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The seal of confession is highly illustrated by Hitchcock's "I Confess."
Nazi_Fighter_David12 August 2000
Warning: Spoilers
If the transfer of culpability was a basic theme in Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train," it furnished the provocative dilemma to "I Confess."

A German refugee, Keller (O.E. Hasse), murders a lawyer named Vilette (Ovila Legare) when he is caught stealing... Keller thereupon confesses his crime to Father Michael Logan (Montgomery Clift), a priest at the Quebec church where he is a sexton...

Vilette was blackmailing Ruth Grandfort (Anne Baxter), who was in love with Logan before he was ordained and who continues to love him in spite of his religious vows and her subsequent marriage to Pierre Granfort (Roger Dann).

Keller wore a cassock when he committed the crime and Father Logan is unable to supply an alibi for the time of the murder - a series of coincidences which eventually find the priest on trial for murder...

The dilemma of "I Confess" relates to Catholic church law which specifically forbids the clergy from disclosing those sins exposed in the privacy of the confessional... Thus forced into complicity with the murderer, Father Logan behaves as though he is guilty despite his innocence in much the same way Guy Haines takes on some of Bruno's guilt in Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train." The film's tension derives from the audience's knowledge of the cleric's ethical problem and its desire to see him break his vows to save his own life...

Montgomery Clift makes the clergyman's inner torment apparent simply by the anguished expression in his eyes, and creates sympathy for a man who could be an object of mockery by maintaining his dignity...

Compassionate, grave, and restrained, Clift delineates the priest's conflicting emotions with the distinguished nuances of expression... His face, vulnerable but brighter by discerning yet kind eyes, reveals his suffering with eloquent intensity...

While a determined Karl Malden looks for every scrap of information to clear the murder, an embarrassing crown prosecutor (Brian Aherne) is in despair to establish a motive for the murder...

With moody atmosphere, set against the background of picturesque Quebec photographed in black and white, "I Confess" is solemn and entertaining, never getting out of control, with an overpowering sense of doom and enough amount of suspense in the manhunt of a killer...
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Atypical Hitchcock
gridoon24 July 2005
"I Confess" is one of Alfred Hitchcock's least famous films, and it's easy to see why: there is no mystery (we know who the killer is right from the start); there is some suspense but no major set-pieces; there is very little humor (no Cary Grant-type wisecracks here). The movie is a somber psychological drama, and the story of a forbidden love, and perhaps a Christ allegory (the priest has to suffer for another man's sins - he has to bear his own cross). I wouldn't rank it among Hitchcock's best, but it certainly has some of the best acting you can find in a Hitchcock film: Montgomery Clift is superb in a difficult role, Anne Baxter is warm and utterly believable as the woman who is consumed by her love for him, and Karl Malden is perfectly cast as the nosy (no pun intended) inspector on the case. (**1/2)
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Brooding, moody, deceptively simple, and beautiful study of guilt and honor
secondtake30 October 2009
I Confess (1953)

This is one of Hitchcock's darkest films, and one of the best for seamless believability--it lacks some of the breaks from verisimilitude that bigger hits like Psycho and Vertigo famously use. It also has the incomparable Montgomery Clift, who took intensity to new heights as the first in a series of great method actors in the 1950s. He really wasn't a Hitchcock kind of actor (the director liked the artifice and changeability of a Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart much more), but he makes the film what it is, and Hitchcock surely knew it, and made the most of it. When the camera (in the hand of Robert Burks) sweeps up to a full screen view of Clift's face and you see those glowing, brooding eyes, you fall under their collective spell. Yeah, it's great stuff.

The plot is pretty simple and amazing--a priest (Clift) learns something in a confession that come to haunt him in unexpected and very threatening ways. Hitchcock manages to push the envelope a little, as usual, in this case by having an illicit-seeming sexual affair be one of the keys to the plot. This implication naturally complicates the priest's life, but during the main plot of the movie and in a cheery flashback for backstory. Anne Baxter, the principled, strong woman (also not a Hitchcock forte) is terrific throughout, terrific the way Ingrid Bergman was in Notorious. Unlike most of Hitchcock's output, there is essentially no comic relief here, and the light and camera-work are equally dark--and truly gorgeous.

The French New Wave directors really admired this particular film of Hitchcock's, and you can see why. But it is also just a great, fast, distressing American melodrama set in France. It's not sensational, but it is spectacular, one of my favorites among many by this odd, brilliant auteur.
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Nos Deux Consciences
bkoganbing4 June 2005
I Confess's story takes place in Quebec City, Canada is adapted from the French story Nos Deux Consciences. And the whole thing is about a priest's conscience. Does he keep his vows even at the cost of his own freedom and maybe his life, certainly his reputation.

That is what Montgomery Clift is faced with. German actor O.E. Hasse who Clift worked with on The Big Lift is the caretaker of a church where Clift is assigned. He takes the priest's garments and commits murder in them. And then offers confession to Clift. Clift knows the murder victim as well and could have his own reason for doing him harm. Of course police detective Karl Malden suspects him.

How this all gets resolved is the plot of the story. But let me give you a hint. The title of the original story is Our Two Consciences. And the consciences referred to are Monty Clift's and someone else's.

Clift and the rest of the cast do a fine job in this minor Alfred Hitchcock film. But the acting honors in this go to O.E. Hasse, an really oily malevolent villain who is enjoying the predicament he's put the priest in. You won't forget him.

