Crime and Punishment
Directed by Josef von Sternberg
B.P. Schulberg Productions for Columbia Pictures Corporation
I loved this film, a loose adaptation of the Dostoyevsky novel. Raskolnikov (Peter Lorre) graduates with highest honors from university and makes his mother and sister proud. He goes on to write scholarly articles on criminology. He has a sort of Nietzschean theory that ordinary standards cannot be applied to extraordinary men. His articles don’t pay much, however, and he is living in desperate poverty. He goes to a grasping, insulting old pawnbroker to pawn his father’s watch to pay the rent and while there meets a sweet, devout prostitute named Sonya (Marian Marsh).
When he discovers that his sister has lost her position and feels forced to marry a horrible beaurocrat to support herself and their mother, he snaps and murders the pawnbroker for her money. The rest of the story follows the psychological aftermath of the crime on Raskolnikov, the relentless investigation of the murder by Inspector Porfiry, and the redemptive love of Sonya.
According to the commentary track on Mad Love, Peter Lorre agreed to star in that film in exchange for a guarantee that he could make this one. I am glad it worked out because he is simply fantastic in it. It is great to see him exercise a full range of emotion in a complex leading role. My favorite parts were immediately after the crime when the character decided that he no longer feared anything. I laughed out loud several times at the way Lorre delivered the many zingers. He is also pathetic, tender, and hysterical as the moment requires. Marian Marsh is very good and Edward Arnold is almost satanic as the inspector. The film looks quite beautiful despite its low budget thanks to cinematography by Lucien Ballard.
The complete film is currently available at a couple of different obvious online video sources.
To view clips on TCM.com go here: http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/361077/Crime-And-Punishment-Movie-Clip-Contemplating-Life.html