Hiding in this muddle, a late effort from fast-fading helmer Mitchell Leisen, is a decent enough idea for a Hitchcockian thriller (or rather what a lot of folks think makes one), merging THE 39 STEPS’ innocent-man-on-the-run with priestly-guilt of I CONFESS/’53. Gussied up with shot-on-location Paris CinemaScope, Steve Forrest is stiff as a priest-in-training who throws in his lot with Anne Baxter’s troubled lady-with-a-past. (She’d done similar duty for Hitch in I CONFESS against Montgomery Clift’s priest.*) The first couple of acts are dreary stuff, with Leisen showing little comfort in the widescreen format or in displaying Parisian flavor. The plot has something or other to do with the murdered married lover of Baxter’s nightclub chanteusey; the cops & hoods chasing her; a race to get out of the country; and Forrest’s possible bending of religious vows for l’amour. Leisen isn’t a whiz on suspense mechanics, but the third act does a bit better balancing romantic temptation with churchly sanctuary. Maybe with a fresher print to show off Freddie Young’s lensing there’d be enough Gallic charm to cover a multitude of cinematic sins . . . but probably not.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: *Hitch’s I CONFESS. Better, and a lot more interesting, than its rep.