Film Review: Compulsion (dir by Richard Fleischer)

The 1959 film, Compulsion, tells the story of two wealthy young men — Judd Steiner (Dean Stockwell) and Artie Strauss (Bradford Dillman) — who think that they can outsmart anyone.  Judd started college when he was only 14 and he speaks several different languages.  Artie, the more loquacious and sociable of the two, is convinced that he can talk his way out of anything.  Desiring to prove that they’re capable of committing the perfect crime, Judd and Artie kill a young boy who is walking home from school.

At first, it seems like Judd and Artie may have pulled it off.  The police seem to be baffled.  Local reporter Sid Brooks (Martin Milner) dutifully reports that there are no leads.  Judd and Artie are convinced that both their wealth and their superior intelligence will protect them.  However, Judd soon discovers that he can’t find his eyeglasses.  Where he could he have lost them?  Well, he does remember struggling a bit during the murder …. could they have been knocked off?  What if they’re at the scene of the crime….

Based on a novel by Meyer London, Compulsion retells the infamous story of Leopold and Loeb, the two students who murdered another student in order to show their devotion to Nietzsche.  In real life, of course, both Leopold and Loeb were arrested when one of their possessions was discovered at the crime scene.  In the end, the two were convicted of murder and the only thing that prevented them from being hanged was an impassioned closing plea from their lawyer, Clarence Darrow.  Darrow argued not that the murderers deserved any mercy but that the death penalty itself was immoral and barbaric.  Supposedly, his final speech went on for 12 hours, which is odd to me.  I can’t imagine ever listening to anyone speak for 12 hours.

Leopold and Loeb’s crimes have served as the basis for several movies.  Hitchcock’s Rope was based on Leopold and Loeb.  So was the far less interesting Murder By Numbers.  Compulsion, however, seems to stick the closest to the facts of the case, with the two killers being driven by a combination of arrogance and alienation.  While Artie appears to simply be a sociopath, the far more neurotic Judd is driven by a need to win Artie’s approval.  (I’ve read conflicting accounts about the nature of Leopold and Loeb’s relationship.  Some accounts say that they were lovers while others say that they were just intensely close friends.  Compulsion keeps things ambiguous but it certainly implies that Leopold — or Judd — was obsessed with Leob.)

Bradford Dillman and Dean Stockwell are well-cast as Artie and Judd.  Stockwell’s neurotic performance certainly shows why, if Anthony Perkins had refused the role of Norman Bates in Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock was planning to offer the role to him.  There’s a good deal of pleasure in watching the two murderers get tripped up by the same cops and prosecutors to whom they considered themselves to be intellectually superior.  This is especially true in the scene where Artie realizes that he’s not as good at fooling people are he originally assumed he was.

That said, the film is pretty much stolen by Orson Welles, who plays the role of attorney Johnathan Wilk, a stand-in for Clarence Darrow.  Welles doesn’t show up until the final 30 minutes of the film but he’s such a commanding screen presence and so comfortable with the role of the theatrical attorney that he thoroughly dominates your impressions of the film.  Though Welles was apparently annoyed that he hadn’t been asked to direct the movie, he still gives one of his best performances and he delivers his final plea against capital punishment with the powerful conviction of a man who believed every word that he was saying.

Overall, Compulsion is an intensely watchable film.  Even if you know how the story is going to turn out, you’ll want to see it for the performances of Stockwell, Dillman, and especially Orson Welles.

Here’s The Trailer For Songbird!

Judging from twitter, a lot of people are either outraged or pretending to be outraged about the upcoming film Songbird.  Songbird imagines a 2024 in which continued COVID lockdowns have transformed the world into a Hellish dystopia.

Speaking for myself, it sounds like the film is just being honest about how a lot of people are feeling right now.  If nothing else, a film like can be cathartic for people who are feeling worried.  Too often, when there’s a crisis, people are shamed for having doubts.  They’re ordered to forget about their fears and just trust the powers that be.  Unfortunately, when the powers that be have consistently shown themselves to be a bunch of out-of-touch elitists, it’s hard to take much comfort in them.  Certainly, when your leaders are saying, “You’re going to be locked down and if you complain, you’re going to be punished,” films like this seems like an inevitable by-product of a year’s worth of resentment.

Anyway, here’s the trailer for Songbird:

AMV of the Day: Secret (Another)

To help to continue to promote the holiday spirit, here’s an AMV of the Day.

Anime: Another

Song: Secret by The Piercers

Creator: Tuyên Tuyên

(As always, please consider subscribing to this creator’s YouTube channel!)

Past AMVs of the Day

Horror on TV: Freakylinks 1.7 “Still I Rise” (dir by Joe Napolitano)

For tonight’s episode of Freakylinks, we have a little something called Still I Rise.  It has a zombie theme to it.  Towards the end of the episode, Ethan Embry goes a little crazy.  (Far crazier then he went on Rex Manning Day….)

