Sunday, January 1, 2012

12 Angry Men - 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition DVD

12 Angry Men - 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition DVD
Antonio G. Pereira © 2012 Antonio G. Pereira

12 Angry Men A very powerful film, directed by Sidney Lumet (The Pawnbroker, The Wiz, Q&A), and starring Henry Fonda (who also co-produced). From a story by playwright Reginald Rose (who also wrote the screenplay). 12 Angry Men, set in 1950s post McCarthy America, is about a murder trial and the twelve jurors who must decide the ultimate life or death fate of the defendant. Well written and directed, with superb acting by the cast, it is explosive cinema at it's best.
Strangely, no mention is made in the two otherwise fine 'Making of Twelve Angry Men' documentaries in Special Features, about another reason that Henry Fonda might also have wanted so badly to make this film and co-produce; The Los Angeles Zoot Suit Riots, that took place during World War 2. The late History Professor, Ronald Takaki, wrote at length about this in his book, Double Victory. (There is a link to his book within an earlier posting )
From Double Victory: On October 4th, 1944, the District Court of Appeals found that the trial judge in the Sleepy Lagoon case was biased against the defendants and overturned the convictions. Leading the appeal struggle was a defense committee whose membership included Bert Corona, Rita Hayworth, Anthony Quinn, Orson Welles, Henry Fonda and Carey McWilliams. "It wasn't only seventeen boys who were on trial", the committee declared. "It was the whole of the Mexican people, and their children and grandchildren." In their conclusion, they issued a call to arms against the ideology of white superiority on the home front: "Nazi logic guided the judge and jury and dictated the verdict and sentence. We are at war not only with the armies of the Axis powers, but with the poison gas of their doctrine, with the 'biological basis' of Hitler and with his theories of race supremacy."
{For related and quite illuminating scholarship:
(1) Upside Your Head! Rhythm and Blues on Central Avenue by Johnny Otis - Published by Wesleyan University Press
(2) Why I Left America and Other Essays by Oliver W. Harrington - Published by University Press of Mississippi
(3) Dark Laughter: The Satiric Art of Oliver W. Harrington - Published by University Press of Mississippi
(4) Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play by Ben Watson - Published by St. Martin's Griffin (An Imprint of St. Martin's Press)}
And: {A1} Miracle At St. Anna
{A2} Black History: A Retrospective
Additionally, another book by Ronald Takaki makes sobering reading, 'A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America'

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