Fans of Hitchcock and Clift will be entertained and others will enjoy it as well.
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hitch's sleeper
cappy-923 February 1999
"I Confess" is the most under exposed/appreciated/rated of Hitchcock's films. It is as convincing (except for the minimal flashbacks) as "Shadow of a Doubt" in terms of both its art and its reality. Its mise en scene captures Quebec City, its specifically Catholic culture, its history, its moral dramas, and its character types. I think Clift and Baxter are perfectly cast, as are Aherne and Maldon. Keller and Alma truly hit home as Catholic parish staff and carry effectively much of the drama and suspense of this true Hitch sleeper, which is also a memorable romance. (There is indeed a great deal of genuine emotion and deep feeling in this very ordinary and convincing world).
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Forgotten, with a capital F
fletch524 September 2000
"I Confess" is a strong candidate for Hitchcock's most forgotten film. It never gets mentioned in any Hitchcock documentaries or when discussing about his movies. The film doesn't offer the usual amount of excitement or thrilling entertainment than his better known ones ("North by Northwest", for instance). In fact, there isn't much of "real" suspense at all, but well-sketched characters, fine acting performances, and captivating plot development are more than compensating matters.

"I Confess" is a very interesting piece of film making and should be viewed by any Hitchcock fan.
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Hitch Asks Moral Question
ccthemovieman-18 October 2006
An Alfred Hitchcock film with very little action or suspense, this moral issue- drama still maintains interest for the most part. Montgomery Clift is intriguing as "Father William Logan," a Catholic priest from Quebec who hears a murder confession, is charged with the crime himself, and never wavers from his vow to keep confessions private.

The question Hitchcock apparently poses with this is is, "Is that still morally right when it means you leave a killer out on the loose?"

Complicating the matter is an old girlfriend, played by Anne Baxter, who still loves the priest. However, once again the cleric remains true to his vows and doesn't get involved with her.

Karl Malden, meanwhile, plays a gung-ho cop out to solve the crime.

This movie could use a little more suspense and action, plus a bit of the old Hitchcock humor, but still is more than passable.
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the greatest spiritual denouement in film history
danielj_old99919 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I have read the other comments on this film and nobody seems to have grasped the single essential point that makes it timelessly relevant, and that lifts it, in that respect, above all other movies: its portrayal of an individual of total spiritual integrity. All candidates for the priesthood should view this film and then decide whether they can live up to the standard set by this priest - if not they might as well give it up and become auto mechanics or carpet cleaners. Montgomery Clift's priest believes utterly in the essential worth of all human beings, regardless of their spiritual condition - and believe me Otto Keller is not in good condition. Clift is willing to take his integrity to the electric chair - who does this remind you of? Only by sheer accident is he vindicated - if had he not been, and been executed, it would not have made the slightest bit of difference to his destiny. Here is a man who has his house in order. Forget about the romantic subplot, and look at this movie as spiritual education -- just set your lights by this man and your problems are over.
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Superior, if not superlative Hitchcock
Spleen23 July 2000
It's never been satisfactorily explained why this wasn't a commercial success. It's not a bad film. Nor is it good in an inaccessible way. Hitchcock's explanations for its failure aren't at all convincing... Non-Catholics don't know about the seal of confession, he said; they can't believe that a priest will sacrifice his freedom and career just to keep a secret. Rubbish. They can and they do. EVERYONE knows about the seal of confession, and Montgomery Clift makes Father Logan's sacrifice perfectly plausible. (Besides, I've never had much time for the objection that a lead character is "too good".) The one thing some people don't know about the seal of confession is that the priest can't mention the sin even to the guilty party, but this is made clear enough in the film in one of the confrontations between Keller and Logan. (All such confrontations are excellent, by the way.) Hitchcock also complains that audiences missed the point by hoping for Logan to tell the police what he knows, a complaint which betrays a misunderstanding of audience psychology. We NEVER hope that the hero will "get out of jail" by doing something dishonourable or morally wrong; so long as there is some other way for the plot to be resolved, THAT'S what we're hoping for. Besides, it's obvious that Logan will never break his vows. Another reviewer says that Logan should simply say to the police: "The seal of confession prevents me from answering your questions"; but the film makes it clear he can't say even this. It would put the police on Keller's scent, and Logan feels - rightly or wrongly, but at any rate plausibly - that his vows force him to be genuinely silent, not nudge-nudge wink-wink silent. I'm on his side here. It's hard to feel much sympathy for the "I won't say who did it, but I WILL drop a hint" attitude adopted by the priests of modern police dramas.

So what IS wrong with "I Confess"? Too much "Teutonic[?] gravity", as some have alleged? "Not enough humour"? Please. those imposing shots of stony Quebec MAKE the film. And let's face it: Hitchcock isn't funny. Give me this kind of thing over the leaden levity of "North by Northwest" any day. No: the short answer is that there's NOTHING, or nothing to speak of, wrong with "I Confess"; certainly nothing that explains its unpopularity.

A few things weaken it a little. If Montgomery Clift plays one of Hitchcock's most likeable characters, Anne Baxter plays one of the least likeable ones; I found it hard not to hope that Ruth would fall into the sea, or walk in front of a bus, or induce a casual passer-by to strangle her. This is okay: the fact that she's irritating helps the story. All the same, her explanatory flashback DOES tend to drag, and one wishes her scenes could be speeded up a little. Then there's Dmitri Timokin's score. It's a fine score, in its way, but it DRONES. Tiomkin is never allowed to get a crescendo out of the orchestra; instead, the sound engineer turns up the volume every so often.

