“I am not bitter. No, that passed me by a million years ago.”
A traumatized Holocaust survivor (Rod Steiger) running a pawn shop in Harlem reluctantly trains an eager employee (Jaime Sanchez) while fending off advances from a friendly social worker (Geraldine Fitzgerald) and bargaining ruthlessly with his down-and-out customers.
Holocaust survival films make for undeniably — and understandably — brutal viewing, perhaps few quite so sharply as this adaptation (by director Sidney Lumet) of Edward Lewis Wallant’s novel. There is much to admire here, with the b&w visuals consistently stunning, the performances distinctive and heartfelt, and Quincy Jones’ soundtrack a true highlight. However, viewers must prepare themselves for relentless agony as we watch a deeply broken man perpetuate his own horrors onto others through grim apathy and misanthropy. Check this one out for its many fine qualities — including Steiger’s memorable lead performance — but be aware you may not be able to handle watching it more than once.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Rod Steiger as Nazerman
- Strong supporting performances
- Effectively claustrophobic sets
- Fine use of authentic New York locales
- Boris Kaufman’s cinematography
- Quincy Jones’ soundtrack
Yes, for Steiger’s performance.