Every body has a story.
Every body has a story.
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Content warning: this article contains potentially disturbing content, including references to death, homicide, execution, violence, substance abuse, debates about certain religious tenets, and a sniper incident. Please use your best judgment as to whether you wish to read this content. Language is PG-13.
Please note: although this film was made in Québec, Canada, the director and most of the other cast and crew members were Americans. The wording I use in this article is the wording they use in the movie, e. g., “dollars,” even though that region of the world might use different colloquial terms for the same things. Also, since there are two married couples featured as characters in this movie, for clarity’s sake, after the first appearance by these characters I use their first names only. Also also, I researched the correct formatting for French titles, but I was never taught French, formally or otherwise. If I made any mistakes, I apologize. With all of these issues, no disrespect is intended.
Film synopsis with commentary
Spoiler Alert: this article is one long spoiler
I Confess is a lesser known Warner Brothers film directed by the better known Alfred Hitchcock (affiliate link). The movie’s premise was based on French playwright Paul Anthelme’s 1902 play, “Nos deux consciences” (“Our Two Consciences”), which Hitchcock reportedly had seen on stage sometime in the 1930’s.
According to some sources, the film was in pre-production for eight years (which is unusually long, in case you’re unfamiliar with how these things normally work). During the course of those eight years, the script went though rewrites by approximately ten different writers. Hitchcock took time off from working on the movie to attend to personal things (his daughter’s wedding, for one), as well as business matters (dissolving a partnership, for one). He also had several other film projects cooking at the same time, which presumably needed a fair amount of his attention.
The actors starring in the black-and-white film include Montgomery Clift (affiliate link), who also starred in From Here to Eternity and Judgment at Nuremberg, Anne Baxter (affiliate link), who also starred in The Magnificent Ambersons and All about Eve, and Karl Malden, who also starred in A Streetcar Named Desire and Patton. Hitchcock had allegedly considered for the male lead role/offered the lead role to [Baron] Laurence Olivier, Cary Grant, James Stewart, and Van Johnson—and if the stories of Clift’s alcohol/hangover-related unprofessional behavior on set are to be believed, Hitchcock probably would have preferred any one of them over Clift. Since Hitchcock was the non-confrontational type, when Clift needed a talking-to during filming, Hitchcock saddled two emissaries with the job: an assistant director and Clift’s good friend and co-star, Karl Malden.
Baxter reportedly was not Hitchcock’s first choice for her role, either. According to the book Hitchcock/Truffaut (Simon and Schuster, 1967), Hitchcock had hired Swedish actress Anita Bjork for the part. Bjork traveled to Hollywood to begin filming, her significant other and their young child in tow. Since her romantic relationship (and therefore the child’s parentage) were sans marriage, studio head Jack Warner insisted Bjork be replaced—which is ironic, considering that Warner was an unrepentant serial philanderer. Reportedly Hitchcock was interested in replacing Bjork with two-time Best Actress Academy Award winner Olivia de Havilland, but the part had been trimmed considerably in the extensive pre-production rewrites, and apparently one could not insult a star of de Havilland’s stature by offering her such a trivial role. He had to “settle” for Anne Baxter, who only had one paltry Best Actress Academy Award to her name. (On behalf of Anne Baxter, I say: ouch!)
Sandwiched between the releases of Hitchcock classics Strangers on a Train (1951) and Dial M for Murder (1954), I Confess was released in February of 1953. The world premiere took place in Québec City, Québec, Canada (where the film was filmed), on the 12th, followed by a showing in Montreal, Québec, Canada, on the 13th. The US premiere took place on February 18.
On to the movie itself:
Contrary to his usual style, Hitchcock doesn’t waste any time at the beginning of this movie. The opening credits are followed by the requisite appearance of Hitchcock himself, walking right-to-left along a walkway at the top of a wide set of outdoor stairs between two buildings (allegedly Québec City’s escalier Champlain). Exit Hitch, enter a few daylight glamour shots of the area to establish that the story takes place in a pre-skyscraper city somewhere in Canada. [Later in the film it is stated that the story does take place in Québec, but that isn’t established until about 30 minutes into the movie.] The camera then zooms in through a first story/ground floor window to show a bookshelf-lined, office-y looking room occupied solely by a man whose body is sprawled on the floor. By his side is a black metal pipe roughly two feet long and an inch in diameter. The man is sporting a boo-boo on his forehead, which doesn’t look too serious, but as it’s a Hitchcock film it’s likely safe to assume the man’s dead. The camera pivots to focus on the room’s inside doorway and the beaded curtain hanging from it. [They had beaded curtains back then?] The strands of beads are swaying, indicating that someone had recently passed through them—and it probably wasn’t the dead guy. The camera pans outside to the now-dark street right outside of the room, where a shadowy male figure wearing a cassock (an ankle-length garment typically worn only by members of the clergy) and a fedora-type hat quickly walks away from the room into the evening. Next is shown two young girls—who probably shouldn’t be walking alone through the city at that time of night—casually strolling along the same sidewalk, blissfully unaware that the shadowy male figure they are following just yards/meters behind is/was probably up to no good. Said shadowy male figure, now alone, walks down another dimly lit side street and heads into a poorly lit concrete tunnel-like structure. He takes off the cassock, revealing the business suit he is wearing underneath. When he’s next seen outside, it looks light out but it really isn’t. The man passes by a small city park as he walks toward a handsome brick church. A handsome priest named Michael Logan (played by handsome Montgomery Clift) goes to open his second story/first floor window and spots the man opening the building’s side door and entering. The priest looks none too pleased about it.
Father Logan goes looking for the stranger and finds him sitting in a back pew. It turns out that the man is German refugee Otto Keller (played by O. E. Hasse). Otto seems surprised to see the priest, even though the candle Logan is carrying for lighting can be seen for quite a distance. Otto tells Logan how much he appreciated all of the help and support the priest had given to Otto and his wife in the past. (For starters, Logan had secured them living accommodations and “easier” jobs at the church’s rectory.) Logan asks him if there is anything he can do to help him at the moment, and the man replies, “No one can help me.” Otto keeps on talking, though, and after a lengthy pity-party monologue, he asks Father Logan to hear his confession. They adjourn to the privacy of the confessional, even though there is no one else in the church to overhear them, and anonymity’s obviously not a concern.
