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Compulsion (1959)

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

Director:

Richard Fleischer

Writers:

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

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Orson Welles ... Jonathan Wilk
Diane Varsi ... Ruth Evans
Dean Stockwell ... Judd Steiner
Bradford Dillman ... Arthur A. Straus
E.G. Marshall ... District Attorney Harold Horn
Martin Milner ... Sid Brooks
Richard Anderson ... Max Steiner
Robert F. Simon ... Police Lt. Johnson (as Robert Simon)
Edward Binns ... Tom Daly
Robert Burton ... Charles Straus
Wilton Graff ... Mr. Steiner
Louise Lorimer ... Mrs. Straus aka 'Mumsy'
Gavin MacLeod ... 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:

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


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

April 1959 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Der Zwang zum Bösen See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (FMC Library Print)

Sound Mix:

4-Track Stereo (35 mm magnetic prints) (Westrex Recording System)| Mono (35 mm optical prints) (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film takes place in Chicago in 1924. See more »

Goofs

When the murdered boy is in the morgue, his uncle recognizes him instantly, and the coroner doesn't mention to the young journalist (who found the glasses) that the kid had acid burned all over his face so he couldn't be identified. In the real life case, his face was burned and, most importantly, at the very end of the movie, Orson Welles as the defending attorney mentions that the murdered boy's face was burned with acid. 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.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: CHICAGO, 1924 See more »

Connections

Version of Rope (1957) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Orson Welles, We Did You Wrong
21 October 1999 | by alicecbrSee all my reviews

We can add Welles to Wilde, Monroe and others who we never respected until they were gone. His pleading for the lives of those crazy boys (as Clarence Darrow did) is an eloquent plea for the ending of the death penalty. Funny, how a barometer like the death penalty tells us so much about a society's relative civility. The US had backed away from it, but is now swinging back toward even public executions (which I would much prefer, as they show all of us how barbaric we have become).

Note that the movie dwells on their 'craziness' and 'richness', not the Jewishness or the homosexual relationships that evoked the wrath of the public in the real case. Both Dillman and Dean Stockwell do an excellent job of drawing out your anger until you find yourself one of the mob yelling for blood. To stem the tide, in comes Orson Welles. Welles' phrasing and meaningful looks struck me again with what a magnificent actor he was, as well as director.

Now I have to go read 'Compulsion', the novel around which this movie was made, to determine what was left out and if it would have contributed to some of the obviously omitted details that make this movie a little choppy. This movie performs the task that great art must take on itself: to provide us insights into life and how it should be lived. That can be done either negatively or positively, by point or counter-point.

Of course, unless you had some excellent writers and actors of the stature of Welles, you wouldn't come up to the quality of this movie. Definitely, black and white contributed to the brooding quality of the film. Color would have detracted, and you'll seldom 'hear' me say this.


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