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The Rosary Murders (1987)

A priest is put in a dilemma when the serial killer who has been murdering priests and nuns confesses to him.


Fred Walton
2 wins. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
Donald Sutherland ... Father Robert Koesler
Charles Durning ... Father Ted Nabors
Belinda Bauer ... Pat Lennon
Josef Sommer ... Lieutenant Koznicki
James Murtaugh ... Robert Javison
Leila Danette Leila Danette ... Mrs. Washington
Addison Powell ... Father Edward Killeen
Kathleen Tolan Kathleen Tolan ... Sister Ann Vania
Tom Mardirosian ... Detective Fallon
Anita Barone ... Irene Jimenez
John Danelle John Danelle ... Detective Harris
Anna Minot Anna Minot ... Sister Mary Martyrs
Lupe Ontiveros ... Sophie
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Roger Angelini Roger Angelini ... Brainard
B. Constance Barry B. Constance Barry ... Sister Grace


Life in the Catholic Church of the Holy Redeemer in Detroit is upset by a series of killings whose victims are all priests and nuns. All victims are found with a black rosary in their hands. Father Koesler begins collaborating with the police but soon finds himself in a spot when the killer decides to choose him as confessor. Written by Salvatore Santangelo <pappagone2@libero.it>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


God works in mysterious ways. Man works in the deadliest.


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Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

14 April 1988 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

Confession criminelle See more »

Filming Locations:

Dearborn, Michigan, USA See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Filmed in part on location at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church on Southwest Detroit. See more »


A priest is called to the confessional from his quarters in the church. He walks across the altar to reach the confessional without genuflecting in front of the altar. See more »


References Psycho (1960) See more »


Composed by Antonio Lotti
Performed by The Rochester Catholic Chorale
Conducted by Daniel H. Olsen
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User Reviews

Catholic mystery is a whole new genre
15 September 2017 | by BandSAboutMoviesSee all my reviews

Is this a giallo? A neo-noir? A detective story? Let's not play with labels. Let's just see it for what it is — a whodunit where priests and nuns are the victims of a serial killer who leaves a black rosary on their dead bodies.

Directed by Fred Walton (When a Stranger Calls) and adapted by Elmore Leonard, this is a dark, rough take on William X. Kienzie's novel (Kienzie left the Catholc priesthood in 1974 after 20 years due to the Church's refusal to remarry divorced people). This may have been the only movie concerning the detective skills of Father Robert Koesler (Donald Sutherland), but the character appeared in twenty three more novels from Kienzie.

The character is a progressive priest — even falling for a reporter, Pat Lennon (Belinda Bauer, RoboCop 2, Flashdance). He serves with Father Ted Nabors (Charles Durning, Tootsie), who is the exact opposite — a racist throwback to pre-Vatican 2 who follows the Church to the letter of the law.

The central dilemma of the film? The killer confesses to Koesler, who can't do anything about it, thanks to the Church's Seal of Confession. But what if other lives — maybe even his own — are in danger?

The film was shot on location at Detroit's Holy Redeemer Parish, and if you look hard enough, you'll see an uncredited Jack White — years before The White Stripes — as an altar boy. That feels like it should be an urban legend, but it is true.

The film has what some describe as a leaden pace. There are some great moments in it, such as when Koesler hears the killer in a cemetery and the ending, where the real killer is revealed. I'm always debating with myself whether or not to spoil the ending. It's a thirty year old movie, but I feel weird doing so here. Must be the Catholic in me.

Read more at bandsaboutmovies.com/2017/08/16/the-rosary-murders-1987/

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