It’s taken more than 60 years, but filmmaker Stuart Schulberg’s powerful film documenting the landmark Nuremberg war crimes trial has finally been given a U.S. theatrical release. Adapted from an earlier version featuring the still relevant subtitle “Its Lesson for Today,” the film is an important historical document that vitally merits theatrical exposure. After recently being showcased at the New York Film Festival, “Nuremberg” is currently receiving a premiere engagement at NYC’s Film Forum.
Schulberg — who, along with his brother Budd (later the screenwriter of such classics as “On the Waterfront”) — originally served in director John Ford’s wartime unit documenting the war. He then was assigned the task of recording the 1945-1946 Nuremberg trials, in which the defendants included the notorious likes of Rudolf Hess, Hermann Goering, Albert Speer and other Nazi figures.
The film that resulted was suppressed by the U.S. government for political reasons, with the original negative either lost or destroyed. This effort, co-created by Schulberg’s daughter Sandra and Josh Waletzky, is both a restoration of the original and an updated version with a narration delivered that ubiquitous voice of PBS documentaries, actor Liev Schreiber.
Although much of the horrific atrocity footage on display will be familiar to history buffs, it has lost none of its power to shock. But the film is particularly valuable for its lengthy courtroom scenes — many of which are being seen for the first time — including the opening and closing addresses by American prosecutor Robert H. Jackson and snippets from the actual testimony of the accused and their lawyers. It’s hard not to feel a chill, for instance, listening to Goering claiming that although he was unaware of the extermination of the Jews, he knew that “certain excesses” had occurred.
Production: Schulberg Productions, Metropolis Productions
Director/screenwriter (original version): Stuart Schulberg
Editor: Joseph Zigman
Producers: Stuart Schulberg, Pare Lorentz
Music: Hans-Otto Borgmann
Restoration: Sandra Schulberg, Josh Waletzky
Executive producer: Leon Constantiner
Narrator: Liev Schriber
Score reconstruction: John Califra
No rating, 78 min.