great.
7:31pm – THE SWITCH BLADE. One of my favourite scenes in the movie. And one of the most pivotal points in the script.
7:34pm – Vote 2. 10 Guilty. 2 Fondas. The shift begins.
7:56pm – OK. OK. So I’ve slacked on notes for a half hour. I’m guilty for flicking to the playoff football game just to see the score…and someone called me to chat about some stuff (angry people by one of those strange coincidences that life dishes out sometimes)…but I still watched the movie…sort of.
8:01pm – 43 seconds is a LOT different from 15 seconds when murder is on the line. (Sounds a lot like a the Princess Bride line).
8:02pm – “I’ll kill ya.” “You don’t really mean that do you?” I love this movie!
8:04pm – Vote 3 (maybe 4 because I didn’t notice if there was one during my 20 minute hiatus). 6 Guilty. 6 Fondas.
8:06pm – YEAH!!! Give it to him Old Guy!!!! Boo-Yaw!!!! (I should note here that you’ll need to watch the movie to get some of this).
8:11pm – A single drop of sweat to the unflappable dude who’s memory isn’t as good as he thought.
8:14pm – Switchblade Part 2: the Blade Strike Back…but at a different angle.
8:17pm – Yankee guy switching to Not Guilty just “because”…don’t do that in real life unless you’re under the age of 6…and even then.
8:20pm – Vote 4 (or 5). 3 Guilty. 9 Fondas.
8:21pm – Hail Mary play (sorry I had flicked to football briefly for the score) and a fight! I wonder if all jury rooms are that heated.
8:25pm – Vote 5 (or 6). 4 Guilty. 8 Fondas.
8:29pm – The Glasses divots on the side of the wearer’s nose. “Could they be made by anything other than eyeglasses?” said the Old Guy with probably the most unintentionally creepy smile I’ve ever seen in a movie.
8:31pm – Vote 6 (or y’know). 1 Guilty. 11 Fondas.
8:33pm – Awesome final monologue by the last Guilty guy as a plea for mercy. I’m gushing in its emotionality. I’m pretty sure that’s not a real word.
8:35pm – And the Fondas have it!!!!
8:36pm – Nice touch at the end with Fonda helping get the coat of the last Guilty guy. A sense of respect on a battle fought well. Would Superman have done the same thing to Lex Luthor?
I don’t watch this movie nearly as much as I should. Every time I see it (or the 1997 version), I’m in awe of the dialogue. You need captivating words in order to make a movie with little action be considered one of the best of all time and this still lives up to it.
If you’ve read this and have never seen the movie, trust me in saying that you haven’t been spoiled. The beauty of 12 Angry Men is in the execution and interaction of all these characters. If you’ve enjoyed this movie once before, you already know what I’m talking about.
As a side note, I got to watch the last 3 minutes of the football game to see the team I wanted to win hold on to the victory thanks to defense. I’m sure Henry Fonda had something to do with that too. He’s amazing!
9.6 Fondas out of 10.