Not that any of this matters much. Overall it's one of Hitchcock's more engaging films. The worst that can be said of it is that it's not a masterpiece, nor is it among his very best. Try it if you think that all the critical carrying-on over such films as "Foreign Correspondent", "Notorious", "Strangers on a Train" and "North by Northwest" is a bit much, and you long for something that isn't so theory-driven.
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Intriguing and thrilling movie by the Master of Suspense in which a good priest is accused of killing
ma-cortes6 June 2013
Entertaining suspense movie packs thrills ,intrigue , tension and ordinary Hitch touches . Indispensable seeing this quintessential Hitch movie , demanding various viewings . Classic and haunting suspense by the master himself , Hitchcock , dealing with tragic events when a priest (Montgomery Clift) takes confession from a man who coincidentally killed a blackmailer who he knew of pre-vows relationship with a married woman (Anne Baxter). Refusing to give into police investigators' questions of suspicion, due to the seal of confession, the Father becomes the prime suspect in a murder. The murderer is called Otto Kellar (O.E.Hasse) and his wife Alma (Dolly Haas) work as caretaker and housekeeper at a Catholic church in Quebec . Meanwhile , the priest named Fr. Michael Logan walking through the town, passes in front of a cinema showing ¨The enforcer¨.

Interesting Hitch film shot in Canada's colorful Quebec by Warner Bros , being based on the 1902 play "Nos Deux consciences" by Paul Anthelme, but little is known about any production of the play. However , in the original play, the priest was hanged ; this scene had to be eliminated and replaced with another scene to avoid the wrath of the censor. Alfred Hitchcock's films have become famous for a number of elements and iconography : innocent men wrongfully accused, blonde women , long non-dialogue sequences, etc . Hitch apparently decided to leave this movie location unspecific and without recognizable landmarks and filmed it in the city of Quebec . In spite of some shortcoming , this is the picture that best reflects many of Hitchcock's puritanical ethics . Hitch plays on the senses and keeps the suspense and action in feverish pitch . All the elements for a suspenseful evening are in place and things move at an intelligent pace . The story is typical Hitch fare , an issue of wrong accusation , dual guilt , and treason that embroils a man in murder . Hitch had two of most charming actors of all Hollywood as Montgomery Clift and Anne Baxter . As a pretty good acting by Montgomery Clift as a priest falsely framed of killing and Anne Baxter as his old friend who cannot handle the situation wrought in her life by the gross injustice . Montgomery Clift drank during the shooting and his eyes appear glazed during the ferry scene , Hitchcock was a very non-confrontational director and delegated an assistant director and Karl Malden to talk to the actor about it . Supporting cast is frankly excellent such as Karl Malden as Inspector Larrue , Brian Aherne as prosecutor Willy Robertson , O.E. Hasse as Otto Keller , Roger Dann as Pierre Grandfort and Dolly Haas played Alma Keller in this film ; Haas was selected to play "Alma" Keller, because of her physical resemblance to Hitchcock's wife Alma Reville . As usual , Hitch's cameo as man walking , as he is uncredited crossing the Top of Long Staircase . Atmospheric and moody cinematography in evocative style by Robert Burks , Hitch's ordinary . Very good sets and production design by Haworth and Beckman . Riveting and thrilling musical score by classic Dimitri Tiomkin .

The motion picture was well directed by Alfred Hitchcock , he was famous for making his actors follow the script to the word, but in this movie the Hitch's method filmmaking clashing with Clift's method interpretation and the result falls short of the Master of Suspense's best pictures and never quite comes off at all . This is one of Hitch's most stylish and discussed films and will keep you riveted and excited until the edge-of-your-seat .
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The new DVD is excellent.
jgepperson24 December 2004
This may not be one of Hitchcock's greatest movies, but it's still a great film, since it was made by the master, who somehow managed to survive beautifully in Hollywood for many years. It contains many of his favorite things: lamps, the backs of people's heads, bedposts, ladies pacing in front of mantelpieces, obvious symbolism, architecture, performing arts halls, etc. More somber in tone than most Hitchcock thrillers, it should not be missed by any Hitchcock fan.

Nor by any Montgomery Clift fan. At one point Clift is juxtaposed against a statue of Christ dragging his cross, taunted by soldiers. This could be the impishly sadistic Hitchcock poking fun at the "plugged-up" persona that Clift was developing for himself, but Clift is nevertheless excellent as the brooding, sensitive priest trapped by his own devotional vows. And of course he's physically beautiful: the hair, the eyes, the eyebrows.

Less effective, although she has her moments, is Anne Baxter who was a replacement for a European actress. It's too bad, because it's hard to buy Baxter as the luscious Hitchcock blonde. Her hairdo is awful (well, it was 1953, so it's not entirely her fault)and she does that line reading that she does in every movie, including "All About Eve," where each line fades to a whisper, or starts as a whisper and stays that way. Once you become aware of it, you can't not notice it! She does, however, have at least one great Orry-Kelly dress and the way she snaps "Yes" at her husband was worth a rollback for a second viewing.

