Compulsion (1959)

Approved   |    |  Biography, Crime, Drama


Compulsion (1959) Poster

Two wealthy law-school students go on trial for murder in this version of the Leopold-Loeb case.

TIP
Add this title to your Watchlist
Save movies and shows to keep track of what you want to watch.

7.5/10
5,282

Videos


Photos

  • Orson Welles and Diane Varsi in Compulsion (1959)
  • Dean Stockwell and Bradford Dillman in Compulsion (1959)
  • Dean Stockwell and Bradford Dillman in Compulsion (1959)
  • Dean Stockwell in Compulsion (1959)
  • Orson Welles, Dean Stockwell, and Bradford Dillman in Compulsion (1959)
  • Orson Welles, Dean Stockwell, Edward Binns, Bradford Dillman, and E.G. Marshall in Compulsion (1959)

See all photos

More of What You Love

Find what you're looking for even quicker with the IMDb app on your smartphone or tablet.

Get the IMDb app

Reviews & Commentary

Add a Review


User Reviews


13 January 2010 | secondtake
8
| At times gripping and moralizing, and always intriguing and dramatic wide screen b&w
Compulsion (1959)

Orson Welles gets top billing but he only shows up near the end--just as he did in The Third Man--and he changes the tenor of the movie a lot. I like Welles as an actor, but he dominates the two young men who made the film click earlier. At first, it seems that the movie is about a pair of brainy (and slightly cold) college students who intellectualize their way into a nasty crime. The tension between them, the hints of doubt and the overcoming of guilt, and just about the townspeople and how they handle the crime and the investigation. It's not a perfectly smooth exploration, but it's interesting and even edgy at times, and has a great late 1950s black and white clarity to the filming that makes everything stark.

With the lawyer played by Welles we are shifted into a more conventional courtroom drama, a good one, but with some common tactics (the courtroom scene in Lady from Shanghai blows it away for originality, if you want one comparison), and with a long long long capstone speech by our man Orson. It's easy to like, very easy from start to finish with some nice visual clarity and lively soundtrack, but it does stutter enough to keep you aware of what might have been done differently.

And what about the idea of crime as a mental exercise, of a person being so superior he or she rises above culpability? Well, it's not a new idea, and Hitchcock's Rope from a decade earlier goes there in a similar way (Rope is a curious film, and Jimmy Stewart acts his heart out, but Compulsion actually has more life to it because the two young men are more interesting). Both probably owe something to the sensation 1924 Leopold and Loeb killing, and of course to other murder mysteries that go into the psychology rather than the gore (from Dostoyevsky to Highsmith). It's tantalizing stuff.

Critic Reviews


Carla Gugino Had to Turn Down Her Empathy in "Jett"

The Watchmen and San Andreas star leans into a different side of herself to play a hard-hitting new role.

Watch now

Featured on IMDb

See what movies and TV series IMDb editors are excited about this month and check out our guide to superheroes, horror movies, and more.

Around The Web

 | 

Powered by ZergNet

More To Explore

Search on Amazon.com