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I Confess

I Confess(1953)

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A personal favorite of its director Alfred Hitchcock and hailed by French critics, I Confess (1952) was not beloved by Hitchcock's English and American fans. Perhaps that opinion will change as this movie is resurrected on DVD by Warner Home Video.

Montgomery Clift stars as a young priest named Father Logan who one night hears the confession of his church's handyman, a confession of murder. By coincidence, the handyman had killed a man blackmailing a politician's wife (Anne Baxter) whom the blackmailer had caught in a compromising position with Logan prior to his taking holy orders. A part of those holy orders is the sanctity of the confessional, which means Logan cannot tell the police who committed the murder, even when he becomes the prime suspect.

Hitchcock had wanted to film this story for years after witnessing a play version of Paul Anthelme's novel Nos deux consciences in London. Raised a strict Jesuit, Hitchcock was intrigued by the idea of using Catholic doctrine at the heart of a murder trial but he failed to realize that non-Catholic audiences would not understand it. As Hitchcock later remembered, "there were many of the critics who apparently felt that for a priest to guard a secret at the risk of his own life was absurd."

This may not have been the only problem. The central role of Father Logan is little more than a focus for masochistic torture. Hitchcock continually places Logan as a silent figure crushed by the architecture of the church and the civil authority, even going so far at one point as to shoot Logan under a massive statue of Christ carrying the cross to Cavalry.

Still, Hitchcock students will find many interesting oddities to ponder, such as, why is the killer's wife named Alma, the same as Hitchcock's own wife? The film also boasts gorgeous black-and-white photography by Robert Burks of the city of Quebec with Hitchcock using the old Canadian city's landmarks as extensively as he would later use San Francisco's in Vertigo (1958).

In addition to an extremely high-quality print of the film, this DVD also contains a twenty-minute documentary on I Confess with interviews with Hitchcock's daughter Pat, Peter Bogdanovich, Richard Schickel and others pointing out subtleties that might escape the casual viewer, plus behind-the-scenes color footage of the movie as it was being shot. There is also the original theatrical trailer and a clip from a newsreel of the premiere in Quebec, with Hitchcock and a dressed-too-scantily-for-the-weather Anne Baxter arriving by sleigh. This DVD is a marvelous in-depth look at one of the more neglected Hitchcock movies, making a strong case that it should be given another chance by his fans.

To order I Confess, click here. Explore more Montgomery Clift titles here. Explore more Karl Malden titles here.

by Brian Cady