Father Logan starts asking his requisite confession questions, sounding disconcertingly like he’s doing a Humphrey Bogart impression. Mr. Robertson cuts to the chase and confesses that he killed the man seen dead at the beginning of the movie. He mentions the man by name, Mr. Villette (played by Ovila Légaré), and it’s clear that the priest knew him too. Father Logan’s face speeds through an almost comical series of expressions—shock?—confusion?—disbelief?—fear? when he hears the news. Otto goes on to explain that he only intended to rob the man (who was his part-time employer). Otto had worn a cassock as a disguise while doing the nefarious deed, but Villette had caught him red-handed and so of course recognized him instantly. Villette told him he was going to call the police.
That scene fades out and the scene that fades in shows Otto confessing to his wife, Alma (played by Dolly Haas, who, although there is only a seven-year age difference between the two, looks more like his daughter than his wife). He insists it was an accident. [They might call it an accident where he comes from; where I come from it would be called felony murder during the commission of a burglary.]
Otto says he had only wanted to stop him from calling the police. [Sounds like he accomplished his goal.] He tells his wife that he committed the robbery for her, so she could stop working so hard (although he had just recently thanked Logan for having secured them easier work). He says that he wanted to get $2,000, and with it, start a new life for the two of them. He says, “Villette was rich,” [as if that excuses anything, Robin Hood.]
Otto tells Alma that Logan said he needed to return the stolen money. Otto is afraid if he tries, the police will catch him and string him up. Alma tells him it doesn’t matter: Father Logan will tell them the whole story. Otto, with a somewhat sinister expression on his face, reminds her that the priest, bound by the seal of the confessional, can’t divulge any of the conversation to another living soul. She is still worried that the police will come knocking, and he replies (German accent and all), “Why should they come here? They know nothing.” [That last line was probably fine back in the day, but for many modern-day viewers who grew up watching the television show Hogan’s Heroes and/or its reruns, the phrase is just too Sergeant Schultz-y to ignore.]
The next day as Otto heads down the front stairs of the church, his wife stops him to ask if he is going to the police. [Apparently they don’t indulge in morning chitchat while they’re getting ready for the day.] Otto, dressed in a business suit and tie, reminds her that it’s Wednesday, and he’s going to work in Mr. Villette’s garden because that’s what he does every Wednesday. Alma, very sweet but apparently not much of a criminal mastermind, blurts out, “But he’s dead!” Otto refrains from saying, “Gee, thanks for the reminder, honey. What would I do without you?” and instead pointedly repeats that he always works in Mr. Villette’s garden on Wednesdays, which happens to be that very day. She doesn’t look as if she gets the message.
Otto resumes his journey to his gardening job at Villette’s house (because it’s Wednesday), proceeding by foot from the very same church he had circled the globe twice to get to from Villette’s home the day before.
A morning mass has just let out, and Father Logan is as off-duty for the moment as a member of the clergy can be. He goes upstairs and walks into a room that is clearly in the midst of being “refreshed.” A second priest, Father Millars (played by Charles Andre), joins him, commenting about the state of the room and asking how long it will take Father Logan and Otto to finish repainting the walls. Awkward!
It’s time for breakfast, and Father Millars starts prattling on about smelly paint versus un-smelly paint as the two walk into the dining room and help themselves to cups of hot beverage from a silver tea/coffee pot on a sideboard. Then Millars thankfully stops the paint talk but unfortunately starts extolling the virtues of their fabulous handyman Otto, distracting Father Logan to the point where he pours about half a cup of sugar into his drink. Apparently Otto had started working at the church six months previously and had since done wonders with the place, unclogging drains and unsticking windows and such.
A third priest walks into the room (not the start of a joke, although Father Logan tells one right about then). It’s Father Benoit (played by Gilles Pelletier, who doesn’t look anything like his February 2022 Internet Movie Database .com profile picture), followed a moment later by Alma, who is bearing gifts in the form of a tray holding three bowls of cereal, a stack of toast [looks like five pieces, so someone’s going to get shortchanged], and a carafe that is probably holding milk. She places the tray on a second sideboard and carries two of the bowls to the table to place in front of Fathers Millars and Logan. Father Logan glances at his watch and then declines her offer, which is likely a wise decision, since Alma is so nervous she probably would have ended up pouring the milk onto his lap instead of into the bowl. Father Benoit asks Alma if she would ask her husband to look at his bicycle’s front tire, which is flat. Alma places the Logan-rejected bowl in front of Father Benoit and picks up the carafe, which—without benefit of human intervention—has miraculously moved to the nearer sideboard. As she pours the milk, she tells Father Benoit that her husband is not there, because it’s Wednesday, and on Wednesdays…you know the drill.
A noticeably distracted Father Logan abruptly gets up from his chair in the middle of another of Father Millars’s blah, blah, blahs (this one directed toward Father Benoit, so Logan is only being moderately rude) and walks out—out of the conversation, out of the room, out of the church. He hightails it to Mr. Villette’s house, where he finds police and a gaggle of onlookers. He wriggles through the assemblage to get to the policeman who is tasked with keeping the crowd away from the front door of the house. The officer recognizes him and tells him the horrible news. Logan does a terrible job of feigning surprise, and then walks past the police “barricade” (the one officer, who doesn’t even try to stop him) to talk to a plainclothes police officer, Murphy (played by Judson Pratt), who had just exited the house. Logan lies (!) to the man, telling him he had an appointment scheduled with Villette. The detective tells him nonchalantly, “good luck with that, pal—he’s dead.” The priest asks if there is anything he can do to help, and he is escorted inside the building to talk to yet another plainclothes police officer (Inspector Larrue, played by Karl Malden; don’t be fooled by the French-sounding name of his character—Malden uses his everyday American accent). Larrue recognizes Logan’s face, but doesn’t remember where they met. They determine that it was at Logan’s workplace. As Larrue and the priest exchange pleasantries, Logan spies Otto (still wearing his suit) watching the discussion from a few yards/meters away.
Larrue asks Logan what his meeting with Villette was to have been about, and Logan responds vaguely with a few mostly unintelligible syllables. Larrue then asks Logan if Otto works at the rectory. Logan says yes, and Larrue tells him that poor old Otto is terrified at the moment, and then casually mentions that he (Larrue) would probably be speaking to him (Logan) later, maybe to find out what was on the agenda for the scheduled Logan and Villette get-together. [At least Logan was given time to come up with an excuse, though it probably won’t be a good one.]
As a relieved Logan heads down the front steps of the building, he hears the officers talking, one telling the other that Otto was the man who had discovered the body—which is technically true. Presumably after Father Logan is out of earshot, detectives fill in Larrue about items they have found in the office: the lead pipe that had been left by the body (no fingerprints) and an open cash box on the desk, which contains $500 (since the keys to the box were in the unfortunate Villette’s pocket, and thieves “usually take the lot,” there’s been no robbery—or so they think). [It’s curious why they present these items to Larrue as if he had never seen them before. Didn’t he view the crime scene when he got there? Maybe he was too busy holding court with the odd visitor or two.]
