Action / Biography / Crime / Drama / History / Thriller

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 100%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 84%
IMDb Rating 7.5 10 4554


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December 07, 2014 at 06:09 AM


Dean Stockwell as Judd Steiner
Orson Welles as Jonathan Wilk
Martin Milner as Sid Brooks
E.G. Marshall as District Attorney Harold Horn
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805.63 MB
23.976 fps
1hr 43 min
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1.64 GB
23.976 fps
1hr 43 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Watkins Fairbanks ([email protected]) 9 / 10

The Magic Of Dean Stockwell

If "Compulsion" is still such a powerful film is, totally, Dean Stockwell's merit. What a sensational actor! I'm writing this the day after the announcement of Dennis Hopper's death and while I was looking for a Dennis Hopper movie to watch a came across "Compulsion" Not Hopper but Stockwell and I settled for that anyway. I was riveted by Stockwell's performance because everyone else (with the natural exception of Orson Wells and E G Marshall) seems so dated and acted that Dean's every moment is sheer magic. He doesn't shy away from the awfulness but makes his young monster totally human, provoking in us that element that Orson Welles's closing argument tries to bring to the forefront. If you love great acting, you can't afford to miss Dean Stockwell in "Compulsion"

Reviewed by theowinthrop 8 / 10

Orson Welles and Leopold and Loeb

In 1924 Nathan Leopold and his friend/lover Richard Loeb were two wealthy young Chicagoans, from Jewish American families, who were extremely well educated. Both were believers in the theories (somewhat twisted) of Friedrich Nietzche regarding the idea of the superman. They believed that supermen could regard certain laws as being only meant for "little people", not supermen. One thing they felt they could ignore was the criminal code...and this included murder. They decided to commit a perfect crime for the thrill of it. They would kidnap and kill a child, demand a large ransom, and leave a trail of clues that would befuddle the police. To do this they did do some things that showed careful planning (like stealing a typewriter so they could send untraceable letters). Finally they kidnapped a cousin of Leopold, Bobby Franks (age 14), killed him in their car, mutilated the body with acid and knives, and hid him in a deserted park culvert. Unfortunately for these two geniuses, Leopold dropped a pair of eyeglasses at the site where Bobby was deposited. It was the eyeglasses that led the police to Leopold and then Loeb, and the two supermen were fairly fast in caving in and confessing. The criminal historian, Jonathan Goodman, once wrote that if he ever planned to commit a murder and would ask infamous criminals for advice, he would certainly choose Burke and Hare (the Edinburgh body snatchers, who were not caught until they killed 16 people) over Leopold and Loeb.

They did not hang. Their families hired America's greatest attorney, Clarence Darrow, to defend them. He pleaded guilty for them, but requested a bench trial (just a judge) for the sentencing. His theory was that a jury would never be able not to divorce the cruelty of their actions from consideration of their punishment. For Darrow, a lifelong opponent of the death penalty, was unwilling to risk losing two guilty clients to public hatred.

He gave a classic discussion of the death penalty, and how it would not do what the public wished - stop further crime as a warning, and bring back (or closure to the family of)Bobby Frank. And the Judge did decide to not order the execution of Leopold and Loeb. They were sentenced to life plus ninety nine years (the sentence was later used as the title of Leopold's autobiography). But Richard Loeb was murdered in prison in 1936 (he made a homosexual advance on a fellow prisoner who slashed him to death - and was not punished for it). Leopold was released in 1958. He married, moved to Puerto Rico where he worked as a nurse, and died in 1971.

COMPULSION is based on a novel by Meyer Levin (a best seller in the late 1950s), that was based on the case, changing the names of Leopold and Loeb to Artie Strauss and Judd Steiner. The film only goes through the crime and the trial, culminating in the performance of Orson Welles as Jonathan Wilkes (a.k.a. Clarence Darrow). Dean Stockwell plays a sympathetic, confused Leopold (an issue among criminal historians - how really weak was Leopold - was he Loeb's sex slave?) and Bradford Dillman as a more aggressive Loeb. Martin Milner plays their college friend (and Leopold's rival for a girl in the class), who also finds the eyeglasses. E.G.Marshall is District Attorney Horn (and gives a very effective performance as an intelligent adversary of the two criminals as well as Welles). Diane Varsi plays the girl both Stockwell and Milner love. For some reason her performance is considered weak - actually while not fascinating it was more than competent.

The film does show the crime in it's aftermath (unlike the other film version of the Leopold-Loeb Case - ROPE - this movie does not the actual murder). It shows the increasing nervousness of Leopold, while Loeb keeps his cool (even "helping" the police investigation by suggesting some possible suspects of pedophile leanings). It is (unlike ROPE) shot as a period film, in the 1920s, but the film is in black and white - so the period costumes and accessories are not detracting from the action.

It is a well done film, but Welles appearance is only in the last half hour, culminating in the speech before the judge and his effective parting shot at Stockwell, who feels there is no God ("Perhaps it was God who made you drop your eyeglasses."). Welles performance of the speech was so effective that it was recorded on a record and was a best seller that year. And it is beautifully done.

But the film misses one point. Darrow did not win the sentence he sought by convincing the Judge of the impracticality of the death sentence. The Judge actually dismissed this argument of Darrow's. But Leopold and Loeb were under 21. He felt they were too young to be hanged.

It has been suggested that COMPULSION and ROPE could be shown together, but it would equally be possible to view COMPULSION with INHERIT THE WIND, to compare the performances of Welles with Spencer Tracy as Darrow/Henry Drummond in the latter film. There is also a peculiar type of movie loop in COMPULSION and INHERIT THE WIND. COMPULSION has a scene where Welles, is in his hotel room, when he sees some Ku Klux Klanners light a cross outside his window. In INHERIT THE WIND Tracy answers his hotel door room to see Gene Kelly (as H.L.Mencken/E.K.Hornbeck)wearing a hood and saying "Boo" as a joke. This is a reference to Darrow's agnostic/atheistic reputation, which was disliked by many people in his day. And early in INHERIT THE WIND when Kelly announces that Dick York (as Bertram Cates - John Scopes)will be defended by Tracy, one of the townspeople says, "He just got those two child-murderers off the other day."). It is rare for two films to have such mutual references in them, when they are not sequel films.

Reviewed by Ubaldo Martinez 9 / 10

The Strange Case Of Dean Stockwell

Watching this 1959 Richard Fleischer confirmed something I've always known. Dean Stockwell is a superb actor and an extraordinary presence on the screen. So, I think it's strange that he's not regarded as one of the greatest actors that ever lived. He started as a kid. He was Gregory Peck's son, twice. He was in musicals with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. He was directed by Elia Kazan. He made allegorical movies like "The Boy With Green Hair" directed by black listed Joseph Losey. He was Edmond in "Long Day's Journey Into Night" sharing the screen with Katharine Hepburn, Ralph Richardson and Jason Robards. No to mention his work in "Sons and Lovers" or the movies with Wim Wenders and David Lynch. Here, in "Compulsion" his performance is worthy of an Oscar and in fact he go the accolades at the Cannes Film Festival sharing the acting honors with Orson Welles and Bradford Dillman. But, looking at it now he is the one that comes out as the one who passed in triumph the test of time. His performance is so rich so perfectly modulated that you go straight into the human center of his sick, appalling character. "Compulsion" deserves to be rediscovered and Dean Stockwell's performance should be the main reason.

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