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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Classic Film Review: I Confess (1953)

I Confess stars Montgomery Clift as Father Michael Logan, a priest who hears a confession of murder from employee Otto Keller (O.E. Hasse) and is morally unable to act on it. When the police, headed by Karl Malden as Inspector Larrue, discover that Father Logan has links to the dead man, he quickly becomes a suspect himself. Unable to break Keller's confession, Father Logan faces the ultimate penalty for holding his silence.

With a cast that also includes Brian Aherne as Willy Robertson and Anne Baxter as Father Logan's past love Ruth (now married to Pierre Grandfort (Roger Dann)), I Confess certainly holds a lot of promise. And, for the most part, it lives up to it. The atmospheric introductions to Quebec City at the beginning set up a tense film, a feeling only enhanced by the confession in the opening minutes. From then on, the film is carried by Clift and he is truly excellent as Father Logan. His faith and stoicism could portray him as a silly figure but Clift manages to convey this as a deep sense of belief in something more important than the prospect of being hanged for a crime he didn't commit. The rest of the cast works well, especially O.E. Hasse who has a difficult role to play in convincing the audience he would rather a priest hang for a murder he committed than risk himself.

I had one major niggle. The short flashback sequence which depicts Father Logan's relationship with Ruth before and after the war is superfluous, nothing that couldn't have been explained more briefly in words alone. At that point, music overtook the film in something of an irritating manner, when it was used so well at other moments. However, other than this, the film slots together very well and creates and sustains tension until the very end. I honestly wasn't sure what the final half an hour would bring. An underrated Hitchcock - in fact, one I hadn't even heard of - and one definitely worth dusting off for the central performance alone.

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