Some actors have a distinctive screen presence. The ability to send a chill down your spine with just a look or a few carefully chosen words. There were none better at the art of menace than Peter Lorre. The Hungarian-born actor, who later relocated to Hollywood, made his name in German cinema; most notably in Fritz Lang’s M. His accent and political events did not help this transition; often ending up being stereotyped as a bad guy. One of his first American films was in an adaptation of Crime and Punishment in 1935.

Despite being a highly regarded university graduate in criminality, Roderick Raskolnikov (Lorre) lives in poverty. Whilst visiting a pawnbroker he witnesses her cruelty to a young woman (Marian Marsh) and vows to make her pay. When bad luck strikes his family, he exacts this revenge. This coincides with and generous advance from his editor. As life begins to start looking up, a determined policeman (Edward Arnold) smells something fishy and the guilt begins to eat into his bones.

Crime and Punishment is not a faithful retelling of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s classic novel. Indeed, director Josef von Sternberg would later distance himself from it. It’s a clear case of studio tinkering, but whilst that makes it only partially recognisable it also expands the scope of the book. Whilst it’s by no means a classic, there are a number of elements in Crime and Punishment which make it entertaining viewing.

Extras:

  • High Definition Blu-Ray (1080p) presentation, restored from original film elements
  • Original lossless mono soundtrack
  • Isolated music and effects track
  • Light And Dark, a newly-filmed appreciation by David Thompson, critic and director of Josef von Sternberg: The Man Who Made Dietrich
  • The Double Face of Peter Lorre (1984), an hour-long German TV documentary directed by Harun Farocki
  • Mystery In The Air: Crime And Punishment, a 1947 radio adaptation with Lorre reprising the role of Raskolnikov
  • Image gallery
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original artwork

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Adrian Martin.

Crime and Punishment is released on Blu-ray by Arrow Academy on 29 July.