Anniversary Post: 12 Angry Men

12 Angry Men

I know: 12 Angry Men is not a psychotronic film. But it is old, and that probably qualifies it. Really: most people won’t watch a movie that is more than two years old. 12 Angry Men was release, on this day, 10 April, in 1957. That means it is 63 years old. It would qualify for Social Security!

It’s an amazing film. The script is brilliant. It’s directed dynamically. And the acting is as good as it is in any film ever. It’s almost hard to believe. Basically, it all takes place in one room. But despite how engaging the film is, it didn’t become a hit with viewers until it played on television.

Three Classic Scenes

When I watched it last night, it hit me that the core of the film is the disintegration of the three antagonists: the racist, the rationalist, and the father.

The scene with the racist is amazing. It’s done in a single shot. It starts with a medium shot and pulls back and two the right. We watch as Ed Begley goes on as the jurors move away and turn their backs on him one by one. It ends with him saying, “Listen to me. Listen.” EG Marshall (the only one who hasn’t turned) responds, “I have. Now sit down and don’t open your mouth again.”

If anything, EG Marshall’s character has a worse downfall. He is forced to see that all his rationality and reason ultimately mean nothing because, for some reason, he didn’t notice the most important bit of exonerating evidence. And it was evidence that he, as the only man who wore glasses, should have most easily seen.

And Lee J Cobb’s breakdown is one of the most affecting things I’ve ever seen on screen. It always makes me cry. He goes from the most hated character in that room to the most sympathetic over the course of two seconds. His change from anger to despair recasts everything.

To be honest, I don’t know how anyone can fail to love 12 Angry Men. If they don’t, they must just not be that fond of narrative art. I’m not saying it’s a perfect film. But if you give it even half a chance, I think you’ll become glued to it.

Also on 10 April

Released on this day: Excalibur (1981), Subway (1985), Newsies (1992), Ferngully: The Last Rainforest (1992), Sleepwalkers (1992), Species II (1998), and City of Angels (1998).

Actor Harry Morgan (Dragnet) was born on 1915, Chuck Connors (Soylent Green) and Sheb Wooley (Rawhide) in 1921, Max von Sydow (The Seventh Seal) in 1929, Liz Sheridan (Seinfeld) is 91, Omar Sharif (The 13th Warrior) in 1932, Steven Seagal (Above the Law) is 68, Peter MacNicol (Addams Family Values) is 66, Orlando Jones (The Replacements) is 52, David Harbour (Stranger Things) is 45.

12 Angry Men poster by unknown Illustrator; “Copyright 1957 United Artists Corp.” – Scan via Heritage Auctions. Cropped from the original image. In the Public Domain.

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