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Peter saw his first movie when he was just a little boy, and has never gotten over that experience.

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The Way of All Fleischer

Posted February 18, 2008

Compulsion

As more and more filmmakers delve into the psyche of the criminal mind, Dave Kehr at the New York Times asks us to remember a filmmaker who was one of the first to explore that dark and dangerous space. "In a Corrupt World Where the Violent Bear It Away," Kehr praises Richard Fleischer, who is currently enjoying being part of the "Film Comment Selects" series at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Fleisher, whose greatest strength was probing people's weaknesses, made his mark with a series of very noir studies. His 1949 Follow Me Quietly introduced us to the "the Judge," one of Hollywood's first sociopath serial killers. His 1959 Compulsion dramatizes the famed "crime of the century," the kidnapping and murder of a little boy by the Chicago boy genius Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold - a story that was critically revised by Tom Kalin's 1991 Swoon. And his 1968 The Boston Strangler brought a stark, focused look at the man who had been writ so large on the covers of tabloids for so long. While Fleisher also made a number of big Hollywood pictures - 20, 000 Leagues Under the Sea, Fantastic Voyage, Tora! Tora! Tora!, Soylent Green and Conan The Destroyer - his crime dramas remain his most memorable, partially for the way he treated criminals themselves. Were they the embodiments of pure evil? The byproducts of dysfunctional families? The bloody symptoms of mental illness? Or the pawns of a corrupt capitalist system? Fleisher's killers were all and none of this - they are sallow, blank-faced enigmas the reflect back to us questions that we may never be able to answer. All this from the son of Max Fleisher, the famous artist who created Betty Boop.