Trigger Warning: The following article relates to violence and sexual assault.There are many obstacles when trying to bring a true crime story to the big screen. It seems that, for one thing, ethical dilemmas are subordinate to the audience’s thirst for evil. In the case of Leopold and Loeb, there have been a number of attempts to bring their depravity to screen Alfred Hitchcock‘s Rope (1948) and Richard Fleischer‘s Obligation (1959) are two of the better known accounts. The former is notable for Hitchcock’s attempt to film the “fictitious account” in a single take. It’s not an entirely pointless exercise that induces a sense of claustrophobia and positions the audience as knowing dinner guests following the deception in real-time. Fleischer does not lead with camera tricks, but uses the power of the camera Orson Welles and a script that’s damn close to reality. So close that 20th Century Fox’s legal team had their hands full when Leopold tried to sue.
What is the true story of Leopold and Loeb?
Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb were two wealthy University of Chicago students who decided to prove their intellectual superiority by murdering a 15-year-old boy Bobby Franks. Her belief based on her misinterpretation of nietzsche‘s concept of the superman was that their superior intellect freed them from the rules that govern the populace. The duo, unhappy with their unannounced petty thefts, decided to cement their fame by committing the perfect crime – an unsolved murder that would no doubt garner a ton of media coverage, allowing them to be on their own for years to come to indulge in brilliance. It must be said that they have achieved half of their goal – their crime has been dubbed the crime of the century. The murder became a global talking point, but it didn’t take long to identify the students as prime suspects and extract a confession.
How Hitchcock’s “Rope” depicts Leopold & Loeb’s infamous crime
Hitchcock presents Leonard and Loeb as Brandon (John Dal) and Philip (Farley Granger), two elegant high school graduates who live together and are polar opposites in character. Brandon is the brains of the operation, comfortable in his own skin, passionate about his crimes and believing that “even champagne is no match for us”. At every turn he needs reassurance from his co-conspirator Phillip, a panicked Yes Man from the start. For Brandon, the only flaw is “being weak… because it’s normal,” but for Phillip, weakness is human and apparently a trait he’s dying to overcome, at least for Brandon’s sake.
Rope strongly suggests that the men are romantically involved, and if it wasn’t for the whole “murdering an innocent” thing, they would make a sweet and supportive couple. But that’s not what we’re advocating here, as Hitchcock particularly pushes the perversity of Brandon, who insists on escalating every nefarious act by adding the “artist’s signature” to the act. After Brandon places the body (in this case, the victim is old school buddy David) in a trunk, Brandon throws a dinner party, dumping the food over the trunk and inviting the deceased’s parents and girlfriend to celebrate nothing special. As if that wasn’t disgusting enough, Bradon thinks he’s in the form of their old schoolmaster, Rupert Caddell (James Stewart), and therefore: the more the better! Also a philosophy professor and object of hero worship for both men, Rupert tends to play devil’s advocate, jovially insisting that “murder is, or should be, an art”. Of course, Brandon enthuses about this dogma, cementing his belief that Caddell is “the only man who, in our view, appreciates it.” In other words, Brandon needs someone he knows to pat him on the back “just like he did at school.”
Speculations as to the victim’s whereabouts reach a fever pitch after an unconvincing anecdote involving Phillip strangling a chicken at the time, which is enough to convince Caddell that something other than the timing, makeshift hodgepodge, and guest list isn’t right. Phillip breaks down first, blaming Brandon for forcing his hand to get caught just to show how “brilliant” he is. After a failed attempt to blame the alcohol outbreak for the outbreak, Brandon puts his cards on the table: “The morals of right and wrong, good and bad don’t apply to the intellectual superior”. As if that wasn’t smug enough, he goes on to suggest that they were just enacting what Cadell had preached. In other words, Brandon goes from a sleazy killer to the dumbest jerk in Jerkdom.
Of course, this accusation throws Cadell into an existential maelstrom, but after a few rounds of classic Jimmy Stewart confusion, a stirring monologue declares that while he’s ashamed, he’s innocent and that it wasn’t his teachings, but an evil already in the making Boys’ sticks allowed them to “give[his]words a meaning that (he) never dreamed of.” The film ends with the three men sitting in silence waiting for the police to arrive while sirens wail in the background. Through the character of Rupert, audiences are confronted with the academic dogma that has been twisted and become a major motivation for the crime. Although this factor is less explored Obligationdynamic and personality traits of the duo remain recognizable.
With “Compulsion” Fleischer approaches the case in a different way
As in Ropethe exact nature of the relationship between the killers, in this case Judd (Dean Stockwell) and Arthur (Brad Dillman) is implied but never asserted. What we see is a complexity of character and psychology that transcends power and status – although it’s evident that Arthur is in charge while Judd humbly obeys. Starting with the petty theft before it comes to the main event, Obligation deals with the legal and legal ramifications of murder while also introducing Ruth (Diana Varsi), a schoolmate who could have been the way out; Ruth offers Judd compassion and friendship, marveling at his intellect and seeing its potential beyond the creepy genius who stuffs birds. But under Arthur’s influence, that attention is misinterpreted, and Judd is goaded into attempting a rape, amid Arthur’s assertion that women don’t talk about it anyway, and Judd’s own view that there’s no emotion “just the reality of what’s happening.” .In that moment, it’s painfully clear that a guy wrote this (Call Richard Murphy) because throughout the ordeal, Ruth is constantly concerned about her attacker’s well-being, what his feelings would be after the fact, and the guilt he would have to live with. he is so confused and struck by Ruth’s unselfishness.
Obligation also pays more attention to the facts of the Leopold and Loeb case, referring to the clues left in the real case, as well as the events before and after the murder. Although the boy’s murder is not shown on screen, we are informed by another school friend and journalist that the body found was that of a little boy who was beaten with clubs and thrown into the river. A pair of glasses that belonged to Judd were found at the scene, and these self-proclaimed prodigies were spotted cleaning blood off their car in front of everyone. All of these elements are lifelike, and it doesn’t take long to find out that Twiddledum and Twiddledee are the responsible parties. At this point, the film switches to the courtroom for some intense monologues, Judd and Arthur turning on each other, and a splash of references to Nietzce, Plato, and the concept of superior and inferior humans. For the most part, however, science is being replaced by social discourse and a plea against the death penalty.
Enter Jonathan Wilk (Orson Welles), who steals the show as the duo’s atheist advocate. He uses his speeches to convey ideas about good and evil, man and God to both the judges and his clients. In his final summary, including a strong argument against the death penalty, Wilk saves the men from execution and, since it is 1959, resolves to accept the possibility that a higher power has played a role in past and future events. After being sentenced to life imprisonment, he admits that he “didn’t come to any definitive conclusions” about the existence of God. You can almost hear the censorship whispering that’s close enough.
There’s definitely a lot more meat on the bone Obligationwith its characterization and plot reflecting the idea that truth is stranger than fiction, but for that very reason it’s perhaps less entertaining than Hitchcock’s fictional yet audience-catching setting.
https://collider.com/hitchcock-fleischer-leopold-loeb-different-movies-explained/ How Hitchcock’s Rope and Fleischer’s Compulsion Tell One Story Two Ways