Retrospective 2016

Crime And Punishment

Josef von Sternberg
USA 1935
88 min

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT is the story of Raskolnikov, who commits a senseless murder, later on being shaken by his guilt and his belief in his own superior intellect. Josef von Sternberg later boiled his Dostojevski adaption down to a genre film, stating: “At best it can be no more than a film about a detective and a criminal.” The film, for him, was just an assignment, but for Lorre, born to play Raskolnikov, it was a cherished project. But the film should be viewed as a Peter Lorre tour-de-force ably assisted by Sternberg. They both created a Kafkaesque fable, presented to us in the timeless landscape of a disturbing dream. The novel is so much more than just a guilt trip, and Lorre’s supple face and body language brilliantly capture these complex themes, shifting from elation to despair and from paranoia to bravado in a way that indicates a deep understanding of the Russian spirit as embodied in Raskolnikov. The brilliant performance of Edward Arnold as the Inspector and the subtle cat-and-mouse game portrayed by him and Lorre can only be properly understood in all its layers in this Russian context. The Inspector truly loves Raskolnikov and is seeking to redeem him rather than merely apprehend him. Between them are moments of black comic brilliance, and the interaction between the two is one of the greatest performances by a duo in the history of cinema. (Thomas Beltzer)

  • Peter Lorre - Roderick Raskolnikov
  • Edward Arnold - Inspector Porfiry
  • Gene Lockhart - Lushin
  • Marian Marsh - Sonya
  • Elisabeth Risdon - Mrs. Raskolnikov
  • S.K. Lauren
  • Joseph Anthony
  • Lucien Ballard
  • Richard Cahoon
  • Stephen Goosson
  • Murray Mayer
B.P. Schulberg Productions, Columbia Pictures Corporation
35 mm
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