I Confess (1953)
“FILMED IN CANADA’S COLORFUL QUEBEC BY WARNER BROS.”
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Montgomery Clift, Anne Baxter, Karl Malden
Synopsis: Refusing to give into police investigators’ questions of suspicion, due to the seal of confession, a priest becomes the prime suspect in a murder.
Hitch returns to one of his favourite themes – the innocent man wrongly accused – but fails this time to achieve the level of suspense he has achieved in his more deservedly famous movies.
The story was old, even in 1952 (it was based on a 1902 play), but is still reasonably intriguing and, for all it’s faults, I Confess gives the storyline it’s best airing.
The film starts well, establishing a couple of mysteries early on. Unfortunately, they are both resolved far too early, leaving the film requiring a level of suspense to hold the viewer that just isn’t there.
However, the main flaw in the movie is the motivation of the main protagonists – Father Logan (Montgomery Clift) and Otto Keller (O. E. Hasse), the real murderer. Keller changes from a guilt-ridden, repentant man to a calculating villain overnight – confessing his crime to Logan and then constantly reminding the priest that he cannot reveal the confession to the police even when Logan himself comes under suspicion. One of Keller’s final acts also flies in the face of his motive for the killing in the first place. For his part, Logan doesn’t even try to use his influence to persuade Keller to give himself up, to remind the killer of the spiritual fate that awaits him should he not repent, etc. At least Montgomery Clift, whose hesitant manner was only ever really put to good effect in A Place in the Sun, possesses the irresolute air required of the part of Father Logan.
There’s not too much trademark Hitch in this one: one POV shot that works pretty well, and a shot of police detective Karl Malden peering around Keller to watch Logan that only Hitchcock would use; other than that, the direction isn’t vintage by any means – although mediocre Hitchcock is better than many on-form directors, so it’s definitely worth a look.
(Reviewed 28th February 2002)