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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » I Confess (Blu-ray)
I Confess (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. // Unrated // February 16, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $21.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted February 4, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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The Movie:

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock and shot on location in Quebec City, Quebec 1953's I Confess introduces us to Otto Kellar (O.E. Hasse) and his wife Alma (Dolly Hass). They work on the upkeep of a Catholic church, keeping up the building and tending to the garden. Otto, however, also hires out his services to others and he decides one day he'll rob the house of one of his other employers. He's caught in the act by the owner and, out of shock as much as malice, he winds up committing the ultimate sin.

Otto doesn't take his deeds lightly, which is made obvious when he goes to Father Logan (Montgomery Clift) and confesses to him what he's done. Logan takes his oath of confidentiality quite seriously and does not go to the authorities with this but we soon learn that this all ties into Logan's past as much as it does Otto's present. Before he became a man of the cloth, Logan had a brief love affair with a woman named Ruth (Anne Baxter). When he was shipped overseas to serve his country in the last great war, she married another man but when he came back and that old spark burned bright again, Ruth didn't tell him about her vows. As luck would have it, the murder victim knew about Logan's little tryst and had been blackmailing Ruth for some time. When the cop working the case, Inspector Larrue (Karl Malden), starts to put together the details of the case, he and Ruth alike suspect that Logan is the real killer, protecting Ruth his sole motive…

This is an interesting entry in Hitchock's masterful filmography, because it's as much a story of a man's commitment to his faith as it is a noirish thriller with some obvious and well played romantic elements. For the most parts, the different swirling elements of I Confess play nice together, but there's are stretches of the picture that do drag as the wrestling match between Logan's conscience and his commitment to his theological beliefs takes center stage. Thankfully, Montgomery Clift is so damn good in the role that even when the pacing is affected by this, the movie is a joy to watch. He makes Logan a likeable character, playing the part very seriously and infusing the romantic aspects of the film with enough charm and charisma that we don't have a problem accepting his relationship with Ruth as a very important part of his past. And if it is that important, it would make sense that Larrue would suspect he's not all together ready to let it go, hence making him a very likely suspect.

It's also interesting to note how Hitchcock handles the love affair in the film. We see the past of our once romantically entangled couple from Ruth's perspective rather than Logan's. Hitchcock really piles on the melodrama here, but there's a lot for them to be dealing with when he does it, so it works. With their relationship severed by something they have no control over, that being the war, the melodrama of their relationship soon morphs not into sugary sweetness but into heartfelt loss and tragedy. But of course, as this is a Hitchcock movie dealing with murder, there is, as always, a catch. The devil is truly in the detail and Hitchcock's Catholic background and treatment of women come into play here.

Aside from Clift's expert turn as our noble padre, Anne Baxter also does great work as the film's female lead. She's gorgeous here, a truly radiant blonde in the fine Hitchcock tradition and it's easy to see why Logan would have fallen as hard as he does for her. She's more than just a pretty face, however, as her dramatic chops are definitely up to par. The marriage of her character, after losing Logan, happens a little too easily and could have been developed a bit more to better effect but when she cries, we want to cry with her. She is nothing if not convincing here. Supporting work from Hasse and Hass is uniformly solid while a young Karl Malden is in fine form as the cop on the case.

The movie also benefits from some remarkably strong cinematography. Quebec City is a beautiful place, an old fashioned and almost European looking locale with lots of great architecture and locations. The stark black and white cinematography from Robert Burks captures all of this with plenty of shadowy atmosphere, complimented perfectly by an oddly effective score from Dimitri Tiomkin.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

Warner Archive's AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer presents I Confess framed at 1.37.1 fullframe aspect ratio and for the most part it's quite a beautiful image. The black and white image shows nice, natural looking film grain that never feels intrusive or distracting, rather, it just makes the picture look like film as it should. Black levels are strong and deep while fine detail is impressive throughout and frequently outstanding. The transfer is free of any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement and compression artifacts are never once a problem. The old DVD release from years back looked great for its time but this one bests it with superior depth, delineation and contrast.

Sound:

The main audio track on this disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track with optional subtitles available in English only. The audio here is fine. This isn't a particularly complex track but the dialogue is always crystal clear and balanced nicely against the score. The mix, for an older single channel track, sounds quite full and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note.

Extras:

All of the extras here are carried over from the DVD release and the main supplement on the disc is Hitchcock's Confession: A Look At I Confess, which is a twenty-minute featurette that covers the project. Included here is some input on the history of the film as well as some critical analysis from the usual suspects: Peter Bogdanovich, Robert Osborne, Richard Schickel. It's an interesting piece worth checking out if you haven't seen it before.

Aside from menus and chapter selection, the Blu-ray also includes about a minute's worth of newsreel footage of the movie's Canadian premiere and the film's original theatrical trailer.

Final Thoughts:

I Confess is an expertly directed picture from the ‘Master Of Suspense' that dutifully exploits its Quebec locations with some remarkably atmospheric black and white cinematography while simultaneously getting some great performances out of its cast. If the movie has a flaw it's that the pacing lags just slightly in the middle bit of the film, but it more than makes up for that with its finale. The Blu-ray release from Warner Archive carries over the extras from the past DVD release but adds nothing new there. It does, however, offer the film an impressive high definition transfer and lossless audio. Highly recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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