Larrue finally gets around to interviewing Otto—informally, while both of them are standing in the hallway of the dead man’s home. Larrue asks him how he happened to find the body. Otto explains that he always works in Villette’s garden on Wednesdays [Larrue must have been the last person in Canada to have found that out]. Otto had arrived at 8:30 that morning, as usual, and went inside; he doesn’t have his own key, but the door was open. The open door “frightened” him, because it had always been locked in the past. He tells Larrue that when he saw the body, his first thought was to run, because he was “a man without a country, alone, discovering a murder.” He thought of the German police, who in his experience were not so nice. (This guy is good.) Larrue tells him he doesn’t have to worry about the nice Canadian police, while at the same time watching out the window as Father Logan loiters on the sidewalk. Larrue tells Otto that he can step outside. Through the window, Larrue watches Logan pace back and forth, clearly waiting for something or someone. Just seconds later, his friend, Ruth Grandfort (played by Anne Baxter) arrives (she also is allowed to brush right by the police “barricade” with barely a word to him). She walks over to Logan, who tells her the heart-breaking news about Villette. She is genuinely surprised for about two seconds, and then says, “We’re finally free!” [It’s a good thing the two have turned away from the building and started walking away, as Larrue would have likely picked up on the look of relief on her face—although he apparently didn’t notice the open cash box with $500 in it that had been sitting on one of the few pieces of furniture in the murder room, so maybe not.] Judging from Larrue’s expression, he is reading all sorts of things into Logan’s behavior of the morning, none of it good.
Ruth (alone) drives a snazzy white convertible into the parking lot of a legislative-looking building. She parks the car, enters the building, walks across the foyer, and asks a legislative-looking man standing outside a door if her husband is “in the chamber.” The man says yes and opens the door for her. She stands in the doorway and listens to a legislative-sounding debate, complete with unfunny sexist joke. After that, Ruth walks back into the foyer and only has to wait mere seconds before her husband, Pierre Grandfort (played by Roger Dann), comes out to meet her. She asks him to take her to lunch (technically, she orders him to). He complies, saying that she seems to be in a much better mood than she had been in that morning (and apparently other recent days as well). She feigns ignorance as to her mood swings, and they blithely go on their way. There’s no hint about what activities she had partaken in between the time she met with Logan (right after breakfast) until the time she arrived to meet her husband for lunch.
At the church, Otto is going up the front stairs as Father Benoit and his bicycle are going down (he’s carrying the bike, not riding it). Benoit, who must have thought that Father Logan’s graceless departure from the dining room came about because Logan had a sudden, urgent desire to be the one to impart the tragic bicycle-tire news to Otto, says to the handyman, “It wasn’t flat, after all.” Otto looks at him as if he hasn’t any idea what the priest is talking about, because, of course, he hasn’t.
Otto walks to the doorway of the room that he and Logan are tasked with painting. Logan is in there painting, and Father Millars is in there complaining about the paint—again (now, the white paint they’re using isn’t the right white). When Millars sees Otto, he wants to know: how does Villette’s garden grow? Otto says it’s fine, but Villette himself isn’t doing so hot. Millars is taken aback by the news, because apparently it had slipped Logan’s mind that he had just recently come from the dead man’s house and had spoken about the ‘Villette’s dead’ situation with no fewer than three policeman. Otto gears up to help with the painting, preparing for the messy job by taking off his suit jacket and dipping a brush into a paint bucket.
Logan had stayed mum while Millars and Otto discussed the morning’s excitement. As soon as Millars leaves, Otto puts down his paintbrush [he probably never even planned to do any painting!] and tells Logan that he (Otto) can’t turn himself in, or else he’ll be hanged. God has forgiven him (thanks to Logan hearing his confession), and that’s good enough for Otto. Then he asks Logan to tell him what he should do, although he really means, “Tell me that what I intend to do is what I should do.” Alma interrupts them, passing along the now useless and inaccurate message that Father Benoit’s bicycle tire is flat. As usual, Mr. K. is one step ahead of the Mrs.
Larrue is sitting in the office of Crown Prosecutor Willy Robertson (played by Brian Aherne), apparently asking for help with the case. The viewing public is only privy to Robertson’s response, which is: so what if you have a case with no evidence, motives, or suspects? You’re a pro, you’ll figure it out. Officer Murphy, who is standing at the ready by Larrue’s side, asks his boss if he wants him to bring in “the girls.” Larrue says yes, and Robertson perks right up. Let’s hope he’s disappointed when he finds out that the girls in question are the two young teens (or maybe preteens) who had followed Otto down the street in the early moments of the film. (Fortunately, he is.)
Larrue gently questions the girls, clearly for the first time. They are sisters (as in “same mother and father,” not as in “nuns”), and both seem very relaxed and articulate, considering the circumstances. And, no, no parent or guardian is in sight. [Why he’s interviewing them for the first time at the crown prosecutor’s office instead of at the police station or their home is a mystery.] They tell him that the evening before, they had seen a man leaving the Villette house when they were walking home from a babysitting job at 11:00 or 11:30. At night. When asked what the man was like, the younger girl says that he was a priest. The crown Prosecutor asks her if she is sure, and she replies, “Quite sure.” Larrue pops out of his chair after hearing the news, slowly clicking this new piece of the investigative puzzle together with the old ones. He asks them for details about the man’s looks, but the guy was apparently about as nondescript as a human being can get. They insist, though, that the man was a priest, and neither of the questioners bothers to ask what makes them think that. [It was because he was wearing the cassock, but unless those garments would cause any non-religious person who put one on to burst into flames, that’s hardly an iron-clad identification.] The ladies are allowed to leave (though they would probably rather stay there, answering easy questions and eating crown prosecutor-provided biscuits/cookies, than go back to school). Larrue makes them promise not to tell anyone about their conversation (although he stops short of warning them not to leave town). [Any guesses as to what was probably the first thing the girls told their friends when they got back to school?]
Larrue tells his sidekick Murphy to check all of the rectories in town to find out which priests had been out at around that time frame the previous evening. [That brings up so many questions—are priests under watch every night? Would a priest skulking around at night wear an easily identifiable piece of clothing? Can’t priests travel from town to town? Et cetera.]
