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

America America 

America America 

In the late 1890s, Stavros and his Greek family live a precarious and brutal life in the Turkish Ottoman territory…

read more
At Eternity’s Gate

At Eternity’s Gate

Vincent van Gogh’s last years are spent in Arles, the sunny part of France. His brother, Theo, supports Vincent and also buys…

read more
La Bamba

La Bamba

LA BAMBA is a musical bio of the life of 1950s rock ‘n’ roll phenom Ritchie Valens (born Richard Valenzuela). At age 17, he makes it big with two songs, “La Bamba” and “Donna,” that reach the top…

read more

If you found this site helpful, please recommend it to a friend. We also welcome your comments. / call 917-439-3364

P.O. Box 20038
New York, N.Y. 10075


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Get weekly streaming recommendations delivered directly to your inbox

Kanbar Recommends—join our free mailing list to receive weekly selections of the best TV shows and movies available.

You have Successfully Subscribed!