THE CRIME OF DR. CRESPI (1935)
Article #60 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 5-15-2001
Posting date: 9-28-2001
This story is partially based on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Premature Burial.” Dr. Crespi is a mad, embittered surgeon who has lost the woman he loves to another man. When that man contracts an illness that requires Dr. Crespi’s skills, he plans revenge by injecting the man with a serum to cause him to emulate death, so he will be buried alive.
If ever a single performance makes a movie work, this is the one; Erich von Stroheim as Dr. Crespi is a wonder to behold. Even when he’s just sitting in a chair, his every gesture and movement is so crisp, pointed and ominous that you understand why he was known as “the man you love to hate.” His mood swings are also noticeable; he seems to have two voices, a smooth quiet one for some moments suddenly turning to a harsh, shrill staccato one when he becomes angry or annoyed. His performance is what makes the movie, and it lingers in your memory long after you’ve seen it.
As an added plus, the movie also features Dwight Frye in one of his most prominent roles, as an underling to Dr. Crespi who keeps getting on his wrong side and tries to stand up to him.