'Crime and Punishment - 80th Anniversary Series'
(Peter Lorre, Edward Arnold, Marian Marsh, Tala Birell, Elisabeth Risdon, et al / DVD / NR / (1990) 2015 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: Dostoievsky's immortal novel of human passion becomes a powerful drama starring Edward Arnold (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) as Inspector Porfiry and Peter Lorre (Casablanca) as Roderick Raskolnikov, an impoverished student struggling with the nature of good and evil.
DVD Verdict: In truth, I actually read the book so long ago that I'd forgotten many details! Which was fine as I watched it as a rainy afternoon film presented by Ted Turner, and it is indeed a Turner Classic Movie. Slammed by many, it is in fact very well written, extremely well acted, and a revelation of Peter Lorre's range. He carries the film brilliantly. It's essentially a long dialog between Raskolnikov, a brilliant, impoverished writer on crime, and Inspector Porphyry, nicely interrupted by Raskolnikov's thoughts on crime, interludes with his family, and his love-life.
Made on a low budget, it proves yet again that money isn't everything. Intense, excellent acting, direction, editing and camera work do the job, as with so many low budget European films. It's about people and ideas, not special effects and stardom.
What you get is a minor classic with no empty spaces and nothing extra. The narrative drive is cumulative and very human. Deprived of Dietrich, von Sternberg has no problem, and gets the best out of Edward Arnold and Marian Marsh (and everyone else) as well as Lorre. No weak spots, all class. It's also the perfect demonstration of how to find an excellent film in a great novel: by not trying to include everything, but going to the heart of the matter.
Again, and in closing, Mr. Lorre is riveting in his depiction of Raskolnikov's journey from poverty driven desperation, to fear, to arrogance, to his ultimate repentance and redemption. It's not only one of his finest performances, but one of the cinema's all time greats. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.