Compulsion - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Compulsion Reviews

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Super Reviewer
January 16, 2012
Based on the Leopold-Loeb case, Compulsion makes for an interesting watch. Surely, the story of two lads, with one being extremely influenced and misled by Nietzsche's philosophy, wanting to commit a perfect crime that ends up with the murder of a child is appealing in itself. But its execution can make a world of difference. The director succeeds extensively to create a compelling thriller sticking to the facts as closely as possible. However, there's an element missing that could have made it better than what it is; IDK exactly, maybe the lack of details about the victim and his family. Of course, the movie's about the awesome twosome, but a wee-bit footage to the victim wouldn't have harmed much. I didn't find Welles' speech against capital punishment that interesting, but his response to Artie's reaction on the verdict is indeed remarkable. I went for it hesitantly, thanks to IMDb message board, but without a hesitation I'd admit that I've no remorse over my decision. As far as I'm concerned, it's a great deal for 75+ minutes. Well, to each, their own.
Super Reviewer
½ October 16, 2011
Orson Welles was JUST fantastic, as expected, I guess. It reminded me a lot of In Cold Blood.
Super Reviewer
February 3, 2009
Based on the 1924 case of Nathan Leopold Jr and Richard Loeb, two wealthy upper-crust college students who methodically planned the kidnapping and murder of a 14 yr old boy (Robert Franks).

A solid, well acted docu-drama that, near the end, suffers from an over abundance of preachy thespianism. It's one thing to cast the legendary Orson Welles as a Clarence Darrow-ish defense attorney in an obviously anti death penalty message film, but it's awfully highhanded to let him rant incessantly about the barbarics of capital punishment. In effect, he's not a cast member with a script who is reciting monologue to a judge, he's an actor with an agenda speaking to us (the audience).

A memorable but highly liberal classic.
Super Reviewer
August 27, 2009
Excellent examination of the Loeb/Leopold case. Dillman is chilling in his utter contempt for all emotion and Stockwell is fine as his puppet but alll pale next to Welles who offers a wily and wise performance. It's a shame he didn't act in more films like this and Touch of Evil that were worthy of his talent.
½ February 20, 2015
1) Orson Welles and that final courtroom speech. It's the kind of thing that all other courtroom speeches have to live up to (even Costner in JFK is miniature in comparison). He turns a pretty good movie into a nearly masterpiece-level one with just a few scenes.
2) Dean Stockwell is fun to watch in an early role, and odd that it's a re-telling of the case that inspired Hitchcock's Rope as Stockwell comes off like a precursor to Norman Bates (though made to seem a little more, uh, 'sympathetic'-ish?)
August 16, 2010
A highly-faithful and fairly interesting retelling of the 1924 Leopold and Loeb murder case, where two well-do-to, highly intelligent, elitist law students decide they are among Nietzsche's Supermen (Ubermenschen). As such, they believe themselves superior enough to be entitled to kill an 'ordinary' young boy -- and genius enough to get away with 'the perfect crime.' B&W.

The screenplay derives from a well-researched novel; only the names were changed, a lame (and unsuccessful) attempt to avoid legal entanglements. Mid-Century censorship standards required the film to skirt the duo's homosexual entanglement.

The big delivery here is Orson Welles as the duo's defense lawyer (who was in fact Clarence Darrow) in what was dubbed - 70 years before OJ - "The Trial of the Century." However the rest of the major cast members also do their jobs very well.

The film's reminiscent of "In Cold Blood" (1967) in that this is not a highly dramatic or gory telling, but rather a subtle yet engaging one, made so mostly by the true-enough oddities of its protagonists.

Hitch delivered (well) a more fictionalized presentation of this duo in "Rope" (1948). But here in this film are the real details, where a pair of monied-up, spoiled-rotten bookworms who called their mothers "Mumsy" killed just for the thrill of an intellectual exercise.

RECOMMENDATION: Well spent viewing.
½ November 8, 2007
Well done! Something you certainly would not see today with all the PC crap that is going on. Orson Welles had an amazing performance.
August 17, 2006
This was an interesting movie, although it was also very odd because it switched tones halfway through. The first half was more like Rope, another movie inspired by the real-life Leopold-Loebe murder case. The second half became a courtroom drama. It was still interesting to watch all the way through, it just felt like two separate movies rolled into one. Rather odd. And I must say Dean Stockwell reminds me far too much of Robert Sean Leonard.
December 27, 2013
The wooden acting killed it for me. This is unbearable.
½ January 20, 2015
Con reminisencias a La Soga, este es un film sobre dos amigos que creen haber cometido el asesinato perfecto. Buen drama de Richard Fleischer donde destaca Orscon Welles en el papel de abogado, en glorioso blanco y negro.
½ February 1, 2014
We're committed to you; and unfortunately, I believe we've made a mistake.

