Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Sep 6, 2004.

  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

    May 7, 2001
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    I Confess

    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 1953
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 94 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 Academy
    Audio: DD Monaural
    Color/B&W: B&W
    Languages: English
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    MSRP: $19.97
    Package: Single disc/Keepcase

    The Feature:
    Next week is a big one for fans of legendary British director, Alfred Hitchcock. Warner Brothers is about to release a ten disc (9 films) boxed set entitled, The Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection. Among the new releases will be Dial M For Murder (1955), Foreign Correspondent (1940), The Wrong Man (1956), Suspicion (1941), Stage Fright (1950), Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941) and a Two Disc SE of Strangers On A Train (1951). Also included in the set is the ultimate WB Hitchcock property, North By Northwest (1959) in a new style keepcase, and finally the featured film, I Confess (1953). Individual titles will list for $19.97, while the two disc SE will list for $26.99 or the entire set lists for $99.92.

    ”If you knew what he knew, what would you do…?

    Similar to the recent movie I just reviewed for the collection, The Wrong Man, I Confess has a rather ominous dark side to it as well - a feel and atmosphere that simply doesn’t exist with most Hitchcock films. Though not based on a true story like the previously mentioned film, I Confess is a rather awkward (certainly for the times) story about a Catholic priest who receives confession from a penitent man whose recently committed murder and is obliged by the sacrament of penance to withhold the confession. The film was based on a 1902 play by Paul Anthelme and was scripted by George Tabori and William Archibald.

    In what would be yet another installment of Hitchcock’s wrongfully accused films, Father Michael Logan (played by Montgomery Clift) is a Catholic priest and hears a confession of a friend, Otto Keller (played by O.E. Hasse) – the confession is one of murder. Otto admits to Father Logan that in need of money, he robbed a man but a struggle ensued causing him to strike the man, killing him. As it turns out, the victim, Villette (played by Ovila Légaré) who’s a prominent lawyer in the city, also had a history with Father Logan, a history that would appear to give good reason for the priest wanting him dead.

    When the body is discovered, Father Logan shows up at the crime scene but mysteriously disappears as he goes off to talk to a beautiful young woman, Ruth Grandfort (played by Anne Baxter). The detective in charge of the murder investigation, Inspector Larrue (played by Karl Malden) intuitively takes notice of the strange looking tryst and his suspicion is further piqued when two eye witnesses identify a priest as having left the victim’s residence on the night of the murder.

    Inspector Larrue learns that Michael and Ruth were intimately involved prior to his ordainment but that she neglected to tell him the she had recently married another man, but was still in love with Michael. The rendezvous was witnessed by Villette who was having financial difficulties, and started to blackmail Ruth, knowing the scandal would ruin her husband’s political career as well as cause the man she still loved to be defrocked from the church if the truth were to surface.

    With no legitimate alibi and a recently discovered blood stained cassock stashed away among his belongings, Father Logan finds himself accused of the murder and charged with the offense - unable to use the confession to clear his own name. Now Father Logan has to make a choice of remaining silent and possibly being hanged for a crime he didn't commit or break the sanctity of confession and tell the truth about who the real murderer is.

    The studio ad for the time used the words “Crushed Lips Don’t Talk” to promote the film but it wasn’t enough to gain any momentum for the movie to be successful - critically or commercially, which really was a shame. In fact it’s also been said that Hitchcock even admitted that he was sorry for making it. Also similar to The Wrong Man, what makes this film so enjoyable is the performance of the leading man; in this case the young and troubled Montgomery Clift whose solemn and introspective performance is riveting throughout the entire film. Regardless of the critics, I was absolutely engrossed with this film and that of Clift’s performance and I’m perplexed that the film isn’t thought of in higher regard.

    For fun, we’ve been listing the various Hitchcock cameos throughout the series. In the case of I Confess, Hitchcock appears at:

    The 1:36 mark of the film just after the opening credits and can be seen walking from the right to left at the top of a long staircase.

    The Feature: 5/5

    Man, I don’t know where WB has been keeping these elements, but obviously they have been well cared for. I continue to be thoroughly impressed with the transfers of this collection and it certainly whets the appetite and gives one hope for many of the other great number of classics the studio is sitting on.

    First off black levels were again exceptional while whites couldn’t be any cleaner and always appeared stark. The level of contrast and shadow detail was perfect and the measure of grayscale was magnificent.

    Image detail was truly wonderful. Throughout the entire film the image was quite nicely defined, and as expected, many of the close-up shots of the female leads were shot slightly soft. There was only a slight amount of fine film grain present throughout the entire film which resulted in a beautiful looking film-like image full of depth and dimensionality.

    The print was virtually immaculate and there were only minute traces of dirt and dust blemishes present but they only appeared on a few occasions. I didn’t notice any jumps. There were a few occasional scratches but nothing that ever became distracting. The image was rock solid and virtually free of any shimmer or light speckle.

    Compression was handled perfectly and there were no signs of any distracting edge enhancement.

