Anything that director Elia Kazan (East of Eden, On the Waterfront) touches/directs usually turns to gold. This pseudo docu-drama about a man who is forced into confessing to murder is no different. Kazan even seems to have had a handle on one of the more difficult film genres in film noir. Done in a kind of documentary style this film will have you on the edge of your seat until the very last frame turns to black.
In a quiet, small town in Connecticut a loved priest, Father Lambert (Wyrley Birch – Mr. Deeds Goes to Town) is gunned down in the middle of the street with several stunned witnesses looking on. The local police force finds itself under much pressure to find the killer. They are not helped by the fact that the witnesses cannot tell them much about the man they are looking for.
A massive manhunt begins and a man is taken in for questioning. After many long hours of interrogation and lack of sleep, out-of-towner John Waldon (Arthur Kennedy – Peyton Place – 1957, The Man From Laramie) confesses. State attourney, Henry Harvey (Dana Andrews – State Fair – 1945, Daisy Kenyon), despite all the pressure to convict, is not convinced of Waldon’s guilt and will not convict an innocent man. Due to his diligence Harvey’s reputation is at risk and potentially even his life.
Based on a true story this film really rings true without a hollow moment to speak of. Because of Kazan’s skill as a director the film becomes much more than your typical police drama. It is now a moral drama that is full of suspense and passion. The only problem I have with this film is that the reason for killing the priest is never really fully explained.
- New Audio Commentary by Film Historian Sara Smith
- Audio Commentary By Film Historians Alain Silver and James Ursini