Monday, June 20, 2016


In 1948, Alfred Hitchcock fictionalized the Leopold-Loeb case in the form of Rope. It displayed the two killers' burning lust for committing the perfect crime, how they openly brag about their deeds afterwards. Fast forward eleven years, and Hollywood decided to re-tell this infamous criminal case.

Richard Fleischer's Compulsion is a dramatization of the case in all but name. (Leopold was still alive when it was being made.) Name changes aside, Fleischer shows that fiction of a criminal nature was what he was best at. (The noirs from the previous decade and the other based-on-real-events films he did are further proof of that.)

Compulsion does stand out on its own from Rope though Fleischer does borrow a cue or two from Hitchcock. As well as similar characterizations of the two men (one dominant and cocky, one submissive and fearful), there's also an editing trick reminiscent of the earlier film. (Pay close attention.)

And like Rope, Compulsion has subtext between the two men. (Strictly subtext; it was made during the Production Code era after all.) It's obvious that Artie Strauss (Bradford Dillman) is the one in charge while Judd Steiner (Dean Stockwell) tries to eke out a sense of normalcy. But it's clear early on that these two will be getting themselves in deep water.

Compulsion definitely had a hand in marking the end of the Production Code. Not because of its subtext (though it had some part in it) but because of its material. Its violence  and its aftermath are never shown but its implications showed that a new era of storytelling was nigh.

My Rating: ****1/2

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