Shot in Quebec, this is another typical ‘wrong man’ story, with a big twist. The man accused of murder is a Catholic priest who is unable to defend himself convincingly: the killer revealed his guilt to him in the confessional, and the confidence thus cannot be betrayed. A further complexity comes from the priest’s past love affair with a woman now married. Hitchcock’s own Catholicism and his lifelong empathy with themes of repression and secrecy helps to explain why he fought for so long to set up this adaptation of a play that dates from 1902.
Despite casting difficulties – Clift was too much of a Method actor for Hitchcock’s liking – this is another film that deserves to be better known, especially in Ireland, where the censor of the time banned it altogether.
Screening as part of The Genius of Hitchcock: Part One (December 9th – 30th).