The new DVD is excellent. It has a little documentary which is enjoyable, if you can stand Peter Bogdanovich doing his Hitchcock impersonation. Hitchcock's daughter is also in the documentary. It's amazing how she seems to not really understand what her father was up to sub-textually, but she continues to enjoy his success.
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The trouble is that the story is intriguing but has no suspense.
piapia26 April 1999
There are not worse mystery stories than those that are resolved by a confession. This picture starts with a confession, and starts well. But the very complicated, and very absurd story's denouement is another confession: The real murderer confesses by shooting people. Hitchcock himself said to Francois Truffaut that he did not remember why he bought the old play in which this picture is based. Lots of coincidences do not construct a suspense story.The picture is saved by the performances of Montgomery Clift (even if it is slightly monotonous), Anne Baxter and Anny Ondra. Imagine a Hitchcock picture without humor!
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Atmospheric, But Lacks Bite
slokes12 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Watching any Alfred Hitchcock film can be enjoyable when you know something about the director going in. That he got his start as an expressionist filmmaker, that he was a Catholic, and that he had a deep suspicion of law are all points thrashed out enjoyably in "I Confess". It's when you try to watch it as a movie that it feels unsatisfactory.

Late one night, Father Logan (Montgomery Clift) sees someone enter his church. It's Keller (O.E. Hasse), an attendant at Logan's rectory. Keller tells Logan he has a confession to make: He just murdered a man. Logan is now bound by the seal of the confessional from telling what he knows, a tough thing as suspicions begin to center around Logan himself.

From the opening shot, of a church spire set high atop the city of Quebec, the film makes clear this is going to be a dark and psychological treatment of the sort Hitchcock did in the 1920s with "The Lodger" and "Blackmail". The Catholic angle is presented sincerely, if a bit grimly, making clear the depth of Logan's dilemma. And the authorities are even more overbearing here than usual, pressing not only Logan but his former lover Ruth (Anne Baxter) with cold certainty and some shady tactics.

If only the film worked better as a mystery. The film hinges on a pretty goofy coincidence, that the victim of Keller's murder just happened to be blackmailing Ruth about her relationship with Logan. With the notable exception of Karl Malden as a police investigator, the cast seems to be sleepwalking through the film, Clift so woodenly you might call him the Manchurian Prelate. Hearing Keller's confession, he seems almost catatonic, and you get as tired as Malden's character listening to his polite evasions. "There is nothing I can add to what I've already said," he basically says, and seems a bit miffed that it's not enough.

The confession is the heart of the film, and at the heart of the film's problem. Like JoeytheBrit and other posters here, I'm struck by the turn in Keller's character, from genuinely remorseful to taunting and even conniving to set Logan up. If he's so depraved, why did he confess in the first place? Understanding Logan's position (he can't rat out Keller no matter how he deserves it because he is now the keeper of Keller's soul), it seems he's still too passive, not giving Keller any grief when it becomes clear Keller is not turning himself in.

It's not a bad film, just convoluted and underdeveloped. The exploration of Hitchcock's faith is fascinating stuff, and skillfully presented in an expressionistic way; plenty of shots where crucifixes are seen in shadow, reflection, and profile. The encounters between Keller and Logan in the rectory have a certain power even when (because?) Clift is not projecting very much; as if presenting a kind of Christian existentialist message of a lost shepherd left undeveloped in the script. Cinematographer Robert Burks' work on other Hitchcock films is easier to appreciate, but his contribution relative to everyone else may not have been greater than it was here.

A good film to see with this one is Hitchcock's "The Wrong Man", which showcases Catholic guilt in a different but no less complicated light. Both are darker films, but speak to qualities that undergirded Hitchcock's artistic vision and, in more measured doses, lifted his work above that of anyone else.
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Good, not great Hitchcock...
waha9913 August 2002
I Confess is one of those movies that almost reaches the brink of greatness, but just doesn't quite make it. Hitchcock's direction is certainly fine, if not a bit pedestrian. There are no signature scenes that seems to be present in many of his other films (such as the shower scene in Psycho, or the Mount Rushmore chase in North By Northwest). There is a flashback sequence, showing Clift before his character was a priest, that starts off beautifully....the camera is slightly cock-eyed, and Anne Baxter descends the staircase in slow motion, almost flowing down the stairs. However, the rest of the flashback just doesn't live up to the potential established in that first shot. Karl Malden is good as usual. Clift does an okay job in the role of the priest who hears the confession of the murderer. Anne Baxter is very good, and the supporting cast is certainly fine. I have also had a problem with the musical score of this film. Seems that Jack Warner had a standing rule at WB studios, of filling nearly every second of a film's soundtrack with background music. I'm sure Hitchcock and Tiomkin both cringed at this insane policy. Tiomkin DOES provide the film with a beautiful love theme of sorts. I recommend this film, but I don't guarantee that you'll be watching a classic. *** out of ****.
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Unappreciated Hitchcock
perfectbond22 November 2003
I watched this recently and am somewhat perplexed by the relatively low score (for a Hitchcock film) that it has received. I thought the performances by Anne Baxter, Karl Malden, and especially Monty as the tortured priest were pitch perfect. The stark black and white photography also contributed greatly to the gloomy almost defeatist mood of the film. The extended flashback interlude of the past romance between Logan and Madam Grandfort was also very moving. The 'villain' Keller (Hasse) was sympathetic to a slight degree and the understated tension of his encounters with Logan were spine tingling. All in all, this is yet another gem from The Master, 9/10.
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A Crisis Of Conscience
seymourblack-110 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Murder, blackmail and romance all feature strongly in Alfred Hitchcock's "I Confess" but the story's most compelling component is the moral dilemma faced by a Catholic priest who, after hearing a murderer's confession, is unable to disclose what he knows to the police. The priest's duty to honour the sanctity of the confessional is paramount but by doing so he becomes complicit in concealing the guilt of a killer and later, when the priest becomes the prime suspect, he's left to face not only a crisis of conscience but also the possibility that he'll be executed if he refuses to tell the police what he knows.

