Saturday, June 29, 2013

Compulsion (1959 film) Review


Director/Studio/Author: Richard Fleischer/20th Century Fox/Meyer Levin, Richard Murphy
Original theatrical release date: 1959
DVD release date: May 23, 2006
Format, Genre and length: DVD/Film Noir/103 minutes
Publisher/Industry Age Rating: NR
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Compulsion is the fictionalized account of the crime of the century—the kidnapping and murder of a young boy by two bored and wealthy young geniuses—which led to the trial of the century in which one of the most famous attorneys ever argued for their lives. This is the film version of that book, which came out in 1959, the year after Nathan Leopold (aka Judd Steiner) was paroled and released from prison.

Having recently acquired an interest in Leopold and Loeb, and having read and reviewed the book Compulsion, it seemed only natural that I should watch and review the film with a critical eye toward seeing how well the book was translated onto the screen. I must say it was done very well.

We first meet Judd Steiner (Dean Stockwell) and Artie Straus (Bradford Dillman) as they are
gallivanting about in Judd’s Stutz Bearcat and Artie tries to run down a drunken man who’s walking down the road. This sets the tone, not only for the film, but for their relationship. Judd grabs the wheel and averts the potential murder, so Artie tells him to drive (keep in mind, it is Judd’s car), and then orders him to run the bum down. Judd comes close, but at the last moment swerves, which angers Artie. To keep peace, Judd swears he’ll do anything Artie wants. Anything. And although we don’t know it yet, a murder is about to be born.

Martin Milner (later famed for his role in Adam 12, among other things) plays Sid Brooks (a fictional character, based on Meyer Levin), a fellow student at the university with Judd and Artie, and a fledgling reporter for the newspaper. Chance involves him in the case, and also his girl Ruth, who develops a relationship with Judd and later testifies at the trial.

This is a very faithful adaptation of the novel and captures the flavor of it very well. The cocksure attitude of the young geniuses who took the life of a young boy because they could, and to prove that such a thing could be done with great deliberation and no emotional involvement. We never see the victim, not even in the morgue, nor do we get a real sense of who he was. These things were not shown back then, too graphic. Today, I’m sure there would be a lot more gruesome scenes, but the film does not suffer for lack of them.

They came close to getting away with their crime, but a pair of eyeglasses was the crack in the facade that became the first clue, and that ultimately led to them. E.G. Marshall plays the prosecutor, Horn, who is determined to see these two boys hang for what they’ve done, despite their tender ages—18 and 19—and despite the fact that never has the state put to death anyone below the age of 21.

The boys’ very wealthy parents hire the best attorney they can find—Jonathan Wilk (Clarence
Darrow, in real life)—flawlessly played by Orson Welles. In a brilliant ploy, Wilk withdraws their plea of not guilty and changes it to guilty, with mitigating circumstances, thus eliminating the trial by jury. And despite the best efforts of the prosecutor, he does not plead insanity, as that would bring the jury back in. And as he explains to the boys’ parents, he’d rather plead for their lives before one man, the judge, than twelve, in the form of the jury.

Welles’ performance is riveting. Despite being very familiar with him as an actor, his persona disappears and he becomes Wilk/Darrow, and his very eloquent summation speech is some of his finest work. That is the hallmark of a great actor, when you stop seeing the man, and only see the character.

Although physically I thought the main characters were mis-cast, as Dean Stockwell resembled Artie more, and Bradford Dillman Judd, in terms of performance, they got the nuances of the characters down pat. Artie, the effervescent know-it-all who dominates Judd, and has to be in on everything, including “helping” the police with the case. The quieter, more introspective Judd, who allows Artie to control him.

What you won’t see in the movie that isin the book, and what is barely hinted at in the film (and you really need to be looking for it to catch it) is the true nature of the relationship between Judd and Artie, namely that they were lovers. Any mention of what the book presents has been excised, probably due to the sensibilities of the times. I don’t think it would have played well, and probably would have muddied the waters. Today? Another story altogether.

One comment on the opening music—although probably good for its time, now it sounded to me very 50ish and jarring, but perhaps that was the effect the composer was going for. It’s jazzy and discordant, so maybe that’s the right feel for two young men out of step with society.

Look for Richard Anderson (Six Million Dollar Man) as Judd’s bossy older brother Max. And a young Gavin MacLeod (Captain Steubing on the Love Boat) as Horn’s assistant.

Also on the DVD were the theatrical trailer and a teaser and two trailers from other Fox films—St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (Jason Robards Jr) and Murder Inc. (Stuart Whitman and Peter Falk).

One last comment on the film. As I said before, Judd was just beginning a relationship with Ruth Evans, who was Sid Brooks’ girl, and I think that goes a long way to show his innate humanity, as opposed to Artie and his black book, his love ’em and leave ’em philosophy. There is a very intense scene between Judd and Ruth in the film.

