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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A priest, who comes under suspicion for murder, cannot clear his name without breaking the seal of the confessional.
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September 24, 2019