Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Crime and Punishment


I ain’t never read none of them high-falutin’ Russian novels like Warren Pease or The Brothers Kutchyakokov, and I ain’t really interested in reading them, either. So my understanding is that this is a little like a Cliff’s Notes version of C&P. Fine with me. I think I got most of the plot points, though looking through the Wiki summary it looks like they left out more than half the characters. It seems like such a quaint notion these days, that a man could be driven to confess a crime because of nothing but a guilty conscience and a persistent cop. I’m sure it happens, but not very often. Most confessions come as a plea bargain, and only because the police have mouse-trapped someone and there’s really nowhere else to turn. An even quainter notion is expressed by the detective here, which is that virtually all crimes are solved. Obviously any thinking person abandoned that notion a long, long time ago, and it must have been just as obvious in 1866 that there is such a thing as a perfect crime; they happen every day. So the story seems very, very antiquated to me. If I had a literature professor to expound on all the themes and undercurrents and sociology of the period and the piece, it might be more meaningful to me. But I really think not. It would only be more boring.

I feel that Peter Lorre (who is headlined here as “The distinguished European actor!”) is miscast as Raskolnikov (who for some reason is re-named Roderick instead of Rodion) here. I just can’t see him as the best pupil the university ever had, nor as a great, though misguided, moral thinker and/or criminologist. He is hopelessly inept during the commission of the murder and in its immediate aftermath. He doesn’t do one smart thing, not a single thing. It is sheer luck that Porfiry Petrovich (Edward Arnold, in what is really the best role here) isn’t able to nail his bug-eyed ass to the wall instantly. He oozes guilt. Once he feels he is not longer a suspect, he does what every two-bit street tough does. He gets arrogant, cocky. In the end it is just his conscience that brings him to justice.

Funny thing, that. Conscience. I think we all know by now that a huge, huge number of us simply have nothing that would fit that definition. Many, many more of us have something like a conscience, but it is easily suppressed. Good Christians can commit the most horrible acts and never once think of giving themselves up. You have to nail them before they tearfully confess. The whole story just doesn’t ring true to me, now or then.