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In an update of the Dostoyevsky classic novel, a murderer believes he can escape the penalties of justice.
In Santa Monica, California, elderly pawn shop owner Lizzie Griggs is found beaten to death inside her shop. Just outside in a crowd of curious onlookers, law student Robert Cole collapses upon the arrival of the police led by Lt. Porter and Sgt. Samuels. Bob is taken home by his best friend and schoolmate Rafe, and quickly recovers. After Rafe departs, Bob goes down to the beach and buries a sack holding a crowbar, gloves and a pot filled with money. While walking back, Bob comes upon an old man who has collapsed in the street and helps the man to the home the man shares with his adult daughter, Sally Marmon. At his apartment, Bob is surprised by a visit from his mother and sister Debbie, who announces her engagement to a wealthy attorney. Bob erupts in fury at the prospect of his sister marrying a man she does not love, but Debbie insists she has the right to help her impoverished family by any means. The next day, Bob arranges a meeting with Lt. Porter in order to retrieve items he pawned with Mrs. Griggs. Porter recognizes Bob as the author of an article outlining a philosophy that claims certain individuals are superior to others and are above the law if their actions ultimately benefit mankind. Bob acknowledges he continues to believe his theory despite Porter's air of disdain. That afternoon, Bob is startled when Fred Swanson, Debbie's former employer, drops by his apartment unexpectedly. Full of loathing for Swanson because he made advances to Debbie while married, Bob orders him to leave, but Swanson reveals his wife has recently died and left Debbie a large amount of money. Curious, Bob questions Swanson further and learns that Mrs. Swanson liked Debbie and felt guilty over her husband's shameful behavior. Swanson shows Bob a legal document to back up his story and asks if he might see Debbie to apologize in person, but Bob forbids it. At dinner that evening, Debbie is incredulous over the news about Mrs. Swanson's will. Bob, startled when a stranger appears at the restaurant doorway and stares at him for a long time before leaving, follows the man outside and is stunned when the man calls him a murderer before fleeing. Disturbed, Bob is unable to relax after dinner and walks to a coffee shop where a little later he is approached by Sally, whom he does not initially recognize. Sally thanks him for helping her father earlier and Bob invites her for coffee. The couple chat and Sally reveals her father has just died, ravaged by a lifelong addiction to alcohol. Bob escorts Sally back to her one-room apartment where they discuss Sally's spiritual readings and her attempts to write poetry. Then abruptly Sally admits that she is a prostitute because her father's alcoholism exhausted their savings. Bob responds with anger and belittles Sally's attempts to live normally despite her aberrant lifestyle. When Sally orders Bob to leave, he admits he is attracted to her and desires to see her again. Upon departing, Bob fails to notice that Swanson has been following him all evening. The next morning, Bob returns to police headquarters to give Porter a statement describing the items he pawned with Mrs. Griggs. Although Porter attempts to make Bob uneasy by casually discussing his suspicions regarding the murderer, Bob challenges the lieutenant to question him directly if he suspects him. When Porter continues circuitously probing Bob, the young man grows angry and the men argue until they are interrupted by a report that a young artist has confessed to the Griggs murder. Pleased, Bob visits Sally, who has just returned from her father's funeral. On an impulse, Bob confesses to Sally that he murdered Mrs. Griggs because he needed the money and because he considered the cantankerous old woman's life worthless. Bob compares his behavior to the risks taken by great men like Alexander and Napoleon, but Sally remains dubious and advises him to surrender to the police. Bob refuses, growing belligerent and insisting they have no evidence against him. Bob pleads with Sally to believe in him and she allows him to spend the night with her. The next morning, Bob finds Swanson sunbathing on Sally's apartment deck. Swanson reveals that he has rented the room next to Sally's and has overheard Bob's confession, then suggests that they have something in common. Bob asks Swanson if he murdered his wife, but Swanson requests to see Debbie. Bob finds Porter waiting for him at his apartment and the lieutenant declares frankly that despite the man's confession, he believes Bob is the murderer, citing his tense behavior, the connection with Mrs. Griggs through the pawned items and his shocked response to the man Porter hired to call him a murderer in public. Porter urges Bob to give himself up, promising to help as much as possible, but when Bob remains stubbornly silent, Porter reminds him that he can never escape the burden of murder. Bob meets Swanson for lunch, where the older man describes how he grew attracted to Debbie's kindness and effort to reform his immoral behavior. Swanson acknowledges that his wife's discovery of his attempt to seduce Debbie provoked his decision to murder her. Swanson then lightly assures Bob the guilt over murder passes and recommends that he leave town for a change of scenery. Shaken by Swanson's casual attitude, Bob telephones Sally and asks her to go away with him and get married. Meanwhile, Swanson summons Debbie to his apartment and reveals having overheard Bob's confession, but Debbie refuses to believe him. Swanson divulges his continued feelings for Debbie and pleads with her to give him a chance. When Debbie responds coldly, Swanson threatens to turn Bob in, then realizes Debbie will never care for him and allows her to leave. A little later, Bob arrives at Sally's and while helping her pack, the couple hear a gunshot. Rushing next door, they discover Swanson has committed suicide. Shocked, Bob abruptly walks to the police station and turns himself in to Porter as Sally watches with relief.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||not available|
|Release Date:||1959||Production Date:||
EB?; UCLA has 16mm print R-FB0000056549, M18728;
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||Allied Artists Pictures Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Sanders Associates Productions|
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kevin sellers 2015-05-02
About half as good as Von Sternberg's 1936 version. There's a big drop off in acting talent from Peter Lorre to George Hamilton. (However, Frank...