C. P. Robertson says to Larrue that it’s absurd to think a priest had been involved…isn’t it? Larrue says maybe, and C. P. says, “Who?!” Larrue, now almost certain of his suspect (although he still has no evidence or motive), replies that in order to make sure his suspicions are correct, he needs to do some more checking. C. P. wants names, but Larrue’s lips are sealed.
Through a series of film snippets separated by still shots of various church steeples (accompanied by jarringly loud music), Murphy is seen (but not heard) speaking to different groups of priests in different types of rooms. In the last of these scenes, Murphy is seen and heard sitting and talking with Father Millars, who explains to Murphy that it’s not his job to watch Father Logan. Just then, Logan himself comes into the room, escorted by Otto. [You’d think Logan would have known how to get there without help.] Millars explains that the detective has come looking for Logan, tacking on needlessly that the detective probably thought that the priests’ solution to grime was to hide it with paint—again with the paint! When Otto, still hanging around at the doorway, hears that Murphy is there to fetch Logan for a convo with Inspector Larrue down at the police station, his eyes nearly bug out of his head. Logan, this time the cool customer, explains to Father Millars that he had expected to be asked more questions. [Oddly, Millars doesn’t ask why the police are so interested in talking to Logan, since Millars has no idea that Logan had gate-crashed the murder investigation.]
Otto tracks down his wife and tells her not to wash the cassock he had worn the night before. When she asks why, he whispers something in her ear. Now she knows why, but the rest of us still have to guess.
At the police station, Father Logan is left to cool his heels in the hallway like a common criminal—which is exactly what Larrue thinks he is. Logan finally gets invited into the office, and Larrue starts asking about his life, though he already seems to know the answers. Shortly, they get around to the subject of Mr. Villette’s murder. Logan says he hardly knew the man, having only met him once, many years before. Larrue engages in some small talk about Villette being a lawyer and an enigma, finally getting to the real question he wants to know the answer to—what was the scheduled Logan-Villette meeting supposed to be about? Since the priest had the whole day to think about it, he comes up with the perfect answer: it was a personal matter. Larrue seems to take the answer at face value [after all, he can’t really strong-arm a priest]. Then he asks Logan about the lady he met outside Villette’s house earlier. You can practically hear Logan thinking, “Why didn’t I anticipate that question?” He just says he can’t speak on the matter. Larrue—who had no problem being “mysterious” with his boss just a few scenes before— says that all of Logan’s “mystification” might lead someone to postulate that maybe the priest who was seen leaving Villette’s house the night of the murder and the priest who showed up there the next morning might be the same guy. [It’s obvious that Logan lacks the skills to plan the perfect crime, but it’s unlikely even he would kill a man and the next day figuratively jump up and down in front of the police, waving his arms and yelling, “Look at me! Look at me!”] When pressed to respond, Logan says that an intelligent man wouldn’t jump to conclusions based on such flimsy evidence. Larrue wholeheartedly agrees, but it’s obvious he’s still 100% sure Logan’s his man.
Larrue says that every single solitary priest in Québec has an alibi for 11 o’clock the night before—except for Logan. However, it’s apparent that no law enforcement officer had even asked him for one yet. Larrue does then, and Logan replies that he was out walking, not alone…but…of course…he can’t divulge the name of his companion. Larrue, who earlier had claimed to be a lifelong Catholic, seemingly has no empathy for or understanding of Logan’s priestly moral dilemma, and brusquely sends him on his way.
Larrue quickly calls the building’s telephone operator and asks him or her to put him through to C. P. Robertson. When told that Robertson isn’t there, he instructs the operator to find him; he doesn’t care where he is. Where he is at that moment is at the home of Logan’s friend Ruth; what he’s doing there is partying the way rich people party (I guess). The two men talk on the phone, and it seems that Larrue is dead-set on Logan being the killer, based on—in reality, nothing. Ruth hears this but manages to hold herself together for the rest of the party. Later that night she is in the party room cleaning up after her messy guests, still wearing her slinky black gown and hefty wedding ring set. Her husband, Pierre, comes in. When he tells her not to worry about Logan, she gets snippy with him. When he says that she must be still in love with Logan (!) she gets even snippier, admitting freely that it’s true. They bicker about the possibility of a divorce (nope) and her pretending to love her husband (never). He walks out of the room, saying he hopes Logan is in big trouble. Real mature.
Ruth sits down at the telephone and dials a number (by heart). She’s called the rectory (surprise, surprise). Alma answers and tells her that Father Logan is sleeping. Father Logan walks in the room just then, proving he’s not. He insists on taking the call, even though he doesn’t know who the caller is. He soon finds out, and that she wants to see him as soon as possible. He suggests the rectory, which seems odd since he’s trying to keep her identity hidden from the Villette investigation. She tells him she’s going to Lévis the next morning on the nine o’clock ferry. He just says all right, but it’s obvious he gets what she’s hinting at. After they hang up, Logan sees Alma standing halfway up the nearby staircase, obviously eavesdropping, but it doesn’t seem to bother him.
The next morning Logan leaves the church and heads down the sidewalk. A sedate but huge sedan pulls out behind him slowly, with the implication being that it’s harboring one or more police officers intent on following the priest. Logan might as well have arranged to have his meeting with Ruth in the rectory, or, better yet, the police station.
Logan and Ruth track each other down on the ferry. He tells her what he knows, and she tells him what she knows. Then he tells her that he already knows what she knows, and that there are probably at least a few law enforcement-types on the ferry with them. That’s followed by several camera shots of out-of-place-looking men sitting or standing here and there on the deck. It seems as if there are more than just a few officers there—the place looks to be crawling with them.
Logan and Ruth have a lengthy discussion about who’s in love with whom, who had been in love with whom, and who’s no longer in love with whom (Ruth: Logan then and now, Pierre never; Pierre: Ruth then and now; Logan: Ruth then, God now). Somewhat petulantly, Ruth tells Logan she’ll never bother him again.
Later that day, Larrue has his ferry detective (apparently there was only one; the other men were decoys) report to C. P. Robertson about Ruth’s activities (the cagey ferry detective had followed her home, so by this time her identity is the talk of the police station). Robertson wants to let the whole thing slide, saying he’ll need to apologize to Ruth for the “ridiculous report.” Larrue responds that if an apology needs to be made, he will do it. [If an apology does need to be made, I bet he doesn’t.] Robertson arranges for Ruth to come to his office. To his credit, her husband offers to accompany her there to provide moral support, even after she tells him she can provide Logan with an alibi for the time of the murder.
