Compulsion - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Compulsion Reviews

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½ November 20, 2017
A bit on the dry side, but then so is the book the movie is based upon. So many familiar faces. Captain Stubing! Oscar Goldman! Al Calavicci! The film has an 'Anatomy of a Murder' vibe to it which actually didn't help. This is a story set in the 1920's but felt too much like the 1950's. I don't think the film makers even tried to tap into historical accuracy. Orson Welles does give a good performance but he doesn't show up until the last thirty minutes of the film. And why did they slap such terrible makeup on him?

I would like to see a remake of this. Maybe with Tom Hanks in the Clarence Darrow role.
½ November 16, 2017
What starts out as a compelling introspective of two deranged, Nietzsche driven, cold-blooded killers, devolves in the third act to an unconvincing court drama that isn't so much dramatic as it is preachy. Orson Welles is a powerful presence, the man we wait for all film long to fulfill his 'starring' obligation, and yet he's the least interesting addition to the film. All the momentum was built in favor of E.G. Marshall catching the criminals, only to turn around and make him the bad guy as the tables turn into sympathizing with two white-collar elitist child murderers. The movie up until then is so good that you can't call it bad or even okay. The distinction is hardly made between Judd and Artie in act 3, when one can argue more sympathy is deserved for Judd, who is an apprentice driven into these rash acts by master Artie. Judd doesn't want the hapless killing and cannot fulfill a rape prompted by Artie. The two are blurred in favor of a meager PSA against capital punishment that resolves in an atheist's suggestion of God and the best justification for killing heartless beings if the boy could somehow be resurrected. Ruth's position and testimony are reaching; on the one hand, she's seen Judd's sorrowful side, but why is her compassion equal for the altogether cruel Artie? The whole third act they are equal when throughout they've been anything but, the character development dropped and unresolved to make way for Orson Welles filling up the screen with his bolstering, charismatic, half-drunken moral heroism, which is questionable at best. Not convinced by his position? Eh, throw in the KKK randomly targeting him, because the Klan obviously spends their time protecting dead children killed by rich whites; it seems like a really cheap way of putting him over as the good guy.
½ January 2, 2017
Although the names have been changed, this is the story of the "thrill kill" murderers Leopold and Loeb in the Roaring '20s of Chicago. They were a couple of rich, privileged, young men who murdered a kid, as the story goes, to try to pull off "the perfect murder". The killers are very well played by two very good actors in this brilliantly cast movie.
Bradford Dillman and Dean Stockwell play the two. They have some nice scenes together early in the movie with the crime planning. These scenes also contain a type of emotional depth that is a little surprising. We see a certain domination and submission role playing going on between them with Dillman playing the dominant to Stockwell's submissive.
There is a particular scene in which Stockwell's guy is going on a date with a nice girl. Dillman's character basically encourages him to rape her. These two have somehow become infected with a sort of distorted Nietzsche like "superman" philosophy and they know that they are superior to everyone else. The murder is partly to prove that. The scenes are so well done, that even in 1950s Hollywood commercial cinema, there is a strong hint of the question "Just what exactly is the relationship between these two?"

