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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Compulsion (1959)

In 1924 Chicago, two college students (Bradford Dillman, Dean Stockwell) influenced by Nietzche believe that they are superior intellectually and therefore above the laws of other men. To this end, they carefully plot to commit the perfect crime and get away with it. In this case, the kidnapping and murder of a young child. Based on the notorious Leopold and Loeb murder in 1924, this is a fictionalized account of that case. Hitchcock had used the case as the basis of his 1948 film ROPE but this version attempts to stay closer to the facts. It manages to be compelling for the most part though saddled with two unnecessary characters (who have no equivalent in the real L&L case) who drag the film down played by Diane Varsi (PEYTON PLACE) and Martin Milner. Orson Welles plays Clarence Darrow, called Jonathan Wilk in the movie, and more low-key than usual. His long monologue against capital punishment is a fancy bit of acting footwork (if it were a play, there would be sustained applause after he finished) but he's far better in the previous year's TOUCH OF EVIL and THE LONG HOT SUMMER. Stockwell is okay but it's Dillman's chilly unrepentent murderer that stands out. Directed by Richard Fleischer (20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA). With E.G. Marshall (very good), Richard Anderson, Robert F. Simon, Edward Binns, Gavin MacLeod and Nina Shipman.

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