The Cinema Museum, London

Vito Project LGBTQ+ Film Club presents Compulsion (1959) on 35mm Film

Sun 29 May 2022 @ 18:00 · Events


The Cinema Museum welcomes the return of The Vito Project LGBTQ+ Film Club, a series of regular screenings providing different generations of LGBTQ+ people and allies an alternative safe space to socialise, watch great films and share ideas.

The VITO Project returns to the Cinema Museum with a monthly screening of a feature with a LGBTQ+slant. Re-Opening the Celluloid Closet is a series of screenings exploring the ways in which classic Hollywood films depicted queer representation under the restraints of the infamous Production (aka Hays) Code, a set of strict guidelines dictating what was deemed acceptable in American movies from 1934-1968.

This month’s film is COMPULSION (1959) dir Richard Fleischer, with Orson Welles, Dean Stockwell and Diane Varsi. Based on novelist Meyer Levin’s fictionalised account of the infamous 1924 murder trial of lovers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, two close friends murder a younger boy in a philosophical exercise in “how to commit the perfect crime”. Despite their precautions, one of them inadvertently leaves a key piece of evidence at the crime scene, and they are arrested and put on trial. It’s up to their nationally famous attorney (Orson Welles) to save them.

The story provided Hollywood with the perfect sensationalist material to reinforce its tendency to portray gay men as villains. This didn’t prevent Stockwell and Dillman jointly winning (alongside Welles) the Best Actor award at Cannes Film Festival. Less often screened than the other cinematic retellings of the story, Compulsion is a compelling tale that offers a compassionate plea against capital punishment.

The film will be followed by a conversation about the context of its production and the content of the movie.

This is a 35mm film screening in Cinemascope of a print from the BFI National Archive.

Doors open at 17.00, for a 18.00 start.

Refreshments will be available in our licensed cafe/bar.


Tickets £8 in advance or on the door.

Advance tickets may be purchased from Ticketlab, or direct from the Museum by calling 020 7840 2200 in office hours.