Crime and Punishment (1935)

“A Monumental Human Document Flames Anew as a Masterpiece of Screen Entertainment!” Although the Hollywood version of Crime and Punishment bears little if no resemblance to the classic Dostoevsky novel I was forced to read in college, the film boasts solid performances (especially from Peter Lorre and Edward Arnold), crisp direction by Josef von Sternberg and atmospheric cinematography by Lucien Ballard. Lorre gives an outstanding performance as “Raskolnikov,” a brilliant but arrogant criminology student full of Nietzschean bravado who murders an old pawnbroker and believes he has gotten away with the perfect crime until he meets his adversary in police inspector “Porfiry” (Arnold). Marian Marsh portrays “Sonya,” a down-and-out prostitute with a heart of gold. Eventually Raskolnikov gets worn down under the burden of his guilty conscience. Useless Trivia: In his 1965 autobiography, Fun in a Chinese Laundry, von Sternberg (who was contractually obligated with Columbia Pictures to direct the film and reportedly hated the finished product) wrote, “At best [Crime and Punishment] can be no more than a film about a detective and a criminal, no more related to the true text of the novel than the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Gower is related to the Russian environment.”

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