An interesting plot premise holds out considerable promise for this Alfred Hitchcock production, but I Confess is short of the suspense one would expect. Hitchcock used the actual streets and buildings of picturesque Quebec to film the Paul Anthelme play on which the screenplay is based.
Intriguing story idea finds a priest facing trial for a murder he didn’t commit, and refusing to clear himself even though the killer had confessed to him in the sanctity of the church. Quite a moral question is posed in the problem of just how sacred is a church confessional, particularly when it leaves a killer to roam free to kill again.
Chief exponents of the melodrama are Montgomery Clift, the priest, and Anne Baxter, a married woman who still believes she is in love with him, even though he ended their youthful romance and entered the church.
While Hitchcock short-changes on the expected round of suspense for which he is noted, he does bring out a number of topflight performances and gives the picture an interesting polish that is documentary at times. Clift’s ability to project mood with restrained strength is a high spot of the film, and he is believable as the young priest. Physically, he doesn’t have as mature an appearance as the role opposite Baxter calls for, but otherwise, his work is flawless.