When the Grandforts show up at the C. P.’s office they find Larrue there as well [someone might have told Ruth he was going to be there, but no one told me]. Robertson apologizes to the Grandforts and says that Larrue has promised to keep the meeting from the press. Larrue says, “I’ll do my best,” in a very unconvincing way. Then he has Father Logan ushered in, a surprise to everyone in the room but Larrue.
Larrue begins by telling Ruth that she had met with Logan on the ferry that morning, which she knew. He asks her the reason for the meeting, and she replies that the reason would not be helpful to his investigation, as it was personal.
He tells her that she had met with Logan outside of Villette’s house the morning Villette’s body was discovered, which she knew. She tells him that she had a meeting scheduled with Villette for 9:30 that morning, and that the meeting wasn’t about her seeking legal counsel from Villette. Then he tells her that Logan told her about Villette’s death and stopped her from entering the house. Again, she knew. Then he says that Logan hadn’t known that she’d had an appointment scheduled with Villette. She says, “That’s where you’re wrong, Mr. Smartypants. He did.” [She didn’t really phrase it that way, but I bet she wanted to.] She goes on to explain that she had had an appointment with Father Logan the night before, and they had taken a (legal) joy ride in her car from nine o’clock until eleven o’clock. Larrue asks her if she is sure of the times, and she says she’s quite sure. Her husband corroborates her statement that she had arrived home shortly after eleven o’clock. [In light of that, Ruth was lucky that Larrue didn’t start to consider her a co-conspirator.]
Larrue keeps digging for the juicy details, which seem to be moot in light of the fact that he claimed to have accepted Ruth’s statements as truth, and Logan is now off the hook for murder.
Larrue: You told your husband when you arrived home that night that you had just seen Father Logan.
Larrue: You had a particular reason for not telling him?
Logan intervenes right then, asking him if he really needs to get so personal, and Larrue replies, “Yes. Yes, I do.” Fortunately the exchange distracts Larrue sufficiently to make him drop his line of questioning, and instead he asks her the reason for her appointment with Villette. Ruth says that Villette had been blackmailing her [which explains her relief at hearing of Villette’s death]. She had asked Father Logan to advise her on the matter.
Larrue asks her if she had told her husband about the blackmail, and she says no, she didn’t want to worry him. Larrue acts as if her not telling her husband is a crime in itself. [Her husband knows now, so what’s the problem?]
They do more back and forth, with Larrue asking more and more questions about Ruth and Father Logan, and Ruth and her blackmailer, and Ruth and her failure to divulge every aspect to her life to her husband. He seems to be intent on implicating her, if only of being a bad wife. Larrue says of his badgering, “I only want to clear a murder.” [He should have added, “based solely on the weakest circumstantial evidence and innuendo.”]
Ruth finally offers a comprehensive explanation of the pertinent events, complete with flashbacks: she and the Father had been childhood sweethearts. He went off to war, and eventually stopped corresponding with her. She met Villette at her wedding to Pierre (in the flashback, the couple give each other questioning glances after Villette introduces himself, as if neither of them recognizes him). Although she had gotten married while Logan was still off at war, she was there to greet the ship when Logan finally came home. The next day the two of them sneaked off by ferry to a remote field, having a skipping-through-a-meadow-with-flowers-in-their-hair-type of reunion until it started to rain. Logan spotted a lone farmhouse not too far away, so they went there to seek shelter. No one was at the house, and the nearby barn was locked up tight, so they settled for waiting out the storm in a small gazebo/summerhouse on the property. At that point, Ruth checked her fancy water-soaked watch (which was mere inches/cm away from her conspicuously unadorned left ring finger) and realized that they had already missed the last ferry back to the mainland. Since she had no way of contacting her husband, there was nothing they could do besides spend the night together (although in her telling of the events she gives the impression that they didn’t “spend the night together.”) The rain had ended by morning. The pair awoke; Ruth had slept, fully clothed, on a bench in the gazebo, and Logan had slept, clothed, sitting on a bench opposite her, resting his head on his arms, which were folded across a table. Ruth had used Logan’s military dress jacket, complete with medals, as an ersatz blanket. [Which begs the question: why would he have brought that to a daytime outing in a field? She didn’t seem to have brought a sweater or jacket of her own—or a picnic basket, but that’s an entirely different conundrum.] Ruth then spotted a man hurrying toward them through the garden “as if he owned it.” (He probably did.) It was Villette, of course. Logan stepped out of the gazebo to meet him. Villette could tell that the other person in the gazebo was a female, so he made a remark, and Logan took offense. The men had a mini shoving contest, with Villette ending up on the ground. Ruth walked to the gazebo’s doorway [why??]. At that proximity, Villette easily recognized her and greeted her as Mrs. Grandfort. Logan then looked at her in shock, because apparently she hadn’t had time during their 20 hours together to mention that she was married.
Ruth didn’t see either man for the next five years, until Ruth attended Logan’s ordination. Villette was there too, and made sure Ruth knew it. After that, he was seemingly everywhere else she went. One day he showed up at Parliament when she was watching her husband do his thing. Villette told her that he was in a bind over a “tax scandal,” and only her husband could help him. She told him her husband wouldn’t agree to do anything “shady,” and then he threatened to expose her and Logan’s secret (again she implies that nothing untoward occurred). He kept hounding her, via phone calls, and finally accosted her outside of her house to give her a 24-hour ultimatum. [Guess what other major life event happened to Villette that day!] She didn’t know what to do, because if Villette squealed it could cause the ruination of both her husband’s and her boyfriend’s lives. That evening Logan and she went on their two-hour drive, and he told her he would “deal with” Villette. They arranged to meet at Villette’s house at 9:30 the next morning. She went to Villette’s home at the prearranged time, and when she pulled up to the curb near his house, she wondered about the assembled crowd. As already depicted, she met with Logan, who told her about Villette’s demise, and she reveled in the feelings of relief and euphoria she experienced after hearing the news. End of reminiscence.
The Grandforts are dismissed, and as they are leaving, Ruth asks her friend C. P. Robertson (who had done absolutely nothing earlier to protect her from Larrue’s overreaching questions) if Logan is no longer considered a suspect. He says yes, but he is visibly upset by her revelations and can barely look her in the eye. Robertson asks Logan if he would also like to leave, and surprisingly he says yes instead of suggesting an all-night bull session between himself, Robertson, and Larrue.