On the whole, I was very pleased with the film, and highly recommend it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wednesday Briefs: Sebastian Laguerre

Happy Wednesday! It's not only Hump Day, but it's time for a weekly dose of flash fiction from the authors who write the Wednesday Briefs! This week, most of our prompts had a Valentine's Day theme. Those were: "Love makes the world go round" or use hearts or Cupid or "If ever I would leave you..." or "I give to you and you give to me... true love..." (That's an old Dean Martin song btw lol) or anything having to do with Valentine's Day and/or candy!

Because of the theme, I set Stan and Ollie aside for a week, but never fear, they shall return. Instead, I offer this, which has the working title of Sebastian Laguerre. I'd love to hear what you think of this, as I have hopes of expanding it. So, please enjoy! And don't forget to visit the other Wednesday Briefers, whose links follow my tale!

Sebastian Laguerre

Someone had the worst timing in the world.

And judging by the jangled lyre sounds emanating from his smartphone, it was his distant cousin and bandmate. When Sebastian caught up with Orpheus, he was going to have to hurt him.

“Who’s that, baby?” The voice was muffled, its owner’s face buried in the thick pillows of the hotel’s double bed. Sebastian couldn’t remember his name—that was inconsequential; an unimportant detail, nothing to clutter his mind with. But whoever he was, he had a very delicious ass, one that Sebastian was thoroughly enjoying plowing. At least until the moment had been so rudely interrupted.

“Fuck me,” he muttered under his breath, before deigning to reply to the question. “Someone. I won’t be long. Just lie there.” He pulled out, irritably, and slid off the other man, wrapping the sheet about him, ignoring the shiver his action produced. He grabbed the phone and stalked into the bathroom, firmly shutting the door behind him before answering.

“This better be damn good. I was busy—”

“I can only imagine.” A throaty chuckle from the other end of the line.

“Why don’t you find Cupid and torture him if you’re bored?” Sebastian searched his image in the mirror. The lighting was harsher than he might like, but he still looked damn good. That was one of the benefits of being a demigod. Maybe he hadn’t gotten the looks that some of them had, particularly the bastard offspring of Aphrodite, his own father’s consort. But Sebastian was certainly beautiful in his own right and he knew it.

He pushed back unruly locks of curly black hair that came just to the nape of his neck. Twisting his head for a better view, he decided to let it grow out a little more. The trace of sexy stubble that he maintained above his full carmine lips and along his jaw was pleasing to him—he’d keep that as it was.  His cool grey eyes were carefully lined in black. A perfect vision of loveliness. He blew a kiss at his reflection and smiled.

“Stop admiring yourself.” Orpheus laughed again. Sebastian scowled at the phone and turned from the mirror. “You know I can’t do that. The man’s busy, or have you forgotten what today is?”

It wasn’t so much that Sebastian had forgotten, he simply didn’t care. He found Cupid to be annoying, for the most part. Going on and on about love all the damn time. Like it really existed. Like it really mattered. As if it wasn’t anything more than hormonal urges that produced a vast mass hysteria. A hypnosis that muddled the brain and threw it into a tailspin from which it seldom recovered. It ruined lives, and made fools of normally intelligent men. The only useful byproduct was that it was also responsible for a great deal of violence, and had launched many a war.

Sebastian Laguerre loved no one but himself.

And thank the gods he was beyond Valentine’s Day.

 “Go bother my brothers, why don’t you? I’m busy,” Sebastian repeated. Okay, technically Phobos and Deimos were half-brothers, but whatever.

“You’re the only one that likes to hang with them,” Orpheus pointed out. “Normal people avoid them.”

“Are you saying I’m not normal?”

“You’re you and I love you for who you are, Sebby.”

“Zeus’s beard, don’t call me that. I’m going. Go fuck yourself. Literally.” He clicked off the phone without waiting for the smart reply he knew was imminent and exited the bathroom. He let the sheet fall away from him as he wound his sinuous way back toward the bed; it trailed behind him until he stepped from it. Dropping onto all fours, he crawled across the bed.

“I’m back,” he purred in a sultry voice. The other man shivered in anticipation, lifting his head at Sebastian’s return, although he was well trained enough that he did not turn to look. “Miss me, love?”

“Mmm, yes, I did. Missed your cock up my ass. So much…”

“Of course you did.” Sebastian wore a very self-satisfied smirk. “Roll over, pet.”

“Is it time, then?”


He had a nice body, Sebastian admitted. Darryl? David? Dan? Something with a D, he was fairly sure. He was young, early twenties. Young and eager to please. And so far, he’d done a decent job of it. But, alas, all good things must come to an end. Sebastian wasn’t going to let that stop him from enjoying himself thoroughly.

He positioned himself between the boy’s legs—Dirk? Devin?—and took himself in hand, pumping his cock a few times. Orpheus’ ill-timed interruption had brought it down slightly, but a little well-applied pressure restored its former tumescent state.

“Now where were we?”

“About to reach glory,” the innocent supplied.

“Ah yes, just so.” He thrust inside of that tight channel in one hard stroke, producing a gasp of pure pleasure. Hot velvet surrounded his cock, a sensation heightened by the tightness of this boy’s muscles that clung so deliciously. “Touch yourself,” he instructed and the boy obeyed, grasping his cock and pumping.

