Whereas Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope takes a look at the psychological reasons for the murder only, Swoon focuses on the gay relationship between Leopold and Loeb in context to the murder. Rope came out at a time when degeneracy wasn’t the norm so good old Hitch had to be ambiguous about the relationship between the two “friends.” Swoon features in-your-face gay sex, Negro drag queens, and a violent child murder via chisel. Swoon director Tom Kalin didn’t hold back when portraying the real life child murder by two spoiled perverts.
Tom Kalin made the right decision when he decided to shoot Swoon in vintage style black-and-white film stock. The film also features real stock footage from the time of the real Leopold and Loeb child murder. Swoon is a successful experiment in the power of combing old film equipment with new to achieve a film that captures the viewer in a forgotten time when murders like these were considered taboo. Swoon also features footage of phrenology tests showing how to tell by a persons head and facial experiments whether they were gay, Jewish, or even a murderer. Phrenology is now considered a pseudo science, which is fair considering the recent trend of producing mongrel children. With all the “diverse” faces, it would be impossible to categorize all the “mental illnesses” associated with them.
Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb killed Bobby Franks in a rental car. In a friendly and cunning manner, the two sociopath perverts invited Franks for a ride. Upon entry, one of the young men hit the boy in the head with a chisel causing a bloody mess. After knocking Franks unconscious, they shoved a sock in his mouth and he died shortly afterwards. Although the evidence is inconclusive, it is assumed that the two men performed sexual acts on the dead boy’s body. They also poured acid on the boys face, genitals, and a scar on his body so that he could not be identified. Unfortunately for Leopold and Loeb, they weren’t as smart as they thought as Leopold left his distinct glasses at the scene of the crime. Swoon goes into depth on all these things in much detail (except the pedophile necrophilia of course).
The Real "Dickie" and "Babe"
As can be expected, when both lovers were caught they blamed the other person. Neither “men” wanted to take responsibility for their “genius” dirty work. In Swoon, the impression you get is that Richard Loeb was the mastermind of the killing and Nathan Leopold was his passive bitch. Director Tom Kalin examines the characters roles in the murder and how they relate to the sexual roles of their relationship. Swoon is certainly a masterpiece of “New Queer Cinema.”
I wasn’t surprised by the leniency of the courts in the Leopold and Loeb case. Nathan Leopold was released after serving 33 years in prison. Richard Loeb died in prison when a fellow prisoner slit his throat with a straight razor. According to the authorities, the man had killed Loeb in self-defense (sexual perversion was involved). Ed Lahey of the Chicago Daily News stated in a homophobic manner, "Richard Loeb, despite his erudition, today ended his sentence with a proposition." I wish newsman were that honest nowadays.
Swoon is an artistic film about a very brutal and disturbing event in American history. Director Tom Kalin succeeded in making an honest and original film that most people would cringe if they even knew the film existed. Out of the films based on a true crime, Swoon might possibly be the best. I rarely see films of such a repellent subject matter that have as much cinematic power as Swoon.