At face value, Town without Pity appears to be a straight courtroom drama treatment of a gang rape case and its repercussions on a German community incensed over the fact that the rapists are American GIs and the victim a local girl. But the production attempts to go much deeper than that.
The screenplay, based on an adaptation by Jan Lustig of Manfred Gregor’s novel The Verdict, dramatizes the story of a military defense attorney who, in attempting to properly perform his task, must against his will bring about the destruction of an innocent (the raped girl), victim of her own human fallibility and the fallibility of German witnesses whose pride, hatreds and insecurities lead them to lie, exaggerate or conceal on the stand.
A picture that raises important moral and judicial questions must do so in terms of rounded, dimensional characters if it is to register with impact. Town without Pity fails in this regard.
Kirk Douglas does an able job as the defense attorney. Likewise E.G. Marshall as the prosecutor. There is an especially earnest and intense portrayal of one of the defendants by Robert Blake. The others – less prominent – are skillfully delineated by Richard Jaeckel, Frank Sutton and Mal Sondock. Christine Kaufmann, a rare combination of sensual beauty and sensitivity, handles her assignment – the victim – with sincerity and animation.
1961: Nomination: Best Song (‘Town Without Pity’)