7.5/10
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Compulsion (1959)

Approved | | Biography, Crime, Drama | April 1959 (USA)
Two wealthy law-school students go on trial for murder in this version of the Leopold-Loeb case.

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Writers:

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

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Cast

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

In Chicago in 1924, Artie Strauss and Judd Steiner are friends and fellow law students who come from wealthy backgrounds. They have few true friends as they believe all their contemporaries to be intellectually inferior. Although Judd acts arrogantly towards others his inherent weakness is understood and exploited by Artie and indeed Judd appears to relish his submissiveness to Artie. Part of their goal in life, influenced perhaps by their admiration for Nietzsche, is to experience how it feels to do anything one pleases. They thus plot to commit what they consider the perfect crime - a kidnapping and murder - not only in order to experience killing for killing's sake, but also - especially in Artie's case - to taunt the authorities after the fact. They believe themselves above the law. The actual killing of little Paulie Kessler, and the subsequent attempts to cover their tracks, are not so perfect however. Sid Brooks, a fellow student (who also works for the Globe newspaper) whom ... Written by Huggo, edited with some additional material by Chrid

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

THEIRS WAS THE PERFECT CRIME they thought! They were too sure...too smart...too careful to leave a clue -- but they did! and it exploded -- The shocking story of two teenagers out for kicks...looking for thrills...and finding them! See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

April 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Zwang zum Bösen  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (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?

Trivia

Because Orson Welles was having tax problems during the production, his entire salary for the movie was garnisheed several hours after photography was completed. This upset Welles so much that during the subsequent looping session to rerecord improperly recorded dialogue, Welles suddenly stormed off the studio and left the country. All that was left to fix was twenty seconds of unclear dialogue in Welles' climatic courtroom speech. But editor William Reynolds managed to fix this problem without Welles. Reynolds took words and pieces of words Welles had spoke earlier in the movie, and pieced them one by one into those last twenty seconds. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

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

Version of Rope (1957) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Lets go watch them slaughter the sheep!
10 August 2015 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Compulsion is directed by Richard Fleischer and adapted to screenplay by Richard Murphy from the novel written by Meyer Levin. It stars Dean Stockwell, Bradford Dillman, Orson Welles and Diane Varsi. Music is by Lionel Newman and cinematography by William C. Mellor.

Based upon the real life Leopold and Loeb murder trial of the 1920s, Compulsion finds Artie Strauss (Dillman) and Judd Steiner (Stockwell) as two well to do young men attempting to commit the perfect crime - murder! But it wasn't so perfect after all and they soon find themselves on trial for their own lives. Enter famed attorney Jonathan Wilk (Welles), who fights to keep them from the death penalty.

Healthily rated in some quarters, it's a film that actually does divide opinions, which when all is considered is unsurprising given the capital punishment core of the story. The story builds superbly, brilliantly photographed and paced by cinematographer and director, and performed with imposing skills by Dillman and Stockwell. Then the crux of the film arrives in the form of Welles, who late in the play has the unenviable job of turning the piece into a soapbox anti capital punishment advertisement.

It's also a performance from Welles that has drawn major pros and cons in critical circles. Whatever your thoughts on capital punishment, Welles makes a telling acting mark. The sound mix could have been fine tuned, as Welles is prone to mumble during his speeches, but it remains gripping on court room drama terms, even if there's a little deflation

  • a feeling of anti-climax - after the build up had been so good. Not


really capturing the notoriety of the real case, it's nonetheless a compelling piece and well worth seeking out. 7/10


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