In our first post-Sherlock Holmes Week article, we’re changing theme and tempo and taking a brief glimpse at one of the Baz’s pre-Holmes movies – that gem of the incongruous, beautiful and just plain strange, Confession.
Made in 1937, just over a year and a half before Rathbone started work on The Hound of the Baskervilles – Confession was a vehicle for the fading star that was Kay Francis (or Kay Fwancis as she is sometimes known by unkind people who have noticed her slight problem with the letter “r”). Also in the cast were Jane Bryan, Ian Hunter and Donald Crisp.
It’s a remake – literally scene for scene – of the German film Mazurka. In fact the director Joe May (born Julius Otto Mandi – an Austrian who had fled the Nazis in 1933 to work in America) was apparently so hooked on making it an exact reproduction, he used to time the scenes with a stopwatch to make sure they ran to precisely the same length as the originals. The obvious response to that is “why?“. But then the same could be said for so much that is going on here. It’s just one of the numerous oddities that run a rich vein of madness through the middle of this film.
So did Jane Bryan misread the script and think Basil was going to kill her not kiss her? Is that why she’s staring at him in such abject terror, or is she just over-playing the “terrified of her own desire” thing? Is the focus on that ceiling light supposed to mean something symbolic? Is it some kind of twisty Expressionist phallic symbol?
And – what about the kiss music?
See that’s genius for you. So many directors would have stuck with the piano original, or some violins – but May knew instinctively, with that rare intuition of the true auteur that nothing cranks up erotic heat like Mozart played on a leaky pipe organ.
Oh wait – is that the phalic symbol?
We’ll leave it there for now.
(video extract courtesy of WhatsHerface at Youtube)