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Absolution (1978)

At a Catholic public school, Benjamin Stanfield is tired of being the teacher's pet and decides to play a practical joke on his form master Father Goddard. In confession, Stanfield tells ... See full summary »


Anthony Page


Anthony Shaffer

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Burton ... Father Goddard
Dominic Guard ... Benjamin 'Benjie' Stanfield
David Bradley ... Arthur Dyson (as Dai Bradley)
Billy Connolly ... Blakey
Andrew Keir ... Headmaster
Willoughby Gray ... Brigadier Walsh
Preston Lockwood Preston Lockwood ... Father Hibbert
James Ottaway ... Father Matthews
Brook Williams ... Father Clarence
Jon Plowman Jon Plowman ... Father Piers
Robin Soans ... Father Henryson
Trevor Martin Trevor Martin ... Mr. Gladstone
Sharon Duce Sharon Duce ... Louella
Brian Glover ... First Policeman
Dan Meaden Dan Meaden ... Second Policeman


At a Catholic public school, Benjamin Stanfield is tired of being the teacher's pet and decides to play a practical joke on his form master Father Goddard. In confession, Stanfield tells Goddard that he has accidentally murdered his friend Blakey and buried him in the forest. When Goddard investigates the matter, he finds a buried scarecrow. Goddard is outraged, but, due to the seal of confession, he knows he cannot expel Stanfield. Shortly after, Stanfield once again enters the confession booth, telling Goddard that what before was a practical joke, he has now made happen. In disbelief, Goddard once again goes to the forest to investigate the matter. This time, he discovers Blakey's dead body. The plot soon thickens as Stanfield's fellow student Arthur Dyson mysteriously disappears... Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Boyhood innocence. Deadly secrets. Burning truths. See more »


R | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

1 July 1988 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Murder by Confession See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Bulldog See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Director Anthony Page said of this film whilst location scouting around Ellesmere for this movie: "I'm trying to find the exact places for filming Blakey's [played by Billy Connolly] approach to the school. The locations are very important. It's a question of getting the exact balance between Gothic feeling of the school and the surrounding countryside . . . I'm delighted with the quality that John Coquillon [the film's director of photography] is bringing to the picture. I have never worked with him before, but his low-keyed effects on the screen are absolutely right for our story . . . You can see Richard Burton in these landscapes, can't you? He's marvelous in the part of [Father] Goddard. He has that huge, outsize quality, rather like Russian actors. There's nothing too small or mean about Richard's acting. At the moment he is just getting into the part because he has only been filming for a week. So far we haven't done any of his really big scenes. A lot of corridor walking except that yesterday we started filming some of the bits after the first murder and the effect on the screen is extraordinary. Also Goddard has a sadistic streak, which Richard is bringing out in the character with such subtly. He has that marvelous dry, cutting edge which he used so brilliantly in Virginia Woolf [i.e. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)]." See more »


In the tennis match, a close shot of Benjie shows him serving whilst standing in the right service court (which would be illegal) but the long shot shows him serving from the baseline (legal). The score is 30-all, so he should be serving from the right side of the baseline, but is shown serving from the left side. See more »


Soldiers of our Queen
Lyrics by W.S. Gilbert
Music by Arthur Sullivan
Performed by the students
from "Patience or Bunthorne's Bride"
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User Reviews

I Confess I Actually Sat Through This
18 May 2006 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

In the last decade of his life Richard Burton was doing just about anything put in front of him for money. He felt, probably rightly so, that he had nothing to prove as an actor. So why not build up a nest egg, especially with all the heavy duty alimony he was laying out. It's the only reason I could think of he did Absolution.

Burton plays a priest at a British Catholic school where he's got some really sadistic kids on his hands. After a class in which he carefully explains the religious implications of the confessional and the restrictions it places upon a priest hearing confession, Father Burton hears some confessions that positively drive him to the brink and he singles out one youth as responsible for it all. Drives Father Dick quite bonkers.

It's pretty bad, it's the sort of stuff that the producers of American slasher films would do with a little more gore. It didn't enhance Burton's reputation and I wouldn't waste my time.

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