The C. P. says something to Larrue along the lines of, “Well, I guess that’s the end of that,” and Larrue says something along the lines of, “But is it?” Then he produces Villette’s autopsy report, which had been burning a hole in his pocket the whole time. Based upon the time Villette had dined in a restaurant that fateful night (his last meal), Villette couldn’t have died before 11:30. Logan’s alibi expired at 11:00, so all of a sudden he’s back on the hook. [Yes, the girls said they had seen the “priest” leaving Villette’s house no later than 11:30, and the coroner determined that Villette could not have died before 11:30, but Larrue doesn’t choose to trouble himself with such minor inconsistencies.]
Early the next morning, Ruth is lying in her bed in her nightgown, awake. Her husband comes to the door to tell her that C. P. had just called to pass along the news that she had spilled her guts for nothing. Well, not nothing—now that they know the whole sordid story, they plan to present it as Logan’s motive for murder. What’s more, they fully expect to call Ruth to the stand when the time comes and make her air her dirty laundry in front of a viewing audience.
Pierre tells her he has asked C. P. to come over that morning to “help” her deal with the situation—as if her friend hadn’t provided enough “help” for her the previous evening. The meeting was held off-camera, so the next thing we know, Ruth is at the church, telling Logan that they’re planning to arrest him and asking what he is going to do to prevent it. He relies on his standard response: “I don’t know.” A preteen boy enters the room, which leads to a quick end to the adults’ conversation. Logan and the boy adjourn to their respective sides of the confession booth. Let’s hope the kid isn’t about to admit to any crimes committed during a time for which Logan was unaccounted.
As Ruth exits the back door of the church, she bumps into (literally) a man carrying a bunch of long-stemmed flowers (gladioli?). It’s Otto. Neither one knows the other, nor the fact that they are on opposite sides of the drama currently enveloping the city, so they go their separate ways without speaking to one another.
Otto proceeds to the altar and starts to replace the fading vased flowers with the fresh ones. He spots Father Logan coming into the room and watches as the priest walks up the aisle and crosses right in front of him, saying nothing. Otto steps up to him and starts throwing questions at Logan: What did the police ask you? What did you tell them? Did you tell them about me? Logan just says that he (Logan) is going to be arrested. Otto, in a stunning exhibition of what a truly horrible person he really is, keeps on with his questions as he follows him down the hall, but now he’s actively taunting the man who is allowing himself to be persecuted on his behalf. He accuses Logan of lying to him about the imminent arrest in order to trick him into confessing. Then he says that Logan can’t frighten him that easily. Then he asks Logan what he will do after he is arrested—snitch on him?—and calls Logan a coward. (In psychological circles, I believe that’s called ‘projection.’) He goes on to suggest that maybe Logan will be the one to get the ‘rope party’ instead of him, or maybe Logan will tell the police the truth to prevent that from happening. Then he reminds him that he can’t tell them, because he’s a priest—two points of which Logan is undoubtedly well aware. Logan stops and turns to Otto, staring at him with a look that should have made Otto consider confessing to the police, if only to gain protection from Logan. [No matter how many murders a man gets convicted of, they can only hang him once.] Logan says nothing and walks out a door at the end of the corridor. Alma has popped up behind Otto and follows him up the stairs to their living quarters. Otto opens a dresser drawer and pulls out a serious-looking handgun. He tells his wife that, based upon the look on Logan’s face, Otto can tell that the priest is going to rat him out, and that he (Otto) is “ready.”
Outside, Logan marches across a wide intersection, cassock aflutter because of his hasty march. He seems determined to get to wherever he’s headed as quickly as possible.
Back at the rectory, Murphy shows up. Otto answers the door and tells him that Logan has gone out. Father Millars hears this and says that Logan hadn’t mentioned to him that he was going out. [Millars had just recently told Murphy that Logan came and went without having to report to anyone, so it’s odd that Millars is perplexed about it.] Helpful Otto goes on to say that he had seen Logan right before he left. Otto says he “tried to speak to him” (implying that he hadn’t almost talked his ear off), and that Logan “seemed frightened.” Then he adds some unimportant embellishments to his lies (he doesn’t even tell the truth about which door Logan left by). Murphy tells Millars that he’ll be back, which might happen sooner than anyone expects—when Murphy calls Larrue to fill him in on the development, Larrue tells him to “stand by outside the rectory.” Larrue is in his office with a silent man who is wearing a dark coat and hat, and with a long lit cigarette dangling out of his mouth. When Larrue tells him that Logan has left the building, the man sits up as if startled and concerned by the information, but says nothing. Larrue calls the radio room, but the viewing audience has to leave the attendant conversation up to their imaginations. [It’s hard to understand why the police are so alarmed by Logan’s activities—they obviously hadn’t arranged with him a time for them to come to arrest him. Was he supposed to put himself under house arrest and wait for their arrival?]
Logan is still walking in the city. He passes a movie theater, which happens to be displaying a poster for a cops-and-robbers film, depicting a handcuffed man standing between two law enforcement-types. Judging by Logan’s reaction, it’s unlikely he’s planning to catch the show. He stops in front of a men’s clothing store and eyes the suit displayed in the window. [We all know what he’s thinking.] The next scene shows him walking down the sidewalk across the street from a church where there is a statue of workers erecting an almost life-sized cross. He’s still wearing his cassock, so either he thought better of his hasty plan to change his outfit, or he had forgotten his wallet. He ends up at a church (not his own), and he goes inside. He stares at the altar as if he is debating a major life decision, which he probably is.
At the rectory, Otto’s feminine accomplice-after-the-fact serves Father Benoit lunch. Father Millars is standing at the window, praying, and probably watching for Logan’s return. Alma asks him if Father Logan will be joining them for the meal, and Millars tells her he doesn’t know.
At the police station, Larrue calls one of his colleagues to see if Logan has turned up yet. Just as it seems as if Larrue is going to issue an order to shoot to kill on sight, Logan turns up at his office door. [Apparently the most wanted priest in town walked through the lobby of the police station wearing a cassock without being noticed.] Larrue offers to buy him lunch (seriously), and Logan doesn’t decline.
The next scene is in the courtroom. The prosecution is questioning Murphy, who apparently had finally gotten around to searching the rectory for evidence. He states that the cassock the prosecutor is asking about had been found in a trunk (bearing the initials M.W.L.) in Michael William Logan’s room, covered by “a raincoat, a pair of galoshes, and several books.” Alma is sitting in the spectator area, looking not anywhere near as guilt-ridden as she should. Dr. Bonnard gets on the stand next and testifies that the blood on the cassock is the same type as Villette’s, which was expected. (Again we see Alma, who’s looking a little more guilt-ridden now.)
