Crime and Punishment (1935)

Crime and Punishment (1935)





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Movie Info

The story goes that Peter Lorre wanted to star in a film version of Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, but was certain that Columbia Pictures chieftain Harry Cohn would turn the project down flat. So Lorre hired a secretary to type up a synopsis of the story in words of one syllable then submitted this simplified resume to Cohn. Enthusiastic over the project, Cohn gave Lorre the go-ahead -- but first he asked "Tell me -- has this book got a publisher?" Apocryphal story or no, the fact is that Lorre did star in Columbia's Crime and Punishment and in the bargain was directed by the ultra-stylish Josef Von Sternberg. As the arrogant sociopath Raskolnikov, who is convinced that he can get away with the murder of a nasty pawnbroker because he is "above" such intangibles as a conscience, Lorre is excellent, especially when his bravado is slowly eroded by the gentle but determined Inspector Porfiri (Edward Arnold). Like the aforementioned typed-up synopsis, the film oversimplifies the Dostoyevsky original, concentrating only on the crime, the pangs of guilt, the confession and the arrest: the punishment and its aftermath, so essential to the novel's overall impact, are dispensed with entirely. To make the film even more accessible to a mass audience, the story is subtly updated, though any distinctly "contemporary" touches such as automobiles, telephones and current slang are studiously avoided. The supporting cast is wildly inconsistent: Mrs. Patrick Campbell is fine in her brief scenes as the vitriolic pawnbroker, but Marian Marsh is all wrong as the streetwalker heroine Sonya. The principal strength of this Crime and Punishment is the film-long game of cat-and-mouse between the reckless Raskolnikov and the quietly methodical Porfiri.
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
B.P. Schulberg Productions


Peter Lorre
as Roderick Raskolnikov
Edward Arnold
as Insp. Porfiry
Elisabeth Risdon
as Mrs. Raskolnikov
Tala Birell
as Antonya
Elizabeth Risdon
as Mrs. Raskolnikov
Gene Lockhart
as Lushin
Charles Waldron
as University President
Thurston Hall
as Editor
Rafaela Ottiano
as Landlady
Michael Mark
as Painter/Prisoner
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for Crime and Punishment

All Critics (2)

Dostoyevskian? No, no -- Sternbergian!

Full Review… | November 17, 2009

The American version of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel.

Full Review… | September 15, 2008
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment 1936 This film misses the subconscious aspect that the book has covering what the character thinks of things and misses out on the small details of what the space looked like, the city as far as smell, appearance of the city and room on the larger scale. There is a much bigger thing in the book about paranoia over things that is not said but is thought. This film is able to capture the Suspicion and feelings even by the actors looks, expressions, lighting, use of space, the where the camera decides to focus on. This film does a good job on casting and acting. Peter Lorrie does a good job just how he does his acting by adding suspicion, confidence, shame; at the right time. I like the lighting in the film. The silouiets are well used. This film looses something by having it set in modern times and having hints of Imperial Russia such as the insignia of Imperial Russia or mentioning the currency, mentioning of the Siberian desert as a form of punishment. This film looses the context of the times which Crime and Punishment was written in to better understand the way people acted in the days. This film does not add the context that the Imperial Russian police were corrupt in the period the book was written or daughters still had there husband chosen by the family. The mix in cultural thought in religion and ethnic diversity. This film had a dumb ending with grand thematic music because he is about to confesses his responsibility for committing the crime of murder on the pawn shop woman. In some ways I think that this film or book is dumb. Not because of the realism but because of the incompetence, stupidity in bad planning and thinking in those who commit a murder or study crime by an experts who study crime.


Excellent film, regardless of the era it was filmed in. Lorre plays a genius who is too depressed by both family circumstances and greater societal realities to try and better himself. To quote A.N. Whitehead (1861 - 1947); "A person is never happy except at the price of some ignorance." The ending is a bit simplistic and "Hollywood", but that doesn't make the film and it's layers of messages any less worth discussing afterwards. Note that Edward Arnold later became president of the SAG, and Mrs. Cambell was a voice/acting coach who later died in Europe of natural causes just as her visa to escape Naziism was approved.

Christopher Bergan
Christopher Bergan

how is it this film has so few ratings on flixster? it's very entertaining! lorre is great as the arrogant impoverished writer who sees himself as a 'superman' like his hero napoleon but is ultimately undone by his own conscience. of course no film will entirely live up to a great novel and this is an oversimplified version to be sure; the odd mix of accents barely acknowledge the russian setting. it's a hollywood bastardization of dostoyevsky so be prepared but definitely worth it for lorre fans

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

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