In a stunning, Oscar-nominated performance, Rod Steiger stars as a German-Jewish Holocaust survivor who now operates a small East Harlem pawnshop, where his daily interactions with the desperate clientele further darken his already jaundiced view of humanity. As he engages in turf warfare with the local pimp (Brock Peters) who uses the shop as a front, Steiger’s haunted memories come flooding back in staccato bursts, rendered by Lumet and editor Ralph Rosenblum in a subliminal style unprecedented in mainstream movies of the time. The first American film to address the Holocaust from the perspective of a survivor, The Pawnbroker—and Steiger’s performance—has lost none of its power to shock and disturb.
“[A] remarkable picture…played by Mr. Steiger with a mounting intensity that carries from a state of listless ennui to a point of passion where it seems he’s bound to burst.”
—Bosley Crowther, The New York Times