Otto takes the stand next, and weaves a fanciful tale about being in his room the night of the murder and happening to see someone entering the church around 11:45. He couldn’t tell who it was, so he went in search of the person, and found Father Logan kneeling at the altar rail. Otto says that Logan seemed distressed. Otto asked him if he needed help, and Logan told him to go away. Otto lingered because he still wanted to help him, and again Logan told him to leave. Otto keeps laying it on thick for a few more answers, and then Ruth takes the stand. The prosecutor keeps asking her in different ways about her feelings for Logan. [Why would that matter? I could see someone killing a person for someone he loved, but not necessarily for someone who loved him.] The prosecutor says that Ruth can’t expect the jury to believe that she and Logan hadn’t seen each other in the five years between the ill-fated day trip and the murder. He then explains to the judge that his line of questioning is necessary to determine whether Villette knew about just one night in a gazebo or “a continual, uninterrupted, illicit—” He’s cut off by the judge before the movie’s rating has to be changed to “For Mature Audiences Only.” [Besides, how much Villette knew doesn’t matter. Either way, he’s just as dead.]
Next up is Father Logan himself. He denies owning or borrowing the cassock, as well as putting it in the trunk. When the prosecutor asks Logan if he has any suggestions as to whom else might have put it there, Alma just about jumps out of her skin, but Logan answers simply, “I can’t say.” The prosecutor takes that as a euphemism for “I don’t know,” instead of the literal wording, which is what Logan means. The prosecutor goes on to ask a series of baiting questions about Logan’s decision to become a priest—did he have something he wanted to hide from? Wasn’t his secrecy in not telling Pierre about the gazebo incident contradictory to his vocation? If he fought with Villette about Ruth, does that mean her reputation was in danger? Logan does a surprisingly good job of not putting his foot in his mouth with his answers. Then the prosecutor says that if Logan can hit a man for such a minor incident, surely he must be able to inflict much worse damage to a man who is being such a big meanie to his friend. Logan responds that he is not capable of murder.
Logan is then questioned about the events of the night Villette was killed. He tells the truth: he got back to the church at about 11:15, went to his room, and then went to the church. He saw Otto there. The prosecutor stops Logan’s timeline of events before Logan is forced to to resort to repetitively answer, “I can’t tell you.” The prosecutor proceeds to repeat Otto’s version of the events of that night. Logan says that the timing Otto gave could have been true (11:45), but the rest of his story wasn’t. The prosecutor urges Logan to tell “the truth,” (i. e., what the prosecutor wants him to say), and when Logan remains silent for just a second or three, the prosecutor gives up any pretense of wanting to hear Logan’s version of events and starts testifying himself by interweaving Otto’s tale of fiction with one of his own to create a riveting saga full of drama and intrigue (and adultery).
With the entertainment portion of the trial now over, the judge sends the (all-male) jury to deliberate, telling them that they are not to be hard on Logan just because of his questionable relationship with Ruth, and they are not to be easy on him just because he is a priest. The jury is shown in a brief scene. One man says that he sides with the prosecution’s opinion that Logan and Ruth must have seen each other during the five year time period in question. And that’s it—end of jury deliberation-viewing for us.
Court is called back into session to hear the verdict. Otto is in the seating area looking surprisingly apprehensive, considering he had pretty much single-handedly been the one to hammer the last nail into Logan’s coffin (figuratively speaking). The jury foreman states the verdict, along with an explanation: not guilty, because although they think he’s probably guilty, the prosecution didn’t present enough evidence to conclusively prove that he was the one who clobbered the guy.
Larrue seems to be upset on Logan’s behalf by the foreman’s little speech, thinking that it basically amounted to, “He’s ‘not guilty’…but he’s guilty.” [Larrue’s concern might have been touching, save for the fact that he was the one who labeled Logan the killer almost from day one and doggedly pursued him as a suspect, to the exclusion of all others.] The judge does the jury one better, stating flat-out in open court that he thinks the jury’s decision was wrong.
Logan is free to go, but he has to endure the disapproving stares of the spectators as he makes his long walk of shame out of the courthouse. As he leaves the building, he’s surrounded by swarm of onlookers. Even the two little girls [who had probably testified against him] are gawking. Logan gets mobbed by a mob, and ends up accidentally hitting his elbow against a car window, breaking it (the window—not sure yet about the elbow.) The Kellers are side-by-side, watching the scene from their vantage point just outside the courthouse doors. Alma, who had been getting more and more distressed as the proceedings wore on, breaks free of Otto’s grasp and rushes down the courthouse steps, her husband calling her to heel the whole time. [It’s surprising that Otto even allowed her to attend the trial. He should have known she was the weakest link.]
As she runs toward Logan, she shouts, “He’s innocent!” After she reaches him, she points at Otto, and says to the nearby policeman, “My husband—” Just then Otto pulls his gun from his pocket [obviously no metal detectors back then] and shoots in their direction. [I’m not even going to get started on how poorly thought-out that decision was.] Panic ensues as Otto runs away, but there is still a crowd of people willing to chase him down.
Otto’s victim turns out to be his wife. She’s in bad shape. She says, “It hurts,” and then “Villette.” Larrue is there, and he wants answers. However, Alma looks at Logan and wastes her last few words in life repeating, “Forgive me,” instead of trying to squeak out a confession, which might actually do Logan some good. [We all know he’s going to forgive her, whether she asked him to or not.]
A police officer stops by to give Larrue the update that Otto is cornered in a nearby hotel. Larrue issues the order not to shoot, saying he wants to talk to the man. [Is anyone else envisioning The Wicked Witch of the West saying menacingly, “I want them alive”?] Logan can be heard in the background, speedily giving Alma the last rites.
With Alma no longer able to provide information, Larrue starts grilling Logan as the two walk toward Otto’s hiding place of choice. Larrue wants to know what Alma was trying to do. [Why he thinks Logan knows, I don’t know.] Logan asks Larrue to let him speak to Otto, and Larrue acquiesces, saying, “Sure, but where is he?” [Why he thinks Logan knows, I don’t know.]
There is a crowd of people standing around outside the front door of the hotel, apparently wanting to enter the building. When Larrue reaches the lobby, the hotel manager asks if they can at least open one door to the public. Larrue says, “Sure. We’ll have them come in single-file so he can pick ‘em off one at a time.” (Just kidding—he says no, although he doesn’t do anything about the guests and staff who are still in the hotel when he gets there, not to mention the [standing] sitting ducks hanging around outside.)
Larrue orders the officers at the scene to start the search for Otto. [Didn’t he already do that via the policeman he talked to in the street?] The cops race around, ignoring the innocent civilians/potential targets still in the building. If Otto starts shooting up the kitchen, all the guests will be going hungry that night.
