For Sidney Lumet, born in 1924, "12 Angry Men" was the beginning of a film career that has often sought controversial issues. Consider these titles from among his 43 films: "The Pawnbroker" (the Holocaust), "Fail-Safe" (accidental nuclear war), "Serpico" (police corruption), " Dog Day Afternoon " (homosexuality), " Network " (the decay of TV news), " The Verdict " (alcoholism and malpractice), " Daniel " (a son punished for the sins of his parents), " Running on Empty " (radical fugitives), and " Critical Care " (health care). There are also comedies and a musical (" The Wiz "). If Lumet is not among the most famous of American directors, that is only because he ranges so widely he cannot be categorized. Few filmmakers have been so consistently respectful of the audience's intelligence.
The story, thin as it is, acts as a framework upon which Coogan and Brydon improvise, almost by free association. A discussion of Spain under the Moors leads to tit-for-tat Roger Moore impersonations. The idea of Don Quixote tilting at windmills gets them started on Windmills of Your Mind , sung by the now-forgotten Noel Harrison as the theme for the movie The Thomas Crown Affair (1968). They're not drawing on memories, but on their acquired knowledge of British pop culture. In 1968, Coogan and Brydon were both three years old. Michel Legrand, who wrote the tune (with some help from Mozart), never scores a mention.