Roderick Raskolnikov, a brilliant criminology student and writer, becomes embittered by poverty and his inability to support his family. When he sees a desperate prostitute, Sonya, degraded by a vicious pawnbroker, Raskolnikov, a proponent of the idea that some people are imbued with such intelligence that the law cannot be applied to them as to other people, decides to rid the world of the pawnbroker and thus save his family and Sonya as well from the fate poverty forces on them. When Porphiry, the police detective investigating the murder, encounters Raskolnikov, he finds a man nearly crippled by the guilt and paranoia his deed has burdened him with. But Raskolnikov clings with as much coldness and calculation as he can muster to his guiding idea, that some crimes ought not to be punished. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
Josef von Sternberg was contractually obligated to make this film, and he disliked it, saying in his autobiography that it was "no more related to the true text of the novel than the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Gower is related to the Russian environment." See more »
[Looking down at the water]
I wonder how many poor devils have found an answer to their questions down there. If only the dead could ever come back.
[goes inside to fetch a book, returns]
Remember the Raising of Lazarus?
[Takes Bible, turns it over and hands it back]
Are you happy to have your Bible back?
Would you like me to read the Raising of Lazarus?
[They go inside]
I can't understand you Sonya, how can you continue living like this?
I believe in God.
What have you or I to ...
[...] See more »
One of the credits reads "Story by Dostoievsky". There is an asterisk next to this credit, and at the bottom it says, "Feodor Dostoievsky, Russia's foremost author, wrote 'Crime and Punishment' in 1866'". See more »
Not the greatest adaptation, but carries a great performance from Peter Lorre
Classic Russian literature is a wealth of psychological intentions, brimming with historical depravity and conversely elegance. Poverty and degradation was rife during the 18th and 19th centuries. This depth of psychological characterisation can most certainly be found in one of Russia's greatest writers, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and particularly in (in my opinion) his greatest work, Crime and Punishment which was published in instalments in 1866. (This publication is also one of my favourite books of all time).
The book (and of course this 1935 film) follows Raskolnikov (Peter Lorre), a lauded graduate of criminology, is witness to the depravity and selfishness of the culture around him. After seeing a young woman, Sonya (Marion Marsh), being ripped off by an old female pawnbroker (Mrs Patrick Campbell), he sees it as his duty to remedy the problem by murdering her. With his credentials as a master criminologist, Raskolikov believes he can commit the perfect crime. Unfortunately his actions do not go as he had planned, and the time spent after the murder he is overcome with paranoia.
It seems appropriate that this film was produced in the 1930's, during the Great Depression. The poverty and hypocrisy redolent in that decade were found in the Russia of the novel. Peter Lorre plays a fantastically paranoiac, and sweaty character, his facial contortions perfect instruments of doubt, scared awkwardness, and justified anguish. Raskolikov's path leads him to the chief of police, Porfiry (Edward Arnold), and his guilt begins to unravel.
This film was an incredibly low-budget affair, which hampers the director, Josef von Sternberg's, usual visual flares (in films such as The Blue Angel (1930) and Shanghai Express (1932)). This film was produced under Columbia Pictures, as Sternberg's previous employers, Paramount, had ended his contract with them. However, whilst it is technically flawed, and is largely unimaginative in the art department, it is still a beautiful film to watch. Certainly not the greatest adaptation of Dostoevsky, it does carry a great performance from Lorre, and packs in some of the psychological tension produced from the narrative.
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