Larrue is on the phone in the lobby—Otto just started shooting up the kitchen. A chef is down, and Larrue instructs the caller to get an ambulance—at once. Good thing he’s there to run things!
Larrue asks Logan, in light of Otto shooting another person (as if maybe killing his wife wasn’t evil enough), if he would please tell him what he knows about Otto. [If he didn’t spill the beans when he was facing the possibility of the hangman’s gallows or when the man murdered his own wife in cold blood…?]
Logan doesn’t answer, and just then an officer comes in to tell them that Otto has been spotted and gives them Otto’s location: the mezzanine. They head in that direction, but by the time they get there, he’s moved on. He’s located in an empty ballroom. Two officers watch him as he runs around the room, probably trying to figure out what to do next. He gets up on the stage to see what he can see, and that’s when he sees the two men. True to form, he fires at them. Fortunately, this time his aim is off. He checks behind the stage’s curtain and for some reason shrugs off the area as a possible means of escape.
One officer tells the other to alert Larrue, and moments later Larrue and Logan arrive with a few more officers. Otto is still on the stage. Larrue calls to him from the safety of the faraway doorway to tell him to give up. Otto lets his gun do the talking for him, firing again in the direction of the doorway, again to no avail. Larrue tells one of the men to arrange for the delivery of some tear gas.
Just then Father Millars and the Grandforts inexplicably show up outside of the ballroom, but are stopped by an officer before they are able to get close enough to put themselves in mortal danger. Logan asks Larrue if he can go in and speak to Otto. Short answer: no. The Larrue-Otto team have a quick Jeopardy!-like discussion: Otto! – What do you want? – I want you to give yourself up! – Why would I do that? [Maybe because you only have two bullets left and there are at least a dozen armed policemen in the building?]
Larrue tries another tack, asking Otto, “Haven’t you done enough harm?” Otto replies that he could do more. Larrue politely asks him if he thinks that shooting two people is enough, then pauses a moment before asking, “and what about Villette?” (Thanks to Larrue’s laser-sharp instincts and enhanced judgment of character, he has finally realized that he has been relentlessly pursuing the wrong suspect the whole time.) Otto plays ignorant for a moment, and then says, “So the priest talked.” [Really, at this point his guilt or innocence in the Villette murder doesn’t even matter anymore.]
Otto calls out to Logan, who answers in spite of being at his most visibly shaken point in the whole story. Otto names Logan as his only friend, but a touch of sarcasm can be detected in his tone. Otto, thinking Logan had broken his priestly vows, continues to confess to his crime in front of about ten ear-witnesses, all the while lambasting Logan. (He says what Logan went through was “a little shame” and “a little violence,” but “that was all it [took]” to make Logan talk.) He has just finished calling Logan a coward and a hypocrite when Ruth turns to her husband and asks him to take her home. She doesn’t look upset from the realization that the whole time, Logan had the information that could have spared her all her shame and humiliation; it seems as if she’s proud of him for having kept silent. It also seems as if she’s feeling a little more friendly toward her husband than she had been. In any case, it looks like Logan is out of the picture and Pierre is finally in it.
Now that Larrue has his confession, he tells one of the officers to shoot Otto in the shoulder in order to get him to drop his gun. The officer replies that it would be easier to hit him in the leg, but Larrue insists it be the shoulder—the right shoulder. Larrue warns Otto about what is about to go down (him), and Logan pleads, “Don’t make them do it, Keller!” Otto shoots at them anyway, and the officer shoots back, hitting Otto in the shoulder—the left shoulder. The blow hardly even knocks him off balance, and he’s kept a firm grip on his gun.
Against the advice of Larrue, Logan goes into the ballroom. He walks across the floor toward Otto, who is standing with his back against the stage. Otto asks where his wife is, and Logan tells him that she’s dead. At first Otto doesn’t believe him, but when he accepts it as truth he tells Logan it’s his (Logan’s) fault. [His rationale for that statement would have been appreciated but was not forthcoming.] He tells Logan that now he (Otto) is as alone as him (Logan). Logan states that he (Logan) is not alone. Otto disagrees. He tells Logan that if he shoots him right then, it would be doing him a favor, saying that all his friends have turned on him, “mobbing” him and “calling at” him. [He seemed to have quickly forgotten about the events of the past hour or two.] Otto goes on to tell Logan that it would be better for Logan if he was as guilty as Otto, so he would be shot quickly instead of suffering slowly. Otto is still holding the gun on Logan, and he raises it up slowly. Without warning, one of the police officers shoots Otto, and he falls, calling for Father Logan to help him (of course). Logan does (of course), holding Otto’s head and upper body off the floor while someone goes to fetch the hotel doctor and an ambulance.
Otto looks at Logan and says, “Forgive me,” but it’s unclear whether he is actually speaking to Logan or to Logan’s Boss. Logan begins to pray over Otto—presumably giving him the last rites—and the scene fades to black, as does the story.
Though not a box office failure by the numbers, I Confess was far from Hitchcock’s most profitable film. The budget/final cost figures are not readily available (there was one unconfirmable mention of $60,000, followed by an implication that more was added to the coffers later). The box office gross was $2,000,000, and sources said the film “made money.”
The film was not a sweetheart with the awards committees, either: the only major award that came anywhere near it was the Cannes Film Festival’s Grand Prize of the Festival. One of thirty-five films nominated for the award that year, it lost to French adventure/thriller Le Salaire de la Peur (The Wages of Fear) by Henri-Georges Clouzot, starring Yves Montand.
Movie critics had varying opinions about the film. While some seemed to make an effort to cut it some slack because it was from Hitchcock, many critics seemed to not hold back. The most common complaint was about the lack of the suspense that is usually expected in a Hitchcock film—both because of the movie’s dearth of action scenes and the predictability of its ending. (Ironically, Hitchcock originally wanted to follow the main points of the play it was based on, which had the priest both fathering a child and getting executed, but Warner Brothers intervened.) Some criticized Clift’s approach to his character, calling Father Logan clueless and childlike. Still others had problems with the story line’s believability, pointing out that a priest who found himself in that position would undoubtedly not be abandoned to his own devices by the church. (As far as I remember, there was never even a mention of getting him any legal advice or representation, either.)
I thought it was an interesting film worth watching, despite its numerous plot holes. I’m curious to know other people’s thoughts on the movie. If you’re familiar with some of Hitchcock’s other films, how does this one compare? If you haven’t seen other movies of his, is it because you’re not a fan of the genre or for some other reason?