Quick Thoughts: Sidney Lumet’s ‘The Pawnbroker’

Sidney Lumet’s The Pawnbroker is a classic, featuring a remarkable performance from Rod Steiger. If you only think of Steiger who overacted too often, his performance here will completely change your mind.

While Steiger was the only actor here to get and awards consideration, Geraldine Fitzgerald and Jamie Sanchez give incredible supporting performances. Boris Kaufman once again proves that he was the best black & white cinematographer in the 1950s and early 1960s. There’s also a very unique score from Quincy Jones, making his film debut here.

The Pawnbroker is a real mix of feelings, as Sal Nazerman (Steiger) gives up on all humanity. The world of Harlem turns into a Nazi concentration camp, but he only realizes that he is the one who made it that way when it is too late. He’s the one who has become so consumed with the past that he can’t keep his present and future from looking like it.

If any film screamed for scholarly analysis or a commentary, this is one. Sadly, Olive Films doesn’t create new features, but at least the film looks remarkable on Blu-ray. There’s not even a trailer, but it’s still worth it to have on home video. I think this is a film that stands up for multiple viewings and is a must-have for any collection.

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