Sunday, February 5, 2012

Nazi Trial Film Finally Shown in America

Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today, a 1948 documentary,  was once deemed by Universal Studios as “too gruesome” for the American public. Now, thanks to the director's daughter, this remarkable film is finally being shown in American theaters.

Originally commissioned by the U.S. War Department’s Civil Affairs Division, Nuremberg was directed by Stuart Schulberg, younger brother of Budd Schulberg. The brothers were part of the Office of Strategic Services, a forerunner of the CIA. Budd, who would later author such Hollywood classics as On The Waterfront, supervised two film compilations to be used by the U.S. prosecution team. Stuart artfully weaved sections from those films into the courtroom footage, creating Nuremberg.

The film played in Germany before being shelved for various political reasons, including a fear that it might permanently ruin Germany’s image in America. A decision by the Truman administration further quashed efforts to show it in this country.
In 2003, Stuart Schulberg’s daughter Sandra and partner Josh Waletzky undertook a five year mission to restore the 78-minute film. With a painstakingly reconstructed soundtrack using original sound from the trial, a new recording of the original music score, and narration by Liev Schreiber (the voice of most HBO documentaries), the restored film is stunning.

Nuremberg shows how the international prosecutors built their case by using the Nazis’ own films and records. The familiar images of mass graves are even more startling here, with the victims seemingly stacked liked kindling, along with mountainous piles of shoes, gold teeth, and personal items taken from death camp victims. A shot of confiscated shaving brushes seems especially poignant, as if the Nazi’s first step in destroying a person’s humanity was to take their vanity.

As critic Roger Ebert said of Shoah, the nine-hour documentary which also has resurfaced in recent months, films like this are important in that they allow one generation to tell the next what it has learned.

Nuremberg also shows, as the defendants deny culpability, what evil looks like when it's backed into a corner.
Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today has been well received since its New York premiere in September 2009, much to the relief of Sandra Schulberg.

“I had wondered how much of this was going to be new,” Schulberg said. “Some of the images have been recycled countless times, but to my enormous surprise and relief, many of the experts who screened it were very impressed; some of the footage has never been seen before, and even the footage that is familiar has a new impact when it is viewed within the context of the trial.”

A two disc DVD edition of Nuremburg is being planned for next year, which will include the two films supervised by Budd Schulberg: The Nazi Plan, which consists of the German Reich’s own films, and Nazi Concentration Camps, which used footage shot by Allied forces. The DVD will also include interviews with Nuremberg prosecutors, Budd Schulberg, and the restoration team.

Stuart Schulberg died years ago, but Budd died in 2009. He was aware of his niece’s efforts.

“He was thrilled,” said Schulberg, acknowledging that the film’s release is bittersweet without her uncle being here to see it.

Schulberg plans to make Nuremberg available to human rights groups and secondary schools. A Spanish language version of Nuremberg had great impact recently in Guatemala, where human rights issues have surfaced since the Guatemalan Civil War. It’s a sign, perhaps, that the film's life will extend beyond its current theatrical run.

“Personally,” said Schulberg, “I hope it lasts another 60 years, to make up for the 60 years it was buried.”

- Don L. Stradley


Here Comes Howie! by Don Stradley

Fans who know Howie Mandel only from Deal or No Deal or America's Got Talent might be in for a surprise when he comes to the Lynn Auditorium on May 20.

You see, Mandel may be notoriously afraid of germs, but he doesn't mind if the jokes are a little dirty.

"There is some adult fare," Mandel has said of his act, which involves a lot of back-and-forth chatter with the audience. "I wouldn't suggest bringing the kids."

It's no surprise that Mandel's stage work is not quite family friendly. After all, his stand-up comedy career extends back to the drug-fueled  1970s, just as American comedians were taking a turn for the weird.

Perhaps inspired by the end of the Vietnam War, or fallout from the 1960s underground culture, the comedians of the late '70s were moving away from political monologues and towards silly new extremes. Gallagher was smashing watermelons with hammers; Andy Kaufman was inviting women onstage to wrestle; and Bruce Baum, a contemporary of Mandel's, appeared onstage wearing a diaper.

Mandel waded into the business like a feisty little brother determined to prove he belonged. Spastic, manic, and infantile, his favorite gag in those days was to place a latex glove over his head and inflate it with his nose. A 1979 performance at the infamous Comedy Store in Los Angeles landed Mandel his first big break, a job on the syndicated game show, Make Me Laugh.

Despite successes that include NBC's St. Elsewhere, the animated series Bobby's World, and  Deal or No Deal,  Mandel has never abandoned his stand-up roots. Along with yearly comedy tours, he's a regular attraction at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.  Don't look for the latex glove, though. Sinus problems put an end to that particular stunt.

While Mandel won't temper his act for his new audience, he appreciates the ongoing interest in him. His hot streak continues with his latest show, Mobbed, which drew 10-million viewers for its March debut and was picked up by FOX for eight additional episodes. 

Mandel, 55, told Canadian news site CANOE, "At this point in my career, specifically this time in my life, I have some perspective on what this means, and how lucky this is.”

Comedy fans in Lynn are also lucky, for Mandel is making a rare area appearance.

Just don't bring the kids.

Howie Mandel appears at the Lynn Auditorium on May 20. For ticket information call 781-598-4000.

Fun Facts About Howie Mandel….

- He was the voice of Gizmo in Gremlins and Gremlins II.

- Before he was a comedian, Mandel worked in a Toronto suburb as a carpet salesman.

- Mandel has been married since 1980 and has three children.

- In 1990 Mandel was considered to replace Howard Hesseman as the lead in ABC's Head of The Class. The role eventually went to Scottish comic Billy Connolly. (Mandel ended up on Good Grief, a FOX comedy about a wisecracking mortician. The show bombed.)

- Mandel was ranked #82 on Comedy Central's 2004 list of the 100 greatest comics of all time.

- While fellow America’s Got Talent  judge Piers Morgan tries to nap in his trailer, Mandel likes to stand outside with a bullhorn, shouting at passersby, "Quiet, please. Mr. Morgan is trying to sleep!"