Based on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel and directed by Richard Brooks, in 1870 a Russian father has three sons by two women. One son is a soldier who borrows money to spend on women; another is a monk who tries to be helpful; and the third is an atheist who writes for a newspaper in Moscow. The soldier falls in love with the beautiful and wealthy woman his father has been seeing while spurning another woman who loves him.
Alexei Karamazov (William Shatner) comes to his father Fyodor Karamazov (Lee J. Cobb) for the 10,000 rubles he said he would loan Dmitri. The father only gives him 5,000, and Alexei takes it to Dmitri Karamazov (Yul Brynner). He ignores his current gambling debts and takes the money and gives it to Katya (Claire Bloom) for the pleasure she promised him. Dmitri acts nobly and tells her to go even though he had planned to take advantage of her and leave her without the money.
The father is enjoying the love of the business woman Grushenka (Maria Schell), and he asks her to marry him. She suspects he wants her money and questions him.
Katya is grateful to Dmitri for giving her the 5,000 that saved her father from shame, and she wants to marry him. She tries to loan him money, but he refuses to take it. So she gives him 3,000 rubles in an envelope and tells him to post it to her father.
Dmitri uses the money to pay for a lavish party with Grushenka who has caught his fancy.
Dmitri confesses to his brother Alexei how he spent the money Katya gave him on Grushenka, and now he asks Alexei to help borrow more money from his father so that he can pay back Katya.
Alexei finds his father with Ivan and his servant Smerdjakov (Albert Salmi) whom he claims is his bastard son. Dmitri comes in looking for Grushenka and attacks his father, saying next time he will kill him.
Alexei goes to Katya and finds her trying to pay off Grushenka so that she will give up Dmitri, but Grushenka loves Dmitri.
The reckless Dmitri shames the former Captain Snegiryov before his son by challenging him to a duel. The poor father does not want to die and leave his family without support and declines to fight. He is very ashamed that his son witnessed this.
Ivan has fallen in love with Katya, and he hopes that Dmitri will marry Grushenka. The father is afraid of Dmitri and Ivan who believes that without God there are no crimes. The father refuses to give Dmitri any more money.
Dmitri tries to see Grushenka, but she refuses to see him. Finally he goes to his father’s house to find her, but she is not there. His father accuses him of trying to kill him, and Dmitri by mistake clubs the elderly servant Grigory (Edgar Stehli) who had raised him when he was a child. Dmitri with bloody hands and a bloody face goes to a pawn shop to get some money.
Grushenka is making Dmitri jealous by saying that she is going back to a Polish lover she has not seen for five years. Dmitri breaks in on them and finds that the lover has been cheating at cards, and he pays off the loser. Grushenka tells Dmitri that she loves him much more than the aging Polish lover, but the police come in and arrest Dmitri for the murder of his father. Dmitri believes he killed Grigory, but he denies killing his father.
In the trial Grigori, who survived, testifies that he heard Fyodor shout “Parricide,” and Dmitri admits that he was there and heard that. The circumstantial evidence is strong, and the jury finds Dmitri guilty of killing his father for money.
Ivan goes to Smerdjakov who tells him he is his partner and explains how he pretended to have an epileptic fit to give himself an alibi and how he took money from Fyodor and left the envelope on the floor to incriminate Dmitri. Ivan nearly chokes him and demands that he go to the court and confess. When Ivan and Alexei return, they find that Smerdjakov has hanged himself.
In court Ivan confesses that he killed his father because of the plan of Smerdjakov even though Ivan was in Moscow at the time. He is considered crazy, and Katya hurts Dmitri’s case by reading a letter he wrote her saying he would get the money to pay her back. The court still convicts Dmitri who has refused to use a lawyer.
Grushenka and Alexei help Dmitri to escape, but Dmitri insists on stopping to apologize to Captain Snegiryov before his ashamed son. Then Dmitri and Grushenka go on to cross the border.
This drama follows the main pattern of the famous novel with some changes at the end, but it is difficult to convey the depth of the novel even in a fairly long movie. The story reflects Czarist Russia and the growing conflicts between religion and atheism that can cause some people to abandon morality.