This movie was based on Paul Anthelme's 1902 play called "Nos Deux Consciences" and the fact that the plot involved certain issues (Catholicism, the wrong man theme and reasons to mistrust the police) which had preoccupied Hitchcock throughout his life, makes it easy to understand the appeal that this project had for the great director and also the seriousness with which he focuses on the priest's predicament. It's this seriousness that determines the mood of the movie and also contributes to the tension that's a constant feature of everything that takes place.

Father Michael Logan (Montgomery Clift) is a young Catholic priest in Quebec who, late one night, discovers the church's caretaker in one of the pews looking very distressed. Otto Keller (O.E.Hasse) asks Father Logan to hear his confession and in the confessional describes how he murdered a local lawyer called Villette (Ovila Legare) when he'd been caught in the act of stealing some money. Keller tells his wife Alma (Dolly Hass) what he's done and next morning goes to Villette's house, as usual, where he's also employed as a part-time gardener. On "discovering" the body, he calls the police and Inspector Larrue (Karl Malden) and some other officers soon arrive to investigate.

Father Logan also goes to the victim's house on the same morning and claims that he had an appointment to meet Villette. After he leaves, Larrue sees him talking outside to Ruth Grandfort (Anne Baxter) in a way that raises his suspicions and later when two young girls report that they saw a priest leaving Villette's property at about the time of the murder, Larrue's suspicions are reinforced.

Ruth and Logan had been in a relationship before he became a priest and on one occasion, after having been separated for some time, had spent the night together. Logan was unaware that during his absence, Ruth had married a politician named Pierre Grandfort (Roger Dann) and unfortunately for the young couple, they were seen together by Villette who throughout the following years blackmailed Ruth.

On the night of Villette's murder, Logan was with Ruth because she'd sought his advice about the blackmail problem and so when he's subsequently interviewed by Larrue, Logan doesn't feel able to account for his whereabouts at the time of the murder. This makes Larrue convinced of the priest's guilt and later when Ruth comes forward to provide Logan with the alibi he needs, she actually makes matters worse for him because the fact that she was being blackmailed provided a strong motive for wanting to bring an end to Villette's activities by any means possible. A number of further complications and problems then follow before Logan's ordeal is finally brought to an end.

"I Confess" is a great-looking movie with wonderful expressionistic cinematography which perfectly complements the sombre mood of the piece. The use of numerous close-ups and low-angle shots creates an unsettling atmosphere and some camera techniques, such as the way that Larrue's face is revealed just before he sees Logan and Ruth together in the street, create a frisson of their own.

The quality of the acting is impeccable throughout but Montgomery Clift's contribution really stands out because of the dignity, sensitivity and intensity that he brings to his character's anguish.
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Average For Hitchcock, Good By Any Other Standard
Snow Leopard15 May 2001
"I Confess" is merely an average entry in Alfred Hitchcock's filmography, but it is a pretty good film by any other standard. It has some basic weaknesses, but also some major strengths that make it worthwhile. The basic story is established early: Catholic priest Father Logan (Montgomery Clift) hears a confession from the church caretaker, who has just killed a man. Circumstantial evidence leads to Father Logan himself being suspected, but he is bound by the seal of the confessional and is unable to clear himself, putting him in serious danger of being wrongly convicted.

Two basic weaknesses keep "I Confess" from being one of Hitchcock's better works. First, too much of the plot hinges on the priest's confessional responsibility. In itself, this is an interesting plot device, leading to an interesting twist on one of Hitchcock's favorite themes, the wrongly accused man. But there are not enough other significant plot elements, and this one point cannot bear the load that it has to carry. In particular, a non-Catholic viewer, without an intuitive sense of the importance of confessional, will find it difficult to remember just how impossible it is for Father Logan to clear himself. This could have been established somehow earlier in the film - Hitchcock could be very creative when demonstrating things like this - but as it is, it is assumed that we already appreciate its importance.

The two leads also are less than ideal in their roles, making it harder for the audience to develop the deep identification with them that makes Hitchcock's best movies such exciting experiences. The ever-brooding Clift is very believable as a priest, but his acting range is too limited to make us fully appreciate his dilemma, nor can he make the romance angle as compelling as it could have been. Anne Baxter is also too melodramatic as Logan's old friend who wants to clear him. Baxter is a good actress in the right part - for example, her breathlessness is ideal in "All About Eve" - but her character here really called for something different.

Yet there are some strengths to "I Confess". One that stands out is the wonderful black-and-white photography. The film was made on location in Quebec, and Hitchcock masterfully uses a careful selection of shots throughout the picture that establish Quebec's distinctiveness and its stark beauty. It is one of Hitchcock's best pieces of location filming, rivaling the French Riviera scenery of "To Catch a Thief", although of course with a much different tone. In both films, the location nicely complements the story.

Karl Malden is good as the inspector assigned to the case. Malden must accept the usual role of a Hitchcock policeman - hard-working, honest, and earnest, but not very perceptive. Malden makes what could have been a bland character come to life.

