Crime and Punishment – Joseph Von Sternberg | DVD Review


Release Date: September 15, 2015
Format: DVD
Starring: Peter Lorre, Edward Arnold, Maria Marsh
Directed by: Joseph Von Sternberg

For the first time ever Joseph Von Sternberg’s Crime and Punishment is available on DVD in the United States thanks to the fine folks over at Mill Creek Entertainment. A title that I thought would never have seen the light of day in a psychical format, but I am happy to say that this forgotten classic had made its way home.

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.

Crippled by guilt and paranoia after committing a murder he thinks is just, Raskolnikov is torn between the detective investigating the murder and the woman he saved, who now wants to save his soul.

Joseph Von Sternberg is a director that I am unfamiliar with and the only exposure to his films have been the silent film collection Criterion released a couple of years ago. All three films release in that set can be considered silent film masterpieces and since then Crime and Punishment has been a gem I been trying to seek out, which is now possible.

Crime and Punishment stars Peter Lorrie, mostly known as the child murderer in Fritz Lang’s M, as Dostoievsky as recent graduating student who wrote a thesis on guilt and the struggle between good and evil. Surprisingly relevant to today, Dostoievsky is unable to find a good source of income after graduating and is regulated into small shanty apartment with one set of rip clothes to find a job. With rent and debt being overdue, Dostoievsky pawns his most valuable and sentimental items. As he pawns his items, he views the pawn owner disrespecting and taking advantage of a beautiful young women, filling with rage Dostoievsky murders the pawn owner. Now Dostoievsky is living with the guilt of this crime as it eats his conscious away.

Starting out working in the era of Silent Films, Joseph Von Sternberg emotes so much emotion and information through the screen with acting, placement of camera, and lighting. We quickly understand the character of Dostoievsky, as we are introduced with a scenes in his graduation ceremony quickly cutting to his apartment putting on the same suit only this time torn and riped. Dostoievsky quickly sighs as he readies himself for another day, exiting the frame the camera lingering at his idol Napoleon Bonaparte, a man who can both be classified as good and evil, bringing the morals of Dostoievsky and the narrative full circle. Crime and Punishment is full of touches such as this through out the film and a sign of a director that truly understands the medium.

Crime and Punishment is an outstanding forgotten classic that does not get to much attention, but now that its finally been released I hope it sparks a conversation amongst fans of classic film. What is even better Mill Creek Entertainment has released the DVD at a MSRP of $9.99, at this price point it is a must.


Initially worried that Crime and Punishment may not look the greatest as Mill Creek Entertainment is know for budget releases but has slowly been building confidence among film collectors with their respectable quality releases of The Wild One, The Lady from Shanghai, and That 70’s Show. Crime and Punishment is a great looking release on DVD but unfortunately a Blu-Ray release is unavailable. The print used comes from a good-looking source with minimal scratching and dirt visible on screen. The grain structure stays intact and compression artifact are minimal even when blown up to a 100” inch screen. Screenshots are provided below.

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The audio is clear with no hiss or crackle to be found. An English Dual Mono Dolby Digital track is the only option available and subtitle are not present.

Special Feature

This is a bare-bones release and no special features are included.

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