Friday, 24 April 2015

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, USA












d. Denis Sanders (1959)


Dostoevsky goes beat, man. Well, sort of. George Hamilton plays Robert Cole, a beer can bongo playing high school drop out with a very punchable face and a massive superiority complex. Ray believes that he is special, an Alexander the Great, a Napoleon Bonaparte, albeit one who lives in a Los Angeles bedsit and spends most of his days either asleep or drifting aimlessly around amusement arcades. Cole believes that important people like him shouldn't have to operate within the normal moral framework of society and that, as they know best, they should do whatever the hell they like. Typical student, really. His view is that if, for example, he had beaten a pawnbroker to death, then he probably had a very good reason, and he's too clever to get caught, so let's leave it at that.    

I haven't read Dostoevsky's original novel (I haven't read ANY Dostoevsky, please don't tell my mates), but I am familiar with the basics, which is just as well as you certainly don't get any help from the film itself, which cleverly reconfigures the source material so that it becomes virtually incomprehensible. Despite the inherent drama of the storyline there is no tension here whatsoever and the narrative is reduced to a series of seemingly unrelated vignettes in which an out of their depth cast are left spouting cod philosophical non sequiturs in lieu of characterisation and dialogue. The music is quite good, though. 

The Cole/Raskolnikov character needs an actor able to convey a fierce intellect, a complex personality and a monstrous personal philosophy. Instead we get a very young George Hamilton, who looks a bit thick and keeps stiffly throwing his arms in the air and shouting. With a better actor the film might have had a chance but, as the producer later admitted, they simply couldn't afford Anthony Perkins.   

I didn't set up this blog to be mean to films, by the way, but Crime and Punishment, USA is pretentious and poorly executed and it would be dishonest of me not to say so - and I'm nothing if not a deeply moral and upright person.   

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