There is also a fine climactic sequence: Father Logan is finally put on trial, and the verdict sparks public outrage and a carefully filmed and suspenseful chain of events. The climax is perhaps less satisfying than those of Hitchcock's best films, but that is mainly because we never learned to identify very much with the characters; it is not a fault of the ending itself. There are some fine Hitchcock touches here that you have to catch on repeat viewings.
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Under-appreciated and poignant Hitchcock gem
pyrocitor29 June 2007
Upon viewing in a current day context, it is a genuine shame that I Confess, visionary director Alfred Hitchcock's follow up to his smash hit Strangers on a Train, was greeted with such a stigma of controversy and negative reaction. While it is true that having a priest as the lead character in what was essentially marketed as a suspense thriller may have been a storytelling trait slightly ahead of its time, (the religious connotations must have no doubt caused some mumblings of discontent back in 1953) but it does lead to a simply brilliant and unique story premise: Father Michael Logan (Clift) hears the confession of a murder from a man working in his rectory, but due to the sanctity of confession, can break his trust and tell no one, even when he himself is framed for the murder, unable to clear his own name.

Hitchcock is in familiar territory here as he revamps his trademark "wrong man" plot, but with the interesting tweaking of the lead role - instead of the protagonist fighting to clear his name when he is wrongfully accused, Father Logan must instead struggle in silence, dutifully refusing to breach the confidentiality of confession. This submission of the lead character did not sit well with audiences, nor Hitchcock himself when the film was first released,but this is ultimately what makes I Confess stand out among so many of Hitchcock's similar thrillers, without ruining the plot in the slightest - the suspense element is still there, albeit slightly more serious (there are no light heated wisecracks here) and subdued, as the audience still clings to the edge of their seats, wondering how Father Logan's name will be cleared without him personally attempting to clear it. And despite the complaints in regards to the film's 'forced religious messages', it is hard to comprehend the reputation as there are none really, apart from the lead character being a priest. Hitchcock handles his subject matter, (including the priest character being suspected of murder and having an alleged love affair) with just as even a hand, and as careful and classy a touch as in all his other efforts.

Also, I Confess proves to be not only Hitchcock's last film in black and white (except for Psycho seven years later) but also one of his strongest films in terms of visual style and feel for the film. The Quebec location and sets are pitch perfect throughout, and Hitchcock and cinematography director Robert Burks deploy subtle but innovative cinematography techniques throughout to heighten the mood, making more liberal use of camera movement and extended shots of behind characters heads, as if hiding their inner turmoil from the audience - a superb touch. Composer Dimitri Tiomkin's score toes the line of becoming too dramatic, but it settles as being suitably powerful and affecting. The screenplay by George Tabori and William Archibald is an intelligent piece, not afraid to push social boundaries given the time period, though it is disappointing that the motivation of Clift's character is more often than not chalked up to martyrdom, when the real intent was to demonstrate his struggle to remain faithful to his principles and faith.

As usual, Hitchcock also proves to be an expert actor's director, as the cast turn out universally excellent performances, each one emoting surprisingly genuinely and proving particularly convincing in their roles. Montgomery Clift gives a superb performance as the priest in question, Father Logan, remaining subtle to the point of seeming not to emote throughout, yet hinting at surging emotions kept carefully under a facade of calm. Anne Baxter is also a notable presence, one of the more memorable of Hitchcock's icy blondes as the mysterious woman connected with him, and she manages to retain interest enough to keep the audience interested through a long and potentially hazardous and tedious voice-over flashback sequence. Karl Malden is charismatic and engaging as the police officer investigating the murder case, and Brian Aherne is perfectly cast as a suave yet sleazy prosecutor. German actor O.E. Hasse debatably steals the show as the actual murderer, switching from despairing, to coldly logical, to sadistically enjoying Father Logan's plight as he is accused of the murder they both know he did not commit.

All things considered, it is a real shame I Confess is one of Hitchcock's more overlooked films, as the sheer quality and inventiveness bursting out of every frame should be easily enough to cement the film alongside other classic thrillers and dramatic films of the decade. Don't let the alleged religious connotations and occasional bad reviews steer you away - this is one of Hitchcock's strongest works, as the unique variation on his time worn themes, combined with a visually sumptuous look, a quick and intelligent script and a consistently impressive cast easily make the film worth a watch.

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Forgotten Hitchcock's gem
IlyaMauter19 May 2003
I Confess is one of the less seen Alfred Hitchcock films that deserve much more attention. It remotely based on a French Stage Play of the beginning of the 20th century by Paul Anthelme called Nos Deux Consciences. It was a film Hitchcock wanted to make for a about a 20 years, but kept postponing it realizing difficulty of acceptance it would have in the society because of the subject the film is about.

Father Michael Logan is a young priest in the late 1940s Quebec who hears a confession from Otto Keller (Otto Hasse), a poor German refugee who works as a caretaker at Father Logan's church, who tells him that he has just committed a murder of a lawyer by the name Vilette, in whose home he broke in with the intent to rob a big sum of money that would improve his, and most importantly his wife Alma's life, whom he can't stand seeing working hard anymore.

Soon the body of the victim is found and Inspector Larrue (Karl Malden) begins to conduct an investigation. He finds witnesses who had seen a priest going out of Vilette's home around the time he was killed. The suspicion falls on Father Logan when discovered that he knew Vilette personally and had a strong personal motive to kill him. In addition to that Otto starts to testify against him also. Now Logan has to make a choice of remaining silent and probably being hanged for a crime he didn't committed or break the secrecy of confession and tell the truth about who the real murderer is.

