Thursday, June 30, 2016

Dr. Orloff's Cold Compulsion

Dean Stockwell, Bradford Dillman and Orson Welles in COMPULSION.
I recently saw Richard Fleischer's COMPULSION (1959) - a fictionalized recap of the Leopold & Loeb murder case - for the first time - or perhaps for the first time in a long time. The scene between Ruth (Diane Varsi) and Judd (Dean Stockwell) - in which Judd tries to "attack" Ruth (seemingly a bargaining chip word to replace the less-acceptable-to-the-censors term "rape," which is uttered once and only once) because Judd's insane mentor Artie (Bradford Dillman) commanded it - rang somewhat familiar.

I was very much surprised by how much the film resembled Richard Brooks' IN COLD BLOOD (1968), from the dynamic of its two killers to its B&W CinemaScope photography, though it was based on a completely different murder case. Almost 50 years since its initial release, IN COLD BLOOD still feels uncomfortably realistic while COMPULSION, despite its best intentions, has the feel of earnest but white-washed, 20th Century Fox bombast.

According to ONE MAN BAND, Simon Callow's latest installment in his Orson Welles biography, after a day of failed attempts, Welles was finally only able to deliver a complete take of his jury summation speech (so popular that it was issued on record!) by asking that everyone on the set in his line of vision close their eyes or look away from him as he spoke. You can see some of this in the scene, and it actually works well in terms of showing how the speech against capital punishment arouses the public's self-loathing. However, as the speech appears in the film, it's a composite of many different takes, making the anecdote a bit unrewarding to investigate.

And one more thing. Because I recently completed an audio commentary for a forthcoming Redemption release of Jess Franco's DR. ORLOFF'S MONSTER, that film was fresh in my mind as I watched COMPULSION. Consequently, I was struck by how very much the Argentinian actor Hugo Blanco, who plays the radio-controlled murder zombie Andros in the ORLOFF film, resembles Stockwell's Judd, who is himself programmed by a dominant personality to kill.

It's the sort of thing no one ever thought to ask Jess Franco about (not that he would have admitted it, anyway), but COMPULSION was widely released in Europe. In fact, according to the IMDb, it was released in Franco's home town of Madrid on October 21, 1963 - and DR. ORLOFF'S MONSTER went into production in February 1964, so COMPULSION's Spanish release would have coincided with Franco's conceiving the idea for the film. No hard evidence, but it's sometimes revealing to look into which films happened to be "in the air" as other films were being conceived. I wish I'd known this as I was preparing my commentary - and since it's not coming out for awhile, perhaps there is still time to sneak it in.

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