i confess | alfred hitchcock | george tabori | william archibald | montgomery clift | anne baxter | karl malden | based on | play | crime | drama | thriller | film-noir | film noir | united states | canada | murder | psychopath | sociopath
Film: I Confess
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writer: George Tabori and William Archibald
Starring: Montgomery Clift, Anne Baxter and Karl Malden
This film begins looking into the window of a house. Lying dead on the floor is a man and there is some kind of club next to him. We then see a man walk down the sidewalk. This man then enters a church. We see this from a second story window where Montgomery Clift is standing. He is a priest. He goes down to the church.
He takes a candle and finds O.E. Hasse sitting in a pew. There is clearly something wrong. Hasse goes into a confessional and Clift goes into the other side. This is where Hasse confesses that he killed a man and tells Clift who exactly he killed.
The following morning Hasse gets up and speaks with his wife, played by Dolly Haas. The previous night he was going to take Clift’s advice and turn himself in. Now he has changed his mind. They live in the church and help out, so they have a place to stay and food. Hasse and Haas are displaced from Germany after the war. Hasse has robbed the man he killed so they could start a life together in Quebec. Hasse has changed his mind. He is the gardener for man he killed and goes to his house, since today he is supposed to work in the garden.
At breakfast, Clift and Charles Andre, who is another priest at this church, are talking. Another priest, played by Gilles Pelletier joins them. Pelletier asks Hass if she could let Hasse know that his front tire of his bike needs to be looked at. She tells him that Hasse is working in the garden currently. Clift is shocked by this, because he knows the truth. He leaves breakfast to go the house.
Upon arriving, the murder has been discovered. It turns out that Hasse carried on like it was a normal day and then reported the murder after he found it. The inspector who is heading up the case is played by Karl Malden. Clift meets with him and tells him that he had an appointment with the man this morning. That is all he gives him and this causes Malden to suspicious of Clift. Malden gets even more suspicious when he watches out the window as Clift meets with Anne Baxter. They both leave together.
Baxter goes to parliament to meet with her husband, who is a lawyer and played by Roger Dann. They are good friends with chief prosecutor, who is played by Brian Aherne.
Back at the church, Hasse confronts Clift. He tells him that he cannot tell the police what he knows, because he is a priest and it was told to him in confidence. He tells him to not be a coward, because he can tell that Clift is bothered by what he knows and that he cannot tell the truth.
Witnesses are brought forth to be interviewed. Malden speaks with two little French girls, played by Carmen Gingras and Renée Hudon. They say they saw someone climb out of the window and that it was a priest. This gets Malden going to every church in Quebec. The last one they go to is Clift’s.
Malden then calls Clift in for a meeting. He informs him that he is the prime suspect, because he is the only one who cannot account for his whereabouts of that night. Malden then calls in Aherne to get involved in the investigation. He informs Aherne that Baxter met with Clift the morning after and she then is called in. Dann is not happy about this, but there is a connection between her and Clift. She reveals the whole story in hopes to clear Clift’s name.
It turns out that Baxter and Clift were in love and engaged before he went to World War II. While he was gone, she married Dann. After Clift had returned, she spent the day with him, but after getting caught in a storm, they had to stay the night together in a gazebo. The following morning, the man who ended up being murdered showed up. This was his property. He recognized her and Clift hit him defending her honor. That day though he learned she was married and they stopped speaking. Clift then joined the priesthood. It turns out that the man who died began blackmailing Baxter, threatening to tell this story to her husband.
The problem is that her story and timeline does not disprove that Clift was not the killer; it actually makes him even more of a suspect. This is now going to trial. Clift is unable to tell who the real killer is, bound by his honor to the cloth and to God. Will Clift be able to prove his innocence without telling that Hasse killed him? Will he break his honor to save his own life? Will the jury see the truth or will the evidence be too much? Will Hasse shoulder the blame that is his?
I have to say that this film is really good. The story is amazing and it brings up an interesting concept. I thought Clift was a little too good looking as the priest, but that is something I think what Alfred Hitchcock was going for. He was a little bland as well. I thought the rest of the cast was really good though. I especially like Hasse. He at first is a character that you think made a bad mistake, but the longer this one goes the more of a monster he becomes. I also liked Haas in the small role she had. She has so much guilt that piles up, but she is bound by her marriage and love, but that is stretched by doing what is truly right. This film really plays with the idea of honor and being bound to it, but how it can be used against that individual as well.
Now my really only issue with this film is that it is from the 1950s, so it had to deal with the much harsher censorship rules of its time. Despite that though, they do get away from some risqué concepts like adultery, almost getting away with murder and violence toward clergy. Other than that, I would say that Clift might not have been the best for this role due to how young he looks and not really doing much in terms of acting depth, but he doesn’t ruin the film by any stretch.
I have added this to the horror film research due to the concept being scary. Going into the priesthood is usually done to help people. In this case, the rules they are bound by hurts Clift. He has a crime confessed to him, but by getting involved to help the former love of his life, he becomes the prime suspect and there is more circumstantial evidence that continues to mount against him. It is a tough choice to break your vows or be convicted of a crime you didn’t commit and even worse when you know who did commit it.
I would recommend giving this one a viewing. This one is an example of Hitchcock at his finest and he shows again why he is the master of the thriller. The acting for the most part is good, the story is solid and the suspense is built as the film progresses. I will state that this film is in black-and-white and as I have said already, from the 50s. If these are issues for you, then I would say you should probably avoid this one. If not, I think you will be in for a treat for a solid Hitchcock film. The ending is a little bit Hollywood for me, but doesn’t ruin this one by any stretch.
My Rating: 8 out of 10