12 ANGRY MEN was broadcast on CBS-TV's live drama series STUDIO ONE on 9/20/54. After decades of searching, a complete kinescope copy of this program (minus commercials) was located in 2003. This dub was made from that film, which is in fair to good shape. There are a couple of audio dropouts and occasional white spots but no repaired breaks.
Technically, the program isn't perfect. At times the camera can't keep up with the action. A good example is the twin switchblade sequence. We miss the first knife being jabbed into the juryroom table; the camera dollies to get a clear shot as Bob Cummings drops the second blade beside it. We see only his arm movement, then a pan down to reveal both knives standing in place.
Pacing is also hurried compared to the 1957 feature film, which has an extra hour to explore the case and jurors. For a live braodcast however, this is quite impressive, flaws and all.
"12 Angry Men" is a still relevant study of what is potentially the weakest link in the American justice system: the jury. Although charged by a judge to retire for deliberations with an open mind, as this broadcast shows, most enter that jury room already decided on a defendant's guilt or innocence. As we see here, an individual's background, history and prejudices often hinder the ability to consider any evidence but those pieces supporting his own preconceived conclusions.
Thus, once the door is locked behind them, eleven men on this "unbiased" panel immediately declare a young minority defendant guilty of murdering his father. One lone juror holds out, believing that some discussion is necessary before sending a man to his death. As they delve into the facts and testimony of this "open and shut" case, one by one the other deliberators find reasonable doubt, and what had seemed a landslide toward conviction is no longer so certain. Along the way, idiosyncracies of these men are revealed that are not always flattering to some, yet the wheels of justice turn despite human failings and perhaps miraculously, a fair verdict is reached.
Parenthetical number is a 1 to 10 imdb viewer poll rating.
(7.6) 12 Angry Men (TV-1954) - Norman Fell/John Beal/Franchot Tone/Walter Abel/Lee Philips/Bart Burns/Paul Hartman/Bob Cummings/Joseph Sweeney/Edward Arnold/George Voskovec/Larkin Ford