An intelligent, neatly constructed in the best Hitchcock's trademark style film, definitely deserves to be seen. 8/10
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'Direction->', 'direction->', 'direction->'
punishmentpark23 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
'I Confess' is carefully construed. It begins straight away with Hitchcock walking through the top of the screen and the signs saying 'direction->', 'direction->', 'direction->', as if Hitchcock is saying: 'Follow me please, and - please again - don't lose me.' At first the emphasis lies with the oath of silence of a priest, but then, with a couple of strategic twists, the viewer is lead to a secret romance (only alive in the hearts of Ruth and Michael), wherein the clever police inspector Larrue begins to suffer from tunnel vision, because Killer, I mean Keller, should not be considered innocent for any policeman, or even a laymen (he finds the victim when visiting him by appointment, ánd he lives under the same roof as Michael, where the bloody piece of clothing is found). But no, he is left alone...

I'm assuming Hitchcock let things play out this way on purpose, and thus did not just aim for religion to be considered. When the culminating love story does not turn out to exonerate the main suspect, and a rather dry trial follows. During the trial the evil side of Keller is clearly exposed to the viewer, but he does have his motives; he 'wanted to survive' and he 'did it for his dear wife'. But the next moment he shoots his 'dear wife' in the stomach, just to stay in the clear - and so he gives himself away, finally.

Maybe it is an awful lot to process for the viewer, but I found it to be intriguing to see this plot develop. And Hitchcock's direction is a great pleasure to watch, as usual. Quebec, Canada offers a great backdrop for this handsome, clever and compelling film.

A big 8 out of 10, and I'm already looking forward to watching it again.
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Intriguing But Talky Hitchcock Suspenser Of Priest Who Shields A Killer
ShootingShark6 July 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Michael Logan is a priest in Quebec when the handyman in the church where he works confesses to a murder. To complicate things, Father Logan had a grievance with the dead man. When the police come calling, will he break his confessional vows to save himself ?

This is a minor Hitchcock picture I guess, a little too static and talky for me, but it's still a good story with many interesting themes going on. If ever there was a film about guilt it's this one. Father Logan feels guilty for loving Ruth and for not reporting Otto, Ruth feels guilty for ruining her marriage, Otto feels guilty for what he has done and for the actions of his country, Pierre feels guilty for keeping Ruth from the man she loves, and so on. In Hitch's cinema, pretty much everyone is guilty of something - it's our subsequent actions which either redeem or condemn us. It's not that well known that he was raised in a fairly strict Catholic household, although this is one of his few films to explore religion in any detail. Whilst the concepts and conflicts are intriguing, for me the movie is let down by a lack of action - there are lengthy exposition sequences and dull conversations which lead nowhere. Also, Clift's method acting does not really suit Hitch's suspenseful style and it's hard to identify with a man who alternately clams up and protests his innocence. The rest of the cast are pretty solid though. Arguably the best performance is from German actor O.E. Hasse as the killer, whose insistent doubt and fear that Logan will give him away to the police consumes any decency he has left. Hasse's first name was Otto, the same as his character, and he had an interesting if low-key career in both European and American films, notably Jean Renoir's 1962 Le Caporal Epingle. Note also the intense performance by Haas as the wife (named Alma, Hitch's real life wife's name) who ultimately cannot bear the weight of the secret. Technically however, there is a lot to enjoy here. The black-and-white Quebec location photography by Robert Burks is first-rate throughout, and the fine score by Dimitri Tiomkin is probably the best of the four he did for Hitch (although the three other movies are all better). Note the subtle but inspired use of the Latin hymn Dies Irae in the creepy opening church sequence as Logan first confronts Otto. A lesser but thought-provoking exploration of an age-old question - can you keep a secret ? Hitch appears in one of the opening shots for his standard enigmatic cameo.
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Why isn't this well known?
Dfree5216 July 2007
I recently rented this one and on first viewing I'm amazed that this is considered a minor work of Hitchcock's...it's not.

There's no special efforts or an ironic, memorable way of doing in the bad guy (O. Hasse)...but it's brilliant none the less.

Briefly...a curator confesses to his young parish priest (Clift) that he's just committed murder. He's still caught up in the emotion of doing the deed and morally guilt ridden. He knows the priest can't break his vow of confessional secrecy and as the story moves along we find that the killer uses this to implicate the innocent priest...who it turns out is trying to shield a socialite (Baxter) from further scrutiny. It turns out the murdered lawyer has been blackmailing Baxter over an assumed affair (she's willing, the priest isn't) that if exposed could ruin everyone.

The priest is charged (Karl Malden is very good) as the detective working the case, tried and acquitted. However, the jury of public opinion convicts the priest anyway. He's cleared as the killer strikes again.

In a great climax, the priest publicly confronts the killer and shows all his deep faith, conviction to his vows and courage. Here is where Clift is at his silent best...he's chosen to suffer and even be railroaded into a crime to protect a woman he clearly loves, though he's restricted to act on that love only so far.

It's a nice look on how very often things are not as they seem and none of us should pre judge and how often the facts as we know them can be misleading.

