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Compulsion (1959)

Approved | | Biography, Crime, Drama | 4 May 1959 (Sweden)
2:26 | Trailer

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Two wealthy law-school students go on trial for murder in this version of the Leopold-Loeb case.



(screenplay), (based on the novel by)
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Ruth Evans
Arthur A. Straus
District Attorney Harold Horn
Sid Brooks
Max Steiner
Police Lt. Johnson (as Robert Simon)
Tom Daly
Charles Straus
Mr. Steiner
Louise Lorimer ...
Mrs. Straus aka 'Mumsy'
Padua - Horn's Assistant


In 1924 Chicago, Artie Strauss and Judd Steiner are friends and fellow law students who both come from wealthy backgrounds. They have few true friends as they believe all their contemporaries are intellectually inferior. Within their relationship, Artie is the dominant and Judd the submissive who says he will do whatever Artie tells him. Although Judd acts intellectually arrogant to others, he also shows signs of weakness and reticence most evident to Artie. Part of their goal in life is to experience how it feels to do everything. As such, they plot to commit what they consider the perfect crime - a kidnapping and murder - not only so that they can experience the sense of killing for killing's sake, but also taunt the law with the knowledge of it and their superiority after the fact. They believe their crime is above the law. Their murder of young Paulie Kessler is not so perfect, with evidence at the scene uncovered by one of their law school colleagues, Sid Brooks, who also works ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


You know why we did it? Because we damn well felt like doing it! See more »


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

4 May 1959 (Sweden)  »

Also Known As:

Der Zwang zum Bösen  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (FMC Library Print)

Sound Mix:

(35 mm magnetic prints) (Westrex Recording System)| (35 mm optical prints) (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Orson Welles, Dean Stockwell and Bradford Dillman were given a special three -way acting award at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival. See more »


When D.A. Horn is interviewing Straus, Horn sits down in a chair that was meant for Straus and moves a floor lampshade back down that had been directing its light at that chair. Straus moves to stand beside the floor lamp. The light is then variably on and off as shots between the two change. See more »


[first lines]
Judd Steiner: To the perfect crime!
Arthur Straus: Crime. Oh, my wealthy fraternity brothers. 67 dollars, and a second-hand typewriter.
See more »


Version of Swoon (1992) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Murder and Dean Stockwell's Eyes
27 April 2007 | by (New Zealand) – See all my reviews

Seeing "Compulsion" again after a very long time, it amazed me how well I remembered it. In fact I remembered every tiny little turn in Dean Stockwell's eyes. He is superb in the part of the young semi genius with a weakness for the shallow Bradford Dillman. The Leopold and Loeb case was the base for this thrilling Richard Fleischer film. It won acting awards for Stockwell, Dillman and Orson Welles at the Cannes Film Festival but with the benefit of hindsight, Dean Stockwell emerges as the winner against the famous test of time. Dillman seems a little bit too everything. Welles is great fun to watch and E G Marshall is terrific as the man determined to unmask the "powder poofs". Stockwell fainting at the trial, something that could have been so over the top, is in fact, shattering. The Leopold and Loeb story was also the base for Hitchcock's "Rope" and the wonderful Tom Kalin's "Swoon" Another version was rumored in 1991, directed by Martin Donovan with River Phoenix in the Stockwell part.

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