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Compulsion is a 1959 crime drama directed by Richard Fleischer and based on the infamous 1924 murder trial of Leopold and Loeb in Chicago. The film stars Orson Welles, Dean Stockwell, and Diane Varsi in lead roles.

The movie revolves around two wealthy and highly intelligent college students, Judd Steiner and Artie Strauss, who believe they are above the law and can commit the perfect murder. They kidnap and murder a young boy for the sheer thrill of it and then proceed to dispose of the body in a gruesome and meticulous manner.

Judd and Artie's plan starts to unravel when a pair of eyeglasses found at the crime scene leads authorities to a rare and expensive pair that only a small number of people own. The glasses eventually lead to Judd and Artie, and they are arrested and charged with the murder.

The boys' families hire the best defense lawyer in the city, Jonathan Wilk, played by Orson Welles, to represent them. Wilk believes that his young clients are guilty but finds himself drawn to their intellect and their ability to manipulate others. He devises a defense strategy that would spare Judd and Artie from the death penalty, but it requires them to plead guilty and use an insanity defense.

The trial becomes a media circus, and tensions rise between Wilk and the prosecution. Diane Varsi plays Ruth Evans, a fictional character based on one of the actual murder victim's cousins, who becomes a key witness for the prosecution. As the trial progresses, the pressure of the case and the burden of the boys' guilt take its toll on Wilk, who begins to question his own morality and values.

Compulsion is a thought-provoking and intense drama that explores the themes of privilege, intellect, morality, and justice. The film draws heavily on the actual events of the Leopold and Loeb murder case, but also adds its own fictional twists and characters to create a compelling story.

Dean Stockwell delivers a standout performance as Judd Steiner, portraying him as an emotionally stunted and narcissistic individual, incapable of empathy or remorse. Orson Welles, as always, commands the screen with his grand presence and powerful delivery, depicting Wilk as a flawed but sympathetic character who finds himself entangled in a morally complex situation. Diane Varsi's role is more understated but still impactful as Ruth Evans, providing a counterpoint to the boys' cold brutality with her own sense of compassion and humanity.

The film's black-and-white cinematography by William C. Mellor creates a mood of foreboding and tension, reflecting the dark and disturbing consequences of Judd and Artie's actions. The movie's score by Lionel Newman is haunting and evocative, adding to the film's atmosphere of unease and suspense.

In conclusion, Compulsion is a classic crime drama that has stood the test of time. It offers a compelling narrative that explores complex issues and themes that are as relevant today as they were when the film was made. With its stellar cast, top-notch direction, and sharp screenplay, it remains a gem of American cinema.

Compulsion is a Crime, Drama movie released in 1959. It has a runtime of 103 min.. Critics and viewers have rated it moderate reviews, with an IMDb score of 7.4..

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Richard Fleischer
Orson Welles, Diane Varsi, Dean Stockwell, Bradford Dillman
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