3 1/2 stars out of 5. Great direction and phenomenal cinematography are the highlights of the first half of Compulsion. Once Orson Welles is introduced he completely and masterfully dominates the rest of the movie. Not to say there was nothing else worth mentioning in Compulsion, but you know...
Interesting ideas and characters disserviced by a mediocre film that doesn't know how to properly explore them. Dean Stockwell turns in a compelling performance that makes up for some of the film's poorer aspects. As for Welles, he shows up towards the end to unsuccessfully lend gravitas to a really vacuous courtroom speech. It's so damn pat. Still, I kinda wish for a good filmmaker to remake it.
The crimes that they committed are almost irrelevant because this is really about the death penalty. Take two arrogant pseudo-intellectuals that do a thrill kill, and make a case that they should not die. Even though Welles doesn't turn up until near the end it becomes his show. Many actors here went on to big TV roles.
Compulsion is essentially a film in two parts, the first being a disconcerting noir, featuring Stockwell and Dillman's characters' crimes. The second is the court room drama. Welles' tour de force portrayal of Clarence Darrow, is replete with a 15-min. condemnation of capital punishment. Impressive as the soliloquy is, the film loses steam. Comparisons to Rope are inevitable; neither film is flawless.
Not understanding the reviews that seem to be kinda shitting on this movie. Its a tight, well directed, and well acted film with highlights by Welles and Stockwell, who gives a Perkins like performance which is really a highlight of his career. Welles speech is trademark Welles, hammy and given with a touch of Shakespearean vigor that dominates the courtroom scene in total theater style. 4.5 stars