Despite its suspense, off-angle shots, and flashbacks, I Confess hardly rates as first-class Hitchcock. But disregarding Alfred Hitchcock's former efforts, it is a fine product. In an era of stereotyped movie directing, a film with the director's brand stamped squarely on it provides a refreshing and entertaining change. However, in I Confess. Hitchcock has slightly overplayed his specialty--screen psychoanalysis.
Stressing the psychological motivations of each of his characters. Hitchcock moves his camera freely from present to past. But in so doing, he sacrifices plot continuity for frightening suspense. He saves the plot with a police-room discussions of former passions but weakens fifteen minutes of the film. Fortunately, after this the action picks up markedly. And except for an overlong comfroom scene, the film is again highly exciting, reaching a splendid crescendo with a chase through the halls of Quebec's Chateau Frontenac.
Based on a play by Paul Anthelme, I Confess depicts a young Catholic priest, who, after hearing a real murderer's confession, is accused of the same murder. As the young priest, callow Montgomery Clift turns in a fine, sensitive performance. But by far the best actor is O. E. Hasse. Playing the warped, half-mad killer, he excites pity and hate with equal verve. Adding new zest to a standard role, Karl Malden plays the relentless, somewhat sadistic police inspector. Brian Aherne, a jovial but brilliant Crown Prosecutor, and Anne Baxter as the frustrated lover of the young priest, round out an exceptional cast.
With occasionally superb directing and accomplished actors, I Confess shows that Hitchcock, while not perfect, is still the best in the suspense business.