When Sidney Lumet died a few weeks ago, I automatically went for this film. When you think of Lumet you think of acting, great acting Rod Steiger in “The Pawnbroker”, Sean Connery in “The Hill”, Ingrid Berman in “Murder On The Orient Express”, Al Pacino in “Serpico” and “Dog Day Afternoon”, Richard Burton in “Equus”, Peter Finch in “Network” and Henry Fonda, Lee J Cobb, Ed Begley, E. G. Marshall, Martin Balsam, Jack Klugman, George Voskovec, Edward Binns, John Fiedler, Robert Webber, Joseph Sweeney and Jack Warden in “Twelve Angry Men”.
Lumet had directed the TV version at CBS and it’s star, Henry Fonda, gave him a chance to direct the film version. At a time when Hollywood was trying to get audiences in and getting bigger and bigger movies, this went the other way, made in 19 days on a budget of $343,000, like the Oscar winning “Marty” two years earlier. It was black and white and virtually shot on one set, but the direction and tension was handled superbly.
It is the story of a murder case and one juror thinks the boy might not be guilty, he might be guilty, but he just wants to discuss it for a while. After the film pans out in real time, he manages to turn the entire jury around. The brilliant way he can pull these amazing performance and tension together is seen over and over again in all his films right up to his last film “Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead”, a brilliant film with Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke about to rob their parent’s jewellery store, in any other year it would have garnished a host of awards, unfortunately it came out the same year as “No Country For Old Men” and “There Will Be Blood”, I think in reflection, it will be thought of as one of the 00’s best.
US Release 10/04/1957 (Los Angeles)
DF Viewing 30/05/1993 on BBC-2