By Daniel Fierman
Updated April 13, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

What constitutes compliance with genocide? This black question fueled Abby Mann’s compelling 1961 film about the trial of Nazi judges by American authorities at Nuremberg. His stage version is currently getting buckets of attention, largely due to Maximilian Schell — who won an Oscar for his portrayal of the clinical German defense attorney and now, 40 years later, plays one of the accused. So full of glorious bombast on the screen, Judgment at Nuremberg has its edges sanded off on stage. A German widow (Marthe Keller) lobbies for her countrymen out of loyalty, with little hint of her bubbling rage. Presiding judge Haywood (George Grizzard) trades his Yankee flint for ahm-just-a-country-fellah folksiness. Even Schell looks slightly dazed, as though he’s wandering through a memory (it’s understandable, since most of the dialogue is culled from the movie). It’s a frustrating thing. Culpability for the Holocaust is so vital an inquiry, yet this remake is — minus momentary sparks — as slack as an overstretched Slinky.

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