The Trial (1962

Before the law there stands a guard . . . and that guard is not allowing you admittance.  Ever. This is a world gone completely mad and the masterfully on-point filmmaker, one Orson Welles, is there to document it all.  Complete with dizzying camera angles, expressionistic lighting, and increasingly surreal locations, The Trial is a masterpiece.

"It is simply a spellbinding release, worthy of your investment"

The Trial is not a courtroom drama.  Not in Orson Welles’ capable hands.  No, this adaptation of Franz Kafka’s surreal novel, The Trial, operates like a fever dream bursting with comments on our collective society and, thanks to Welles’ vision, bounces from one nightmarish cityscape to another as Anthony Perkins, as everyman Josef K. tries to figure out what he has been arrested for and charged with by an unnamed government.

Mixing the darkest of humor with European locations and Welles’ own editing, taking him five months to put it together, The Trial is more than a movie.  It is Welles at his most autobiographical, forcing him to realize his own guilt and paranoia.  Largely shot inside the Gare d'Orsay in Paris, a long abandoned train station, the film tells the story of a quiet man who, while juggling a sense of guilt, doesn’t know exactly what he should feel guilty about as an authoritarian government decides his fate.

Perkins is perfectly cast as the guilt-ridden repressed man, the confusion he expresses after waking up to a roomful of strange men in his room who cast him in the role of the suspect for a crime they never tell him about, is marvelous and it only gets better the more defiant, confused, and sorrier he becomes.  Josef K., trying to understand what he has done so incredibly wrong, travels from one bizarre cityscape to another trying to desperately discover just what this government has charged him with.  Hence, the nightmarish fever dream the film slides so easily into as he discovers that even his council, with Welles playing Hastler, a law advocate, who merely wants him to beg for money and for power and does little but confirm all that he has been accused of.The Trial (1962)

The Trial is filled with an atmosphere of dread and paranoia.  This is only compounded by the use of space as Welles gives us solid tracking shots across expansive locales, unfocused moments to confuse our senses, rooms full of piles of paper and discarded memorabilia, flared-out candles, and, as icing on a proverbial cake, three beautiful women - Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider, Elsa Martinelli - all trying to seduce Perkins, the repressed man at the center of this narrative.  It is unnerving and quite shocking thanks to its masterful use of set design and disorienting camera angles.

The Criterion Collection, working with a brilliantly reconstructed 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack, has outdone themselves with the release of The Trial on blu-ray.  It is simply a spellbinding release, worthy of your investment.

5/5 stars


The Trial (1962)

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Criterion
Available on Blu-ray
- September 19, 2023
Screen Formats: 1.66:1
: English SDH
English: LPCM Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

A feverishly inspired take on Franz Kafka’s novel, Orson Welles’s The Trial casts Anthony Perkins as the bewildered office drone Josef K., whose arrest for an unspecified crime plunges him into a menacing bureaucratic labyrinth of guilt, corruption, and paranoia. Exiled from Hollywood and creatively unchained, Welles poured his ire at the studio system, the blacklist, and all forms of totalitarian oppression into this cinematic statement—a bold, personal film that he himself considered one of his greatest achievements.


Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1, The Trial  was restored with a digital transfer taken primarily from the 35 mm original nitrate camera negative with some of the film scanned from another nitrate safety fine-grain master. The Welles’ shadows are seen in all of their 4K glory! The depth of the shadows is very pronounced and the greyscale is very nice with a nice dynamic range. The sharpness is great with lots of fine details visible, and there seems to be no problems with the stability of the picture. Overall, there is nothing really to complain about here.


With the uncompressed monaural soundtrack, the gunshots, the melodramatic slaps, and the melodramatic dialogue can be heard with a crisp and clear sound. All sounds great!



  • There is a new audio commentary featuring film historian Joseph McBride who takes listeners on an incredible journey into the psyche of Welles during the time of the film’s making.

Special Features:

Criterion doesn’t disappoint.  On top of the new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack, fans get the new commentary track, plenty of archival footage about the making of the movie, and an essay by author Jonathan Lethem

  • New audio commentary featuring film historian Joseph McBride
  • Filming “The Trial,” a 1981 documentary about the film’s production
  • Archival interviews with Welles, actor Jeanne Moreau, and director of photography Edmond Richard
  • Trailer
  • An essay by author Jonathan Lethem

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 0/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

3.5/5 stars


Film Details

The Trial (1962)

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
119 mins
: Orson Welles
Pierre Cholot; Franz Kafka; Orson Welles
Anthony Perkins; Arnoldo Foà; Jess Hahn
: Mystery | Drama

Memorable Movie Quote: "To be in chains is sometimes safer than to be free."
Theatrical Distributor:
Astor Pictures Corporation
Official Site:
Release Date:
February 20, 1963
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
September 19, 2023
Synopsis: A feverishly inspired take on Franz Kafka's novel, Orson Welles's The Trial casts Anthony Perkins as the bewildered office drone Josef K., whose arrest for an unspecified crime plunges him into a menacing bureaucratic labyrinth of guilt, corruption, and paranoia.


The Trial (1962)