Based on the famous 1924 murder trial of Loeb and Leopold, two Chicago law students who murdered a boy, Bobby Franks, to demonstrate their intellectual superiority, this is a compelling and stylish thriller.
Dillman delivers a strong performance as the mother-dominated, sadistic Loeb, here called Artie Straus, and Stockwell is even more impressive as the submissive, introverted Leopold (renamed Judd Steiner). Of course, Welles is flamboyantly grand as the Clarence Darrow-figure who has the unenviable
task of defending the two arrogant unsympathetic killers. They even have the effrontery to offer the police aid in solving the killing (exactly what Loeb did, which led to his arrest and that of Leopold). Raised by wealthy families, Dillman and Stockwell consider themselves superior intellects who
are above conventional notions of morality. Their crime was executed without remorse. They offer no defense so, like Clarence Darrow, Welles must come up with a defense of his own.
COMPULSION is full of suspense and electrifying courtroom theatrics, even though the informed viewer knows the story's outcome. Fleischer's direction is taut, and Murphy's script, which takes the narrative almost word-for-word from Meyer Levin's best-selling novel, is terse and telling.
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