It's not classic Hitch, but still enters the realm of very good and should be checked out by all Hitchcock fans.
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German paranoia
EdgarST15 February 2003
When I saw Alfred Hitchcock's "I Confess" I had watched a cycle of films dealing with Second World War, its protagonists and its effects. The Hitchcock film apparently has nothing to do with those movies, but the villain being a German servant - whose reasons for living in Canada after the war or his past are never mentioned (was he a member of the Nazi party?) - makes it an interesting artifact, as evidence of the way Germans were still perceived after eight years of the end of the war. As has been said elsewhere, the interest in this minor Hitchcock lays in his handling of morality – after a play by Paul Anthelme -, but it's fascinating nevertheless. In part, the excellent black-and-white cinematography by Robert Burks makes it a darkly attractive piece, the use of peripeteia as the trigger for third act is moving in its ingenuity and the fact that the priest never mentions why he cannot accuse the culprit creates empathy with anybody raised as a Catholic, as myself.
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Ruth loves Michael, but he...
bob9981 March 2012
This is one of the disregarded works in Hitchcock's career. Roger Ebert in the Great Movies series has plenty of good things to say about Notorious, Strangers on a Train and other films of this period, but nothing on the only film Hitchcock made with Montgomery Clift, Anne Baxter and Karl Malden. This picture must stand alone in his work, since it is dependent on the remembrance of the past playing a decisive role in the present-day actions of the characters. A typical Hitchcock story has characters who seem to have no past at all--they seem to spring to life to fulfill the demands of the script.

I Confess starts as a typical thriller, then at the 42 minute mark, the story comes to a halt in Robertson's office as Ruth recounts the story of how she fell in love with Michael Logan, who was not fully in love with her (an obvious parallel with Gene Tierney and Tyrone Power in The Razor's Edge). For 16 minutes, we forget there is a murder story to unravel--surely the only time in Hitchcock's work that we are taken away so completely from the matter at hand. This is what makes I Confess a great movie, and a peak in the director's career.

Montgomery Clift has all the attributes of a dedicated priest, and he easily distinguishes himself from the urbane, sympathetic Charles Andre and the monumentally clumsy and distracted Gilles Pelletier playing the other two priests at the rectory. His solitary devotion is just as apparent when he wears a uniform in the wartime scenes. Anne Baxter has always been a favourite actress of mine, from All About Eve to The Razor's Edge, and she is wonderful here as a politician's wife who fails to protect her friend. Roger Dann as the husband does little; it's a shame that Glenn Ford didn't play the part, he would have been excellent (he was born in Quebec City, by the way).
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Engaging dilemma
rmax30482312 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
If this had come from anyone but Hitchcock in 1953 it would have been regarded as a great success. The story has its holes but is generally plausible. Montgomery Clift and most of the other principles are at the very least competent. The photography, as is usual with Hitchcock, is evocative and the black-and-white disk that I saw was superb.

But for a number of reasons this didn't get much in the way of positive reviews. It came near the end of a series of critical and popular flops from Hitchcock and I would guess that the critics enjoyed trashing this one. You know, "Lo, how the mighty have fallen." Or Schadenfreude, if you like.

Clift, as a priest to whom the murderer has confessed, is himself accused of the crime but can't reveal the true killer's identity because of confessional privilege or whatever it's called. Hitchcock, the product of a stern Catholic upbringing, may have been attracted to the story because of this moral dilemma -- but in fact, the movie is neither that simple nor that simple-minded.

Clift plays the kind of reticent guy who might not have squealed on the real killer -- Otto Hasse -- even if he had NOT been a priest. He seems instead almost prompted towards martyrdom. Possibly because he unwittingly boffed his ex-girlfriend who has at the time married to a prominent figure in Quebec's professional and social circles, he may think he has a lot to atone for. You don't HAVE to be Catholic or Jewish to feel guilt, although it probably helps.

Okay. It's a good movie. Hitchcock's odd touches are noticeable, but subtle and appropriate. I will give just one example. Hasse's wife is discussing the murder (she knows all about it) with Clift's boss, while Clift is painting the walls in the same room. A dialog takes place between her and Clift's superior. It concerns Clift in some enormously important way, but he continues to paint the walls, saying nothing. Another director would show us a close up of Clift's agonized face, sweating maybe, bursting with a desire to tell all and clear his name. Hitchcock shows us nothing but Clift's back as he placidly applies paint, leaving Clift's reaction to the viewer's imagination.

Weaknesses. Otto Hasse as Keller, a displaced German refugee who works for the church, kills a rich man for his money because he is shamed and brutalized by his wife's having to work her fingers to the bone. That would be Dolly Haas, a beautiful woman in middle years giving a sensitive performance. He's genuinely sincere and sobs while he tells her he loves her too much to see her work herself to death. And he's sincere in his remorse, his eagerness to confess to Clift. Then, in the blink of a eye -- almost literally -- he changes into a heavy with no conscience whatever. He actively goes about setting up Clift for a frame and at the end shoots and kills his own wife because he thinks she may squeal on him to the police. The best that can be said about this kind of character development is, "It shouldn't have happened."

Anne Baxter is a pretty young woman, Clift's former love interest, and her character is written with sleek ambiguity. But Anne Baxter, a nice lady who made free public service announcements on TV, the granddaughter of Frank Loyd Wright, was never much of an actress with her emphatic and earnest whispery voice. (She was cute ten years earlier in "Crash Dive.") Most movies today don't need nine out of the ten sex bombs on display, but this one needed a little more feminine oomph.

Next, I understand that Karl Malden as the detective in charge of the case is immediately suspicious of Clift, whom he's never met before and knows nothing about. But why? He rags him throughout, like Javert in "Les Miserables." What the hell is going on? It's as if there were something personal involved, but no explanation for Malden's zealotry is given or suggested.

That gets the weak stuff out of the way. Hitchcock has said that he hated Dmitri Tiomkin's musical score, but the theme is a melancholy and elegiac love tune that brackets Clift's youthful romance with Baxter perfectly. At worst, there's a bit much of it.

Should you see it? Absolutely.
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