Two rich kids in law school decide to try and get away with murder. One student is more of a leader and the follower is a bit of a tool. They feed off each other through the act all the way down to the arrest and their story for the police. Can the police get one of these two law experts to confess?

"And you know why I tried it? Because I damn well felt like it."

Richard Fleischer, director of Conan the Destroyer, Red Sonja, Amityville 3-D, Mandingo, See No Evil, Mr. Majestyk, Tora! Tora! Tora!, and Doctor Dolittle, delivers Compulsion. The storyline for this picture is actually pretty interesting and caught me off guard. The transition from reckless school boys to courtroom drama was beautiful. The acting was magnificent and the cast includes Orson Welles, Dean Stockwell, Diane Varsi, Bradford Dillman, and Martin Milner.

"How many languages do you speak?"

I DVR'd this picture because it starred the great Orson Welles. I was surprised that it took so long for him to become a major part of the film, but it completely worked. The entire film comes together perfectly all the way until the final line is delivered. This is an excellent film that is interesting and definitely worth a viewing.

"That weakling. That inferior child."

Grade: A-
½ March 22, 2013
Gripping psychological thriller where you guess who will actually try to do what where and how, and then see it unfold. Masterful. Welles orations tend to run on, otherwise there's a good pace. This is why we don't trust anyone smarter than us.
½ November 6, 2012
Great movie, just like a Alfred Hitchcock's movie
½ October 22, 2012
A documentary style/courtroom thriller "Compulsion" has the perfect story to use, but it doesn't know where to go with it. Filmed at a time where Orson Welles' career was lagging, with quite a few flops under his belt, the film appears to be a showcase for the filmmaker-- unfortunately, his excellent performance is left until the last few minutes of the film-- until then, we're left with many different components. Some are delicious, while others taste awful. Based on the famous Loeb and Leopold trial, the year is 1924-- two gay students, the sadistic Artie Straus (Bradford Dillman) and the submissive, arrogant Judd Steiner (Dean Stockwell), both as ferociously intelligent as they are sick-minded, decide to experience everything a human can: but murder is on the mind. The two decide to commit the perfect kill, simply for the thrill of it. They end up butchering a young teenager, and for a while it works out-- but eventually Judd's demeanor cracks, and his alibi doesn't quite match. And neither does Artie's. This leads to a brutal trial, and the two are defended by the brilliant Jonathan Wilk (Orson Welles). "Compulsion" succeeds to be compelling in its storytelling, but as a movie, it is almost never entertaining. The problem is the two protagonists, so snobby and downright evil, are easy to hate-- and when they get caught for their crime, we're happy. I don't know if this was intentional, but the first hour feels wasted because we're witnesses to these to cruel thugs lies and cheats. Stockwell and Dillman both deliver excellent performances, but there isn't a second of the film where we emphasize with them. And unfortunately, female lead Diane Varsi is very bland, and in the end, the only character we actually care about is Welles' Jonathan Wilk-- and he's hardly even in it. "Compulsion" is stylish, but it's too uneven. Is it a crime thriller or a courtroom drama? It doesn't really know.
August 17, 2012
Compulsion is directed by Richard Fleischer, based on novel of same name by Meyer Levin in 1956, that was itself based on the murder-trial of Leopold and Loeb. This is supposedly the first film produced by Richard D. Zanuck (son of legendary Darryl F. Zanuck). Film stars Dean Stockwell, Bradford Dillman and ORSON WELLES as attorney. Artie (Bradford) and Judd (Stockwell) run-over a boy to commit the "perfect crime". But they are suspected when police find evidence (glasses) belong to Judd. Attorney Wilk (Welles)) takes the case, saving them from capital punishment with motivational argument.
Richard Fleischer maintains tone of film by preserving it in b&w, this definitely hypes the level insanity of some characters, weakness of mere folks ridiculed on the grounds of ostentatious flamboyancy by rich people. Whole cast gives applauding performance. Good editing, and excellent cinematography by William C. Mellor.

NOTE: Orson Welles makes movie worth-watching, appearing almost after 1hr, film has actually passed.
August 15, 2011
Best part of this movie is Orson Welles's 20 minute diatribe against capital punishment; it makes the movie worth watching. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie doesn't have any tension or forward movement.
½ August 3, 2011
'Compulsion' tells a story worth listening to but unfortunately only the last few minutes may keep your attention. Never the less great Dean Stockwell and Orson Welles save some of this bland drama.
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