Bold handling of crude unbridled passion, of violently conflicting ideas, and of earthy humor makes up The Brothers Karamazov. Sex and Salvation are the twin obsessions of the brothers and father, and they are the two themes that are hammered relentlessly home by Richard Brooks, who directs his own screenplay.

Bold handling of crude unbridled passion, of violently conflicting ideas, and of earthy humor makes up The Brothers Karamazov. Sex and Salvation are the twin obsessions of the brothers and father, and they are the two themes that are hammered relentlessly home by Richard Brooks, who directs his own screenplay.

Brooks wrote his screenplay from an adaptation by Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein of the Dostoievsky novel. Lee J. Cobb is the father of the Karamazov brothers, a lecherous old buffoon who taunts, tantalizes and frustrates his sons into violence, despair and apathy. Yul Brynner is the handsome, cruel, profligate army officer, a combination of adult power and childish pleasure. He is in conflict with his father partly because they both lust after the same woman, Maria Schell as Grushenka.

Richard Basehart is in revolt because of his intellectual coldness, a rigidity brought on by revulsion at the open and untrammeled sexuality of the old rogue. The third son, William Shatner, has chosen his way of survival in contest with his father; he has retreated into the church as a monk. The explosion that these figures ignite comes when Brynner imagines Schell has gone to his father in preference to him.

Brynner succeeds in making his Dmitri a hero despite the fact that every facet of his character is against it. Schell, in her American motion picture debut, illumines her role, seemingly able to suggest innocence and depravity with the same sweet face. Claire Bloom, as the alabaster beauty who saves Brynner from debtors’ prison, is very moving particularly in the court scene as her facade cracks from within, rent by bitterness and despair. It is Lee J. Cobb, however, who walks – or rather gallops – away with the picture. The part is gargantuan and it is not a bit too big for the actor.

The Metrocolor used by Brooks and cameraman John Alton is rich in purples, reds and blues.

1958: Nomination: Best Supp. Actor (Lee J. Cobb)

The Brothers Karamazov

Production

M-G-M/Avon. Director Richard Brooks; Producer Pandro S. Berman; Screenplay Richard Brooks; Camera John Alton; Editor John Dunning; Music Bronislau Kaper; Art Director William A. Horning, Paul Groesse

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1958. Running time: 149 MIN.

With

Yul Brynner Maria Schell Claire Bloom Lee J. Cobb Richard Basehart William Shatner
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