Tom Kalin’s 1992 low-rent, smooth-as-silk re-upholstering of the infamous flapper-age Leopold and Loeb murder case is aptly titled: It’s as much an aestheticized movie-movie love song to archival-yesteryear delirium as it is a brooding thesis on the antique notion of gays as psychosexual outlaws. Not the least of its achievements is the fascinating triptych it forms with Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) and Richard Fleischer’s Compulsion (1959), presenting the persecutional arc of the L&L story as, in chronological order, matters of class, youth, and sex. One of the brightest explosions of the doomed queer cinema of the ’90s, Kalin’s movie is particularly thoughtful, keeping ironic faith with 1920s Chicago society and refusing to dispute the common social edict regarding the killers’ “abnormal” impulses, as if their actions were as unquestionable and natural as those of a monster in a horror movie. It’s a daring strategy, and the film, finally out on DVD, still bristles with provocation. Audio commentary, poster art, and a photo gallery of the actual L&L trial are included.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 7, 2004