In 1957, a young television director named Sidney Lumet was given a stage play to adapt for the screen that was to star a cross section of superior actors. This became 12 Angry Men, one of the finest films ever made. It's certainly one of my all time favorites, and is one of the few DVD's in my collection that I'm in danger of wearing out.
Lumet went on to director a number of other classics, including Dog Day Afternoon, Network and The Verdict. Flash forward forty years and we change from a young director whose best is yet to come to an older one whose best is a bit behind him. William Friedkin, famous for The French Connection and The Exorcist, was tapped to direct a new version of 12 Angry Men for the Showtime channel, this time updating the script and adding a lot more color to the cast.
I had fond memories of first watching this back in 1997. Having recently purchased a VHS copy and watched it again, I found that I still liked it, though there are some elements that are less admirable upon second viewing. In detailing these, I'm breaking down the films into the two dozen actors featured and comparing each pair that played the same role. So here we go. (Spoilers abound for those who haven't seen either version)
Juror #1 (Martin Balsam & Courtney B. Vance) - With #1, also known as the Foreman, we have a pair of very steadfast characters. Both are assistant coaches for High School Football and, though never mentioned, seem to be upstanding family men. Their patience is worn thin in both versions by the rudeness exhibited by #10, and they offers up their position as Foreman to him perhaps with the thinking that presiding over intelligent discourse is going to be rough going with some in this group.
Other than this exchange, the biggest moment for this character is a monologue concerning a cancelled football game to #8. The original simply uses this as some slight character development to flesh out #1 a bit more since he does very little arguing in the film. In the 1997 version, the story is lengthened to describe one player who remains on the bench in the rain. Vance strikes an emotional chord of hopelessness in his telling of this story, and perhaps is echoing his position as Foreman over some members of the jury.