1959 | Docudrama | 103 minutes | English


In a perverted desire to commit the perfect crime, sociopathic friends, Artie Straus and Judd Steiner murder a local boy while he is on his way home from school. After Steiner accidentally drops his glasses at the crime site, the pair is caught. The death sentence is certain. However, Jonathan Wilks, their famous defense attorney, convinces the jury that executing the two men will not bring justice. A far more appropriate punishment for their heinous crime  would be life in prison. Compulsion is based on the Leopold and Loeb Case. Their attorney was Clarence Darrow.

Bradford Dillman (Artie Straus) / Dean Stockwell (Judd Steiner) / Orson Welles (Jonathan Wilk)
Why Stream This Film?
In Compulsion, the defense attorney, Jonathan Wilk (based on Clarence Darrow)  defends the killers Artie Straus and Judd Steiner (based on Leopold and Loeb).  Wilk knows they are guilty, but  his abhorrence of the death penalty  brilliantly drives him to convince the jury to give them life imprisonment.  
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 100%
  • Cannes Film Festival: Winner, Best Actors (Dean Stockwell, Bradford Dillman, Orson Welles); Nominated, Palme d’Or
  • BAFTA Awards: Nominated, Best Film
  • Directors Guild of America: Nominated, Best Director (Richard Fleischer)
  • Writers Guild of America: Nominated, Best Screenwriter (Richard Murphy)
  • The film received a perfect 100% Rotten Tomatoes score
Director Richard Fleischer establishes the characters’ lives from the terrifying opening shot when the two try to run down a drunk on the road to their appearance in court where lawyer Orson Welles pleads for their lives. The lines he speaks become part of the man himself, an almost classic oration against capital punishment.


In adapting Meyer Levin’s popular book, which the author termed a documentary novel stemming from his personal knowledge of the Loeb-Leopold case, the screenwriters have fashioned a docudrama that moves as briskly as exciting melodrama while it dramatically probes the characters of its principals.
A.H. Weiler

The New York Times

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