(C’mon, you know I was going to have to work in a reference to Rex Manning Day eventually.)

This episode originally aired on January 12th, 2001.  And you can watch it below!

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Chopping Mall (dir by Jim Wynorski)

This 1986 film tells the story of what happens when one local mall decides that it’s had enough of thievery and vandalism.

First off, automatic locks and shutters are installed.  What that means is that, at a certain hour, anyone who is inside the mall is going to be trapped there until the morning.  Secondly, three robots are used as a security force.  They’re called Protectors and they roll around, looking for thieves and keeping people safe.  Don’t worry about getting mistaken for a thief, of course.  As long as you’ve got a badge, the protector will just say, “Thank you and have a good day.”

It all seems perfect but …. what if the robots malfunction?  What if they ignore the badges and just start killing anyone unlucky enough to be trapped in the mall for the night?  Surely, that could never happen, right?

Of course, it does happen.  Thanks to a freak electrical storm, the Protectors come to life and set out to keep the mall safe from intruders.  First, they kill the technicians that are supposed to keeping a watch over them.  Then, they kill a janitor named Walter Paisley (played, of course, by Dick Miller).  Then, they set off after the six attractive people who were having a sleep-over in one of the stores.

So, what did I learn from Chopping Mall?

Well, I was tempted to say that I learned not to shoplift but actually, no one in the movie gets in trouble for shoplifting.  I guess the main thing I learned is not to walk around the mall in my underwear because that definitely seems to be something that will cause the Protectors to blow up your head.

I also learned that, if you’re tapped in the mall with a bunch of killer robots, the best place to go is the sporting goods store because that store not only has a lot of automatic rifles but also an unlimited supply of ammunition.  Of course, I already learned that from Dawn of the Dead but it’s always good to be reminded….

Anyway, Chopping Mall is a lot of fun.  It’s undeniably dated.  Just the fact that everyone’s life revolves around a mall tells you just how dated it is.  I guess if they made the film now, it would have to take place at an Ikea store or maybe an Amazon warehouse.  But the fact that the film is dated is a part of what makes it so much fun to watch.  Seriously, it’s amazing all of the stuff that apparently used to go on at the local mall in the 80s.

Despite the fact that they have a bad habit of killing people, the Protectors are actually kind of cute.  If nothing else, they’re unfailingly polite.  You have to love the fact that they’ll wish you a nice day even after they’ve killed you.  Surprisingly enough, the humans are just as likable as the Protectors.  For a film about killer robots, Chopping Mall is surprisingly well-acted by a likable cast.  Russell Todd, who was the best-looking man to ever be killed by Jason Voorhees, is in this film and he’s as broodingly handsome here as he was in Friday the 13th Part II.

Chopping Mall is a good mix of humor and thrills and robots and exploding heads and Dick Miller.  This is 80s mall horror at its best!

Relentless 3 (1993, directed by James Lemmo)

Detective Sam Deitz (Leo Rossi) is back and somehow, his life is even more crappy than before.

Detective Deitz is still an intense New Yorker struggling to fit in with the laid back California lifestyle.  Watching a Relentless film, you would think that it’s a crime to be laid back in New York.  After three films,  Deitz should no longer be as much of a fish out of water as he is in Relentless 3.

Deitz is now divorced and he hardly ever sees his son.  That bothers him but also means that there aren’t anymore arguments between Deitz and his wife about him bringing his work home.  Deitz is now out on the dating scene.  The movie spends a lot of time on scenes of Deitz trying to pick up women.  It’s not easy because he’s an intense New Yorker and they’re all laid back California girls.  He eventually meets and falls for Paula (Signy Coleman).

Meanwhile, there’s a new serial killer on the scene.  Walter (William Forsythe) lives with a mentally unstable woman and is always bragging about how he’s a star.  He picks up women in bars, take them home, kills them, and then has sex with their dead bodies before eventually dumping them around Los Angeles.  Even though Deitz no longer wants to chase serial killers, he agrees to serve as a consultant.  When Walter finds out that the famous Sam Deitz is working the case, he decides to make it personal.  Being a “star,” Walter wants to compete with the best.

Relentless 3 gets off to a good start but it runs out of gas quickly.  William Forsythe is an effective villain and some of the early scenes of him picking up women are suspenseful.  Also, there’s an effective scene where Walter mails Deitz a patch of tattooed skin and proves, as if there was any doubt, that Walter was one sick puppy.  But the movie, which should be a relentless cat-and-mouse game between Deitz and Walter, gets sidetracked with all of the scenes of Deitz trying to get back into the dating scene.  For all the build-up, the final confrontation between Deitz and Walter feels like a let down. This Relentless film just isn’t relentless enough.