    As an aside, one thing that stands out is the wonderful B&W photography – this is a beautiful film to look at. Robert Burks was the cinematographer and the film was shot on location in Quebec. Hitchcock masterfully uses a careful selection of shots throughout the picture that accentuates Quebec's distinctive cobblestone streets, ornate stone buildings and European feel.

    This is gorgeous - the film looks absolutely wonderful. Great job…!

    Video: 4.5/5

    The soundtrack is a DD Monaural, and is another example of a very good mono track done right.

    The monaural track is as clean as we would expect, with no hiss or any popping or crackling anomalies. Throughout the entire film, the track sounds very natural and the never became even slightly edgy or harsh.

    The film is basically dialogue driven and the dialogue was always exceptionally bold and clear throughout the entire film. Even through the wonderful score by Dimitri Tiomkin which complements the mood and atmosphere of the film, dialogue is never lost or competing.

    There isn’t much to speak of in terms of dynamics as the track is rather thin. There are a few gunshots and climactic chase scene but effects don’t carry much heft – again, what we would expect given the inherent limitations of the period.

    A great sounding track that enhances a fantastic film.

    Audio: 4.5/5

    Special Features:
    The disc contains three special features starting with:
    [*] Hitchcock’s Confession: A Look At I Confess. This feature contains many of the same participants that we’ve seen throughout the other special features among the collection, namely Peter Bogdanovich, Bill Krohn, Pat Hitchcock O’Connell, Richard Schickel, Robert Osborne and in this case fellow actor and long time Montgomery Clift friend appears, Jack Larson. Obviously these were shot in one sitting and broken up individually to correspond with each title for the collection – which is fine. This featurette focuses mainly on the censorship issues and hurdles Hitchcock was faced with portraying a priest accused of murder and having been previously engaged in an adulterous affair as well as the strict upbringing of Hitchcock as a child. The film was shot in Quebec, Canada and the use of its old cobblestone streets and stone architecture is also a focal point. There is also a great deal of discussion pertaining to the casting of Montgomery Clift which includes his preparation for the role and the intensity of the young actor. A very well done feature which offers up a number of interesting tidbits relating to the film. Duration: 20:39 minutes.
    [*] Gala Canadian Premiere For I Confess is a short newsreel clip featuring the arrival of the stars as well as Hitchcock during the premiere of the film at two Quebec theaters, The Cartier and The Capitol. Duration: 00:57 seconds.
    [*] And finally the Theatrical Trailer is included and is in very good condition. Duration: 2:48 minutes.

    Another fine assortment of supplemental information to complement this great film.

    Special Features: 4/5

    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**

    Final Thoughts:
    Similar to The Wrong Man, I Confess is definitely not typical Hitchcock, perhaps the very reason neither of these two films seem to reach the same peak – or expected peak, among Hitchcock enthusiasts. Perhaps it’s the lack of dark humor commonly associated with most of Hitchcock’s films, but the reason for the under appreciation, at least to me, is puzzling. And though they may differ in style, they’re both outstanding films - perhaps his two most engaging films. Hitchcock's dark noir is a cinematic testimony to the sacredness of the seal of confession and the performances by Anne Baxter, Karl Malden, and especially Montgomery Clift as the tortured priest are truly outstanding.

    Once again, the presentation for this film is outstanding and it is complemented by several worthwhile special features. Having gone through half of this Signature Collection, I’m already close to calling this the boxed set of the year – it really is that good…!

    Overall Rating: 4.5/5 (not an average)

    Highly Recommended…!!

    Release Date: September 7th, 2004
  2. EricSchulz

    EricSchulz Producer

    Jan 6, 2004
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    Tuesday can't get here soon enough for me!
  3. PaulP

    PaulP Producer

    Oct 22, 2001
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    You bet! Mine already shipped from Amazon on the 5th, so I should have it on release date, or Wednessday at the latest...
  4. Steve...O

    Steve...O Producer

    Dec 31, 2003
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    Thank you Herb. Sounds like another winner. I'm assuming that the Jack Larson who appears in the supplements is the same one who is best known for playing "Jimmy Olson". I always thought he was a classy guy in real life so it's nice to see him get some publicity for something other than his Superman days.

    Is anyone else who already has the set having the same problems Herb is with the freezing picture on the credits?

    My Amazon order is still in the processing stage. My guess is that it will ship tomorrow and arrive Saturday or next Monday. It sounds like it will be definitely worth the wait.

  5. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

    May 7, 2001
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    Yes Steve, that's him. In fact he talks about shooting Three Sailors and a Girl while at WB and meeting Clift for lunch etc.

    Thankfully, this hasn't happened with the last two discs (The Wrong Man & I Confess). Just yesterday, I checked the first two discs again, and they both freeze consistently at the same place...
  6. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

    Apr 14, 2003
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    Bolton, Lancashire
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    Well done again Herb. Man, this is frustrating - I want my Hitchcock set NOW [​IMG]
  7. Bryan Ri

    Bryan Ri Screenwriter

    Jan 31, 2004
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    NYC Area
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    I may end up buying this set, without actually buying the set afterall [​IMG]

    Another knockout review with this set, Herb. Can't wait to hear about Stage Fright and a review for my jewel of this set, Dial 'M'

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