“Not too fast,” Sebastian cautioned. “And don’t close your eyes. I want to see.”

The lids fluttered open again. Sebastian drove into him again, over and over, watching for the right moment. He’d know it by the boy’s responses. He’d see it in his eyes. He’d laid his instrument within reach; when he was ready he picked it up, looped the silk necktie about the boy’s neck and began to tighten it slowly, slowly…

Sebastian could see the play of emotions in the boy’s blue eyes as he spun into euphoria, until his orgasm was inevitable, and Sebastian had wrung out all that he could. As the boy came, he tightened the tie completely, until all breathing ceased.
* * * *
The body was discovered in front of a cafĂ© near the Eiffel Tower, the heart in a small box beside it, along with a note—Happy Valentine’s Day, Inspector.

to be continued...

Now go check out the other Wednesday Briefers:

Nephylim     m/m
Lily Sawyer      m/m 
Tali Spencer     m/m
Cia Nordwell     m/m
MA Church     m/m
MC Houle     m/m

Until next time, take care!

♥ Julie

Monday, February 11, 2013

Revelations is here!

This day has long been waited for, and anxiously, by a number of people, including myself and my friends and loyal readers.And now it's here! Revelations is a happening thing! Friday was release day and it's time to party. Like it's 1999 or 1699 or even 99 BC!

Revelations is available here!

This book has been more than forty years in the making. No I didn't spend that long writing it. It took a great deal of thought. I know I've told this story on other blogs, but I'm going to tell it here, so make yourselves at home!

The idea was born many years ago. Over forty, actually. When I was a teenager. Back then, it didn’t have a name, and it had no real shape. But I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to tell the story of Judas Iscariot. The trouble was I didn’t know how.

What drew me to Judas, is probably what you’re asking yourself, and that’s a valid question. Ask anyone else who Judas is and you’ll get answers that are probably all variations on a theme of betrayal. I’m not sure exactly when I began to question that, but I do know that when I saw Jesus Christ Superstar performed live back in 1971 (or thereabouts), I had an epiphany regarding him. I saw him, not as the bad guy as often portrayed, but someone who not only believed in Jesus but was willing to do what he needed him to do. For without Judas’ “betrayal” of Jesus, the story would not have worked out the way it did. It needed to happen that way. And if you read the Gospel of Judas, he was the only apostle who trusted Jesus enough to do that for him. Gives one food for thought, doesn’t it?

Very interesting, but where’s the story, I wondered. Was I going to take an historical perspective, research the man and his life? Easier said than done, especially back then. We had no Internet. We didn’t even have computers. Research was all done through books. Libraries had card catalogs, a far cry from today when you can log onto your library website and browse their selection, then request what you want. So I looked and I found bupkus (nothing). I had the Bible, of course, but it tends to be limited on information, as well as a bit biased.

So nothing was written, and I let it go, as my thoughts formulated in the back of my head. In the meantime, I was reading, watching… and learning. King of Kings was my first Biblical movie, and I loved it. Jeffrey Hunter’s portrayal of Jesus is very moving, and I was very enamored of the film. Jesus Christ Superstar – I think I know all the words, I’ve listened so many times. I liked the stage version, but the first film not so much.

Besides watching these things and others, I read. Christopher Moore’s Lamb, The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. What a fabulous book! I loved it! So much I bought the special edition. And I read The Gospel of Judas! Forty years ago I’d never heard of such a thing. Of course I read the DaVinci Code, and watched the movie. And everything began to percolate inside my head…

Then one day it happened. Judas spoke to me, for the first time. And I simply began to write it down, not knowing what he might say, or where his story might lead. It turned out to be quite the story and took me on quite the journey, and led to places that I didn’t expect it to. If he’d have spoken forty years ago, I would not have been ready to receive his message. But my life up until the moment that I first heard him speak prepared me. And the result is Revelations.

The original title was Kyrie Eleison, a tribute to the Mister Mr. song, Kyrie. Kyrie eleison means Christ, have mercy on us. But then fellow author Marie Sexton, who was reading Kyrie for me at the time, suggested a simpler title. A better title. Revelations. So Revelations it became.

I know there are people who will not like Revelations, and by extension, me. People who will not see the message it carries, only that it does not follow what they believe. But ultimately, no matter what you believe, Revelations is a story of love. Love is the message, and love is something that binds us all together.

Revelations is love.

I'd like to celebrate Revelations release with you. Oh, I almost forgot! I have a book trailer:  

I hope you like it! I'd like to giveaway a copy of Revelations to someone! All I ask is that you comment, and tell me what you think about the book, or anything related to Revelations. And don't forget your email address!

Also, as part of my celebration, I'm guesting at two blogs:  Chris T. Kat and Marie Sexton. Stop by and say hello!

I'll announce the winner in a week. And I haven't forgotten the Backlist Bloghop. I'll be announcing that soon too!

Until next time, take care!

♥ Julie