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Compulsion

4.2 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

A lawyer defends two young thrill-killers, as in the 1920s Leopold-Loeb case. Directed by Richard Fleischer.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Orson Welles, Dean Stockwell, Diane Varsi, Bradford Dillman, E.G. Marshall
  • Directors: Richard Fleischer
  • Writers: Meyer Levin, Richard Murphy
  • Producers: Richard D. Zanuck
  • Format: Multiple Formats, NTSC, Black & White
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 4.0), French (Dolby Digital 1.0), Spanish (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: May 23, 2006
  • Run Time: 103 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000EHSVQO
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,780 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Compulsion" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on August 2, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
Of the three high profile movies that deal with the Leopold and Loeb case, (the other two being Swoon and Rope)this one is by far the best. The two leads are frightening but believable in depicting warped, psychopathic killers. It is interesting to see how the film slyly danced around the period taboo of mentioning the duo's homosexual bond, and how Welles' Darrow character raises the issue of xenophobia/homophobia in the court room without stating the issue bluntly.
Everyone in the film is first rate, with the one exception of Diane Varsi. On some viewings, she is annoying and a major weakness to the movie. Other times, her character is credible within the context of the time period and locale. In any case, the movie is first rate and ought to be seen more widely that it seems to be.
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Format: VHS Tape
The brilliant Orson Welles' eloquent and compassionate soliloquy as defense attorney Jonathan Wilk during summation at the trial of two adolescent boys accused of murder is the highlight of the movie "Compulsion".

This crime and courtroon drama is based on the 1924 trial of Loeb and Leopold, two wealthy and intelligent teenaged law students who killed a young boy in a "thrill" killing. Bradford Dillman playing Artie Straus and Dean Stockwell playing Judd Steiner felt so smug and intellectually gifted that they believed they could commit and get away with the perfect crime. Dillman the cocky leader of the two goaded the shy and introverted Stockwell into carrying out the demented plot. Both boys had no real close friends and subsisted together in what had the looks of a homosexual relationship.

Straus and Steiner conjured up alibis for the time of the murder but were split up for interrogation by state attorney Harold Horn, with E.G Marshall excellently playing a typical role for him. Marshall was able to trip the boys up and soon they were standing trial and facing the death penalty.

The boys wealthy parents hired Jonathan Wilkes, played by a jowly Orson Welles who was supposed to represent the legendary Clarence Darrow to defend the boys. The superbly oratorical Welles shined brightly with his dialogue and stage presence. By withdrawing a plea of not guilty he removed the jury from the decision making process. The guilty plea with mitigating circumstances allowed psychological profiling to be admitted as testimony. He was able to appeal to the judge whose job was to pronounce sentencing to overturn the death penalty and settle for a verdict of life imprisonment.

Director Richard Fleischer did a creditable job in presenting what was a landmark case In American jurisprudence.
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Format: VHS Tape
Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb were two intellectually gifted, extremely wealthy young men of 1920s Chicago--but they were also highly neurotic. In 1924 their twisted relationship exploded into one of the most infamous crimes of the era: largely in order to demonstrate their supposed intellectual superiority, they kidnapped and murdered fourteen year old Bobby Franks. But their "perfect crime" was not quite as perfect as they had thought: it quickly unraveled, and with the celebrated Clarence Darrow appearing for the defense the court case became as legendary as the crime.

The 1959 film COMPULSION, based on the Leopold-Loeb case, had a great deal going for it. The cast was superior and included a Hollywood legend; director Richard Fleischer was a rock-solid craftsman; production values from cinematography to composer to costumer were in experienced and capable hands. But the film ran afoul of two issues: censorship codes of the day, which effectively prevented a no-holds-barred re-telling of the case, and the fact that Nathan Leopold was still very much alive.

The result was a script that transformed Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb into characters named 'Judd Steiner' and 'Artie Straus' and which renamed Clarence Darrow 'Jonathan Wilk'--and which can only imply in vaguest possible terms aspects of the case that most find particularly fascinating. With so much detail thrown out, the result is a film that divides into two rather awkwardly joined parts.

The first half of the film focuses on Steiner and Straus. The cast is indeed exceptional, with Dean Stockwell and Bradford Dillman extremely effective and receiving memorable support from the likes of Diane Varsi and Martin Milner.
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3 Comments 37 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: VHS Tape
The defense attorney Clarence Darrow (played with astonishing skill by the brilliant Orson Welles, who is today considered one of this country's finest actors ever) delivers in the last half of this movie one of the finest soliloquies Hollywood has ever offered us, equal to and probably surpassing England's Laurence Olivier in his critically praised "Hamlet" interpretation. The soliloquy by Welles is in itself worth the price of this video.
The hapless prosecuting attorney is played by E.G. Marshall, who recently died but who left us with a legacy of excellence in every picture in which he appeared (especially perhaps in "Twelve Angry Men"). A wonderfully underplayed but very sensitive performance by a master of his craft in films, stage, and television.
Brad Dillman and Dean Stockwell are right on in their portrayals of the villains who are apparently responsible for the compulsive and senseless murder of a young man. The entire cast creates some of the most realistic portrayals of good and evil that Hollywood has ever given us. Everyone in the cast seems to give it their all.
The movie is clearly, however, a product of the neo-Victorian times in which it was produced, sparing the audience the grim realism movies are currently permitted to film today. It could be more powerful if it were re-filmed today, perhaps, but could the cast of a re-make come close to matching the performances in this film?
It is worth owning this movie for its cast and direction and overall excellence...and it could be argued that the lack of the extreme violence which actually characterized the murder doesn't need to be as graphic on-screen as it probably would be if re-made today. By and large we are intelligent people and can jolly well fill in the details for ourselves.
A real treat!
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