Leo Rossi still does a good job as Deitz but it seems like we learned as much as we need to know about the character during the first two Relentless films and nothing that Deitz does surprises us anymore.  Despite good performances from Rossi and Forsythe, Relentless 3 never comes together.

Great Moments In Comic Book History: The Death of Doctor Druid

Dr. Druid never got much respect.

First introduced in 1961 and originally known as Dr. Droom (his name was changed to prevent anyone from mixing him up with Dr. Doom), Anthony Ludgate Druid was a magic user who hunted monsters and who had studied the mystic arts with a Tibetan lama.  Later, the lama was retconned into the Ancient One and it was said that Dr. Druid was the runner-up for the position of Sorcerer Supreme.  This was a way of acknowledging an obvious truth, that Dr. Druid was an unsuccessful dry run for Dr. Strange.

With Dr. Druid’s monster hunting activities never becoming popular with readers, he was eventually just used as a host for Weird Wonder Tales, a series that reprinted old monster comics from the 50s.  One look at Dr. Druid at this time shows why he was never able to seriously challenge Doctor Strange for the role of Marvel’s most popular sorcerer.

Eventually, Dr. Druid did enter the mainstream Marvel universe.  He joined the Avengers and distinguished himself by getting himself elected Avengers chairman while possessed by a villainous and then disbanding the team.  Even after Dr. Druid got his mind back, no one wanted much to do with him and he faded into obscurity.

He remained forgotten until 1995.  That was when he was resurrected for a series that lasted for four issues.  To this day, there’s debate over whether the series was meant to be a miniseries or a continuing series.  What everyone can agree on is that Warren Ellis radically challenged what everyone though they knew about Dr. Druid.

Now, heavily tattooed and simply calling himself Druid, the former hero was an embittered alcoholic who embraced the dark side of his powers.  For four issues, Druid roamed through London and killed almost everyone who he met.  Druid was a dark and brutal series and it’s probably not surprising that it only lasted four issues.

The final issue featured Druid doing his usual killing and destroying until, in the final pages of the issue, Daimon Hellstrom suddenly appeared and announced, to Druid: “You’re a lunatic, a religious maniac, a bad idea. You should have been stamped on at birth. And, in the end, you’re a failure.”  Hellstrom proceeded to burn Druid to a crisp and what I’ve always remembered about that issue were the final lines announcing that Druid’s corpse was left in a trash can.

When you’re a kid just reading a comic book, that’s some pretty heavy stuff!  Those last moments of Druid have always stuck with me.  I’ve always felt bad for Dr. Druid.  He went from being a failed Sorcerer Supreme to a failed Avenger to eventually getting tossed in a trash can.  He’s also one of the few Marvel characters not to return from the dead. He’s gone, never to return.  He probably won’t even get to appear in a movie.

Alas, poor Druid.  He was the Rodney Dangerfield of second-tier Marvel heroes.  He never got any respect.  No respect at all.

Druid (Vol. 1 #4, August, 1995)

“Sick of it All”

  • Writer — Warren Ellis
  • Penciler — Leonardo Manco
  • Inker– Leonardo Manco
  • Colourist — D’Ireali
  • Letterer — Jon Babcock
  • Cover Artist — Leonardo Manco

Previous Great Moments In Comic Book History:

  1. Winchester Before Winchester: Swamp Thing Vol. 2 #45 “Ghost Dance” 
  2. The Avengers Appear on David Letterman
  3. Crisis on Campus
  4. “Even in Death”
  5. The Debut of Man-Wolf in Amazing Spider-Man
  6. Spider-Man Meets The Monster Maker
  7. Conan The Barbarian Visits Times Square
  8. Dracula Joins The Marvel Universe

Game Review: BYOD (2020, n-n)

BYOD is an entrant in the 2020 Interactive Fiction Competition.  All of the entries can be browsed and played here.

You are a university student who has just been given an internship at a prestigious company.  You don’t know much about what the internship involves, you just know that you’re supposed to show up.  However, when you do show up, the secretary tells you that the person you’re supposed to meet is not there.  What do you do now?

BYOD is described as being a “micro interactive fiction” and that’s certainly the perfect way to put it.  This is a simple game that takes place in one room.  There’s really only one thing that you have to do to get the “okay” ending.  If you can figure out how to use your phone in the game, you’ll be fine.

However, if you want to get the “good” ending, you’ll have to be more observant of that room.  You’ll have to look at everything and put the clues together and eventually, you’ll get your chance to help out the secretary.  It’s all pretty simple but it was still emotionally satisfying to help someone out and get the good ending.

BYOD can be played here.