Variety (1953) - Film Reviews: I Confess
- book review: Film Reviews: I Confess
- author(s): Brog
- journal: Variety (11/Feb/1953)
- issue: volume 189, issue 10, page 6
- journal ISSN: 0042-2738
- publisher: Penske Business Media
- keywords: I Confess (1953)
Alfred Hitchcock murder melodrama with interesting: plot idea; short on suspense, long on talk; spotty b.o. outlook.
An interesting plot premise holds out considerable promise for this Alfred Hitchcock production, but "I Confess" is short of the suspense one would expect and overlong on talk. Audience reactions will be varied, giving the WB release a spotty grossing outlook. However, lull use of certain exploitation values to bolster the lack of top draw names and trading on the Hitchcock reputation should give it some excellent playdates in key spots.
Hitchcock uses the actual streets and buildings of picturesque Quebec to film the Paul Anthelme play on which the screenplay by George Tabori and William Archibald is based. The writing and direction are more methodical then shocking, losing suspense values in a wealth of dialog that tends to keep the development on the slow side.
Intriguing story idea finds a priest facing trial for a murder he didn't commit, and refusing to clear himself even though the killer had confessed to him in the sanctity of the church. Quite a moral question is posed in the problem of just how sacred is a church confessional, particularly when it leaves a killer to roam free to kill again before he is trapped.
Chief exponents of the melodrama are Montgomery Clift. the priest, and Anne Baxter, a married woman who still believes she is in love with him, even though he ended their youthful romance and entered the church. The drama begins when O. E. Hasse, refugee working in the church, returns one night after killing a man for money and confesses to Clift.
The killer had been seen leaving the victim's home dressed in a priest's robes, so suspicion falls on Clift when he turns up at the place the next morning. Coincidence has it that the victim was a blackmailer. threatening to exhume an old compromising situation that would involve Clift and Miss Baxter. The couple were to meet him to try to prevent his talking and their natural relief at his death attracts the attention of Karl Malden, police inspector. It is not long before Maiden gets the story of the young romance and her present feeling from Miss Baxter, she believing it will clear Clift of suspicion. Instead, it seems to fix his guilt and he is brought to trial. He is found not guilty because of inconclusive evidence and the crowd turns on him in the film's best developed scene. The killer strikes again, shooting his wife as she confesses her husband's guilt and he is then taken after a chase through the Quebec hotel, Chateau Frontenac, being shot down by police and dying in the arms of the young priest.
While Hitchcock short-changes the patrons on the expected round of suspense for which he is noted, lie does bring out a number of topflight performances and gives the picture an interesting polish that is documentary at times. Clift's ability to project mood with restrained strength is a high spot of the film, and he is believable as the young priest. Physically, he doesn't have as mature an appearance as the role opposite Miss Baxter calls for, but otherwise, his work is flawless. Miss Baxter is good as the wife of Roger Dann, member of the Quebec Parliament. The latter's role comes over nicely.
Maiden scores as the tenacious police inspector. Brian Aherne, as prosecutor, is required to make an abrupt change of character, first from helpful friend of Miss Baxter and Dann, and then as the badgering crown prosecutor who makes her repeat her story of love on the witness stand. Hasse, as the killer; Dolly Haas, his wife; Charles Andre, a priest, and Judson Pratt are among others doing well in their assignments.