Rick’s Journal (My Film Career)

A FILM FROM OUR PAST, viewed on Turner Classic Movies

Josef von Sternberg

Given its director, this is visually a surprisingly uninteresting film, and a very talky one.  A modernization and simplification of Dostoyevsky’s tale, it lacks key elements of the original and offers nothing new except a great expansion of the role of the pawnbroker in the interest of the celebrated Mrs. Patrick Campbell who takes the part.

Though it is in English there is a European feel to this film (where IS it taking place, by the way?).   But no one has ever talked like these characters (faithful to Dostoyevsky there!); but the dull, bleak sets help make the unreal dialogue acceptable.  Marian Marsh as Sonya is played (and written and photographed) as a Hollywood Sonya.  But the script retains her passion for the New Testament and for the resurrection and Dostoyevsky’s most lovable character shines through.

The script  does well with the cat and mouse game played by the police inspector and Raskolnikov.  Edward Arnold is superb in the police role.  The major problem here is Peter Lorre, his playing as well as the writing of his character.  He is supposed to have committed his crime to prove his superiority, but we always see him afterwards in a panic.  The fact that Lorre’s face is fascinating at all times does not mean that it is always really expressive.  More often than not here, it isn’t

NEXT POST Friday August 2

See you then and
See you at the movies,

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