“In those years to come, you might find yourself asking if it wasn't the hand of god dropped these glasses... And if he didn't, who did?”
Compulsion is based off the famous crime of Leopald and Loeb. They tried to pull off the perfect crime but of course even in the 1920s when the crime was committed there is no such thing as the perfect crime.
Judd Steiner and Arthur Straus have left a home where they think they have committed the perfect crime stealing from a house. Judd says he wants to take orders from Arthur. Arthur tries to make Judd run over a bum in the road but Judd cannot do it. They had made a deal with their frat brothers they could pull off the perfect crime without getting caught. Judd comes up with the idea to pull off a bigger crime together.
Sid Brooks, a fellow student of Judd and Arthur’s, works for the local newspaper. He is sent to report on a kid who was found drowned according to police. He also hears about a kidnapping. Sid goes to the morgue and he realizes it is the kidnapped kid from his description. A pair of glasses falls off of the dead boy. A Mrs. Kessler comes to identify the boy. He was her nephew Paul. She tells the police he did not wear glasses. Later that night Sid meets up with his friends including Judd and Arthur. Sid tells them that a pair of glasses were found on the boy. Arthur is furious with Judd for dropping his glasses.
Arthur walks around the school that Paul attended. He also attended the school when he was younger. He talks to the police lieutenant about recess times and some suspicious teachers. The lieutenant gets an anonymous tip that they saw someone throw something in a drain in front of Arthur’s house. One reporter says the typewriter has been identified. With this information Arthur gets rid of the typewriter.
The police trace the glasses to Judd after Arthur found out there were thousands just like it and told his friend they could not be traced to him. The police talk to Judd about his glasses and he says to question Arthur. Both give the alibi that they were with two tramps named Mae and Edna the Wednesday Paul was killed. The detectives realize the two of them have been lying and try to break them. The one detective gets a confession out of Judd by saying Arthur confessed and he blames Judd for killing Paul.
Judd’s father hires a powerful attorney named Jonathan Wilk (Orson Welles) to represent the boys. Even with Wilk’s fame and influence the boys are proven guilty of murder.
Compulsion was not a bad film. I found it a little tedious to sit through because you know the two boys were the murderers and were waiting for them to get caught. The whole story of the film comes from Arthur who thinks he is clever and manipulates everyone around him. Orson Welles does not come into the film until about the last half hour of the film. I am not a huge fan of Orson Welles because to me he always over acted and that is exactly what he did here. Compulsion is good to see at least once.