Richard and Nathan are a pair of gay, Jewish lovers who turn to murderous crime to exhibit their intellectual superiority over their victims.
For his feature film debut, Tom Kalin tackles a real-life tabloid-worthy incident - the 1924 Leopold-Loeb murder case in Chicago - with an ambitious mix of experimental narrative, archive footage and soapy melodrama, shot with sumptuous black-and-white visuals.
The bizarre love affair of Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, privileged Jewish law students who progressed from comparatively harmless break-ins to the kidnap and bludgeoning murder of a young boy to demonstrate their intellectual superiority, whipped the international media into a frenzy, and later inspired both Hitchcock's Rope and Fleischer's Compulsion.
Any thoughts that Kalin might employ a measured tone here are quickly ditched when "Babe" Leopold (Chester) is shown frolicking with a group of drag queens while "Dickie" Loeb (Schlachet) types out their pre-kidnap ransom note, and when the neophyte director audaciously plays the courtroom scenes for comedy.
Indeed, the otherwise dispassionate Kalin paints the amoral duo's heinous act against the backdrop of 20s mainstream society that lumped gays, Jews, blacks and murderers into one quivering tumour of depravity and perversion. Even with its catchy tag line - "Putting the homo back in homicide" (although Kalin might want to rethink bragging about that after Basic Instinct) - finding an audience for this sort of arty psychological portrait proved difficult. There's no doubt, however, that the director's bold and jarring cinematic sensibilities peg him as a young filmmaker to watch.
The director's bold and jarring cinematic sensibilities displayed here pegged him as a young filmmaker to watch.