Warner Archive combines its best elements in the Blu-ray release of the 1953 Hitchcock drama "I Confess." This Montgomery Clift-Anne Baxter tale of a priest who is a prime suspect of a murder for which the killer confesses to him is a lesser-known classic and ties into the more recent Archive release of the (reviewed) Hitchcock film "The Wrong Man" because Hitchcock identifies both as his favorites of his films. "Confess" additionally masterfully reproduces a beautifully shot black-and-white film. The typical cherry on the sundae is a few high-quality bonus features. In other words, Archive outshines an arrogant (and grossly overpriced) purveyor who releases films that meet the criterion of that company.
Justifiable arrogance regarding "Confess" starts with feeling that Hitchcock is adopting the style of the French New Wave filmmakers and then seeing a comment in the "making-of" special features sharing that that film is a favorite of those Europeans for that reason. The basis for this observation is the copious imagery and excellent use of the contrast between black and white (which looks perfect in Blu-ray). An example of this is Father Michael Logan (Clift) walking past sculptures of soldiers forcing a bent-over Christ to carry his cross to his crucifixion.
This technique (and the strong noir element of "Confess") is clear from the opening scenes. The film opens on a dark night and begins with a series of shots of one-way street signs in Quebec.
The audience quickly learns of the aforementioned killing, and we see a wolf in priest's clothing seemingly flee the scene. This leads to Logan investigating on seeing the man in black enter his church.
More terrific imagery and symbolism follows as WWII German refugee Otto Keller confesses both to his wife Alma Keller and to Logan. The insult that is added to the central injury relates to Logan having taken in the Kellers and allowed them to live with some dignity in the post-war period.
The rookie mistake of Logan that enhances the scrutiny of investigating officer Inspector Larrue (Karl Malden) is returning to the scene of the crime the next morning. The bigger picture is that this reflects the Hitchcock leitmotif of the scary ease with which an innocent man or woman can get caught up in the system.
The Hitchcock blonde this time is Anne Baxter of "All About Eve." Her innocent/femme fatale Ruth Grandfort is the former lover of Logan and the current wife of a prominent politician. The murder victim being a man who knew too much regarding this triangle contributes to putting a nail in the coffin of Logan.
The suspense escalates to the point of Logan being tried for the murder while Otto essentially sits knitting away in his catbird seat at the trial. Clift puts his method acting technique to good use depicting the Christ-like anguish of watching the evidence pile up against him while the nature of confession ties his hands.
While lesser filmmakers would end their projects with the reactions of the principals on the reading of verdict in the trial of Logan, Hitchcock validates the basis for his reputation as Hollywood royalty. Logan is subjected to a virtual stoning by the outraged masses and finds himself in a final confrontation that truly tests his faith.
The bigger picture (pun intended) is that Hitchcock greatly emulates his actual peer Orson Welles. This comparison extends beyond the New Wave style of filming in black-and-white in this CinemaScope era. Hitchcock and Welles share a similar sensibility of the nature of post-war Germans. The related broad messages are that living under the rule of Hitler affects everyone and that the true nature of all of us ultimately emerges for better or worse. Throwing in commentary on the Catholic Church contributes more food for thought.
The other Blu-ray features are fun newsreel footage of the Quebec premiere of "Confess" and the theatrical trailer of the film.
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