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
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 »
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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