So they get caught of course, no spoiler there, we know that will happen. Another damn good actor, E.G. Marshal looking youthful with hair and eyeglasses, is brought in to prosecute.
The the great Orson Welles shows up for the defense. Legendary lawyer Clarence Darrow was the man in the real case. Welles plays it very cool at the outset mumbling his few lines to begin with as if saving it up for the big delivery at the end when he gives the final defense speech in court. This is a terrific scene and one of Welles's greatest scenes in any movie. The speech is a lucid and convincing argument against executions beautifully written and performed. I'm surprised that it hasn't shown up on FaceBook as a stand alone YouTube short like Chaplin's final speech in The Great Dictator has. It is a fine scene in an overall excellent movie very nicely presented in high contrast B&W and CinemaScope.
December 21, 2016
Inspired by the real life Leopold and Loeb thrill killing, "Compulsion" works better as a detective and legal drama than an insight into a killer's mind.
½ December 11, 2016
The sad thing about this movie is that you could take Welles' monologue at the end and just change the manner of execution being contemplated for the crime and then insert it into a modern movie about school violence perpetuated by two boys under 21 and it would still fit. It's a movie from 1959 about a murder from 1924 and as a society we're still kind of grappling with the problems this case brings up.
½ December 4, 2016
One of several films loosely based on the famous thrill killing of 1924, this one is memorable for Welles' compelling courtroom performance alongside E.G. Marshall as prosecutor. What is really on trial is capital punishment in this scaled down version of the 400 page novel.
½ September 20, 2016
Stands or falls by Welles' performance. It stands. Perfect casting all round.
June 19, 2016
hmm; definitely interesting - i can see why this was a great film for the time period. it's funny that this movie is all "Orson Welles this" and "Orson Welles that", when his character doesn't even appear until the end and only lasts like 30 minutes of the whole film. but i guess his character is by far the most profound & was probably quite influential. the story this is based on is also interesting - i did some research afterwards. people be crazy.
½ February 21, 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?)
February 8, 2015
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.
December 18, 2014
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--Dean Stockwell is particularly good in this fictionalized version of the Leopold and Loeb murder and trial. Bradford Dillman is right there too. Their intensity is frightening... Welles as Clarance Darrow!!
½ November 28, 2014
Compulsion is a film about a pair of hyper-intelligent boys who believe their higher mental capacity puts them above morals and the law. As a result they murder a young boy. This film is easily my biggest surprise of this month perhaps even this year. The story of these 2 boys and their struggle to avoid detection is fascinating particularly because they both have such inflated egos and can't resist the urge to brag or push themselves to do more. I cannot say enough about the acting performance of Dean Stockwell. Bradford Dillman does a fine job as the other perpetrator, but the way that Dean Stockwell plays the character of Jud is so nuanced and interesting. He idolizes (perhaps even loves) Artie, he does some mental jousting with the lawyers in the case, he even has a revelation at the end of the film that is played perfectly. Every other actor did a fine job in this film as well, I mean Orson Welles is in the movie, but there was just something about Stockwell's performance that blew me away. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I always saw him as Al on Quantum Leap or some over-the-top villain like in Battlestar Galactica, so to see him play a role with such subtlety was a revelation.

The choices the cinematographer made were also great. A lot of interesting shots, particularly on the key piece of evidence that kept you in the story. They did some nice tricks with the editing as well that made the passage of time trackable. While we only had a couple hours of film it was easy to see that the characters were experiencing a much longer passage of time. I'm trying not to delve into spoilers because this is a movie I highly recommend people check out for themselves, but if you have no interest or have already seen the film continue reading. Spoilers start here: Suffice it to say the boys get caught in their crime and about halfway or even two-thirds of the way through the film it shifts into this courtroom drama. It's not a heavily detailed case, and I'm sure it's loaded with lots of innaccuracies in procedures, but it's extremely engaging. Orson Welles, unsurprisingly, just steals the movie from this point on. His tactics are brilliant, and we get a genuine feel for how exhausted and world-weary he is by the end of the film. Then he breaks into a speech, and this is one for the history books. It feels like he's going on for about 15 minutes straight without stopping. By the end he has made one of the most convincing arguments against the death penalty that I have ever heard. I have to imagine even the most cynical and hardened person would struggle to say these boys should be executed when he's done with his argument.

What I found so excellent about Compulsion is the way they structured the story. The murder of the little boy doesn't happen for us to see, in fact we never see the boy at all. This makes it so the story is all focused on the 2 boys who committed the crime. They also have an extended sequence of the boys trying to cover up their crime and avoid detection. This is different from most courtroom dramas that want to rush to the criminal case. There was very little I didn't like about this film and I hope that this review will encourage others to give Compulsion a try because I feel it was ahead of its time.
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-
October 13, 2013
Great courtroom drama that has tremendous buildup to the trial. Great cast, and Welles gives a great performance with an epic speech that saves the boys from death. Tcm said he only had seven days to get this whole scene shot, and when during the shooting he could not have anyone in his field of vision, and if they were they had to look away to maintain his concentration. Many themes of are touched on including mercy v justice, youthful daring/compulsion, prison v death sentences, cheating the justice system and many more. It was good to say the least.
August 18, 2013
I found this a bore.
½ August 12, 2013
An interesting trial film.
July 28, 2013
There are some outrageous moments in this classic crime drama - Orson Welles' character remarks that he's taken the case so as not "to deny the rich the same rights as the poor" (LOL, okay, sure...) - but overall Compulsion is a compelling look into the mind of the murderer, as well as the criminal justice system. Even the lead characters' homosexuality is portrayed with some pinache for 1959. Solid performances all around don't hurt either. Alongside In Cold Blood, this is one of the great thrill-killer movies ever made.
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