“Do you really think these boys don’t know the difference between right and wrong?”
A pair of college students (Bradford Dillman and Dean Stockwell) challenge each other to commit the “ultimate crime”, believing they can get away with murder given their “superior intellect” — but a local policeman (E.G. Marshall) is convinced that a pair of glasses found left on the scene belong to Stockwell, and soon the men have confessed. Will an infamous lawyer (Orson Welles) be able to defend them from the death penalty?
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Courtroom Drama
- Dean Stockwell Films
- Orson Welles Films
- Richard Fleischer Films
Richard Fleischer directed this adaptation of a novel about the infamous Leopold and Loeb murder case, based on a 1956 novel of the same title. While the names of the main characters have been changed, it is more faithful to the true facts of the crime than Hitchcock’s adaptation of Patrick Hamilton’s play Rope (1929) — thus providing viewers with a more realistic look at how such a heinous event played out (though the crime itself, thankfully, isn’t shown on screen). Top-billed Orson Welles deserves his status, turning in a noteworthy performance in what can only be described as a challenging role (how in the world do you successfully defend these two psychopaths?). However, Stockwell and Dillman are also perfectly cast, with Dillman fiendishly reveling in the power he believes he wields through his intelligence, and Stockwell clearly under his sway but also showing stark evidence of his own moral disturbances. This one remains worth a look.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Orson Welles as Jonathan Wilk
- Dean Stockwell as Judd Steiner
- Bradford Dillman as Arthur Straus
- Fine cinematography
Yes, once, as a powerful courtroom drama. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.