Senior HTF Member
- Mar 16, 1999
95 minutes B&W 1.37:1
Montgomery Clift - Father Michael William Logan
Anne Baxter - Ruth Grandfort
Karl Malden - Inspector Larrue
Brian Aherne - Willy Robertson
Roger Dann - Pierre Grandfort
Dolly Haas - Alma Keller
Charles Andre - Father Millars
O E Hasse - Otto Keller
Judson Pratt - Det. Murphy
Ovila Légaré - Villette
Gilles Pelletier - Father
Based on the play by Paul Anthelme
Screenplay by: George Tabori, William Archibald
Directed by - Alfred Hitchcock
Production Studio - Warner Brothers
Warner Archive Blu Ray, 2016
Also available in the Alfred Hitchcock The Signature Collection box set, Warner Brothers, 2004
Father Michael Logan is a devout catholic priest who is suspected of murdering a shady lawyer. The true killer is feeling guilt ridden and confesses his crime to Father Logan because he is bound to the confidentiality of the confessional, so he cannot speak about the confession. And so he is unable to properly defend himself.
This is the first time I’ve seen I Confess and again another film I had no knowledge of its exact plot. I did hear some short bits Hitchcock mentions about the film in his Truffaut interviews, but I still did not know the plot. I was a little apprehensive of watching it like I was a little apprehensive of watching The Paradine Case because of all the less then enthusiastic reactions to the earlier film. This film was unknown to me and so I didn’t know what to expect.
I thought I Confess was a little slow at times at the start, but it did have a pretty cool start with the film noir look of the Direction signs and the night shots of the killer leaving the scene and the long large shadows that are used. So visually, the film is a feast.
Otto Keller is the caretaker of the church, which is located in Quebec City where the film is set. His wife, Alma is the house keeper of the church. They both are hard working and to try to earn a little more, Otto works partime for Villette, a shady lawyer, as his gardener. Otto confesses to his wife that he tried to steal some money from Villette and in the process, is caught and Otto accidentally kills Villette. His guilt over the murder has him confessing to Father Logan. This causes a serious problem for Father Logan as a series of circumstances lead the police inspector to suspect Father Logan.
Ruth Grandfort is an old friend of Father Logan. They knew each other when they were very young and fell in love before he went to the war and came back with a new passion for the clerical life rather then being with Ruth. But Ruth never stopped loving Logan. Seeing Father Logan in trouble, she has to tell the police the truth of her relationship with Father Logan through a flashback.
There is more involved in the story that Ruth tells the police that clears Father Logan, but that isn’t enough and Father Logan is still suspected of the murder.
Otto’s wife through out the whole process of the confession and the trial is wracked with her own desire to protect her husband and help the good Father. Father Logan had helped the couple. So she was very conflicted.
I was surprised by this film. At first it seemed like a soapy romance story with a murder until the flashback sequence upended my expectations and the police expectations too. It’s interesting that the source material of the play does play into expectations, but the studio would not want the controversy of a story of a priest who has a love affair and is a murderer.
I thought the cast was terrific. Montgomery Clift is very stoic and you can see his internal conflict and struggle throughout. Anne Baxter was rather glamorous as the wife of Pierre Grandfort, a member of the Quebec government. Dolly Haas was very sympathetic as Alma. Karl Malden was interesting as I’ve seen very few of his early roles. But I could not help but see early signs of Inspector Stone, his character in the TV series The Streets of San Francisco. He plays Inspector Larrue with similar characteristics. When the killer is accidentally made to tell the truth, Larrue’s reaction is so telling as he realizes he was wrong about Logan.
Overall, this is a hidden trinket in the Hitchcock filmography. I see it was met with mixed reviews upon release. I felt after the initial early part of the film, it became more interesting as we learn the truth of Ruth and Logan’s past from the flashback. And then the suspense of how Hitchcock manipulates the viewer with the reactions of Otto and Alma as they are constantly in fear of whether Father Logan would break his vow and how Alma is torn with her sense of doing the right thing. Quite a serious change after Strangers on a Train.
Wow, next up three of my favorite Hitchcocks in a row, Dial M for Murder, Rear Window and To Catch a Thief.