Compulsion

The first of the modern “thrill killers,” Leopold and Loeb (here named Straus and Steiner) were young men of privilege whose assumed superiority convinced them they could commit the perfect crime. If “perfect” meant notoriety and a prison sentence, they succeeded. Bradford Dillman plays Artie, the dominant doer of the duo. His submissive counterpart is Judd, played by Dean Stockwell as a fragile malefactor who touts Nietzsche as his intellectual alibi. Director Fleischer focuses on the seething co-dependence of these conceited culprits: Artie's compulsive criminality plays well off of Judd's malleable meekness, but beneath the dependence is something else, a lurking libido. Compulsion is compelling as it accumulates evidence surrounding the sensational murder of a teenage boy. When the killers are apprehended and taken to court, Orson Welles walks in as the Clarence Darrow lookalike. In what is thought to be the longest monologue in cinema, a subdued Welles lets loose his argument against capital punishment. “Cruelty only breeds cruelty,” he says of the gas chamber.

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