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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.


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






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:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Donald Sutherland and Jack White would later appear in Cold Mountain (2003). 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
See more »

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User Reviews

13 May 2006 | by sol1218See all my reviews

***SPOILERS*** Starting with the 40 day's of Lent on Ash Wednesday a series of murders occurred in and around this suburban Detroit church ,The Holy Redeemer, that has everyone, the public and police, shocked and puzzled to who would do such a thing. Leaving a rosary on the bodies of his victims the killer seems to be sending a message to what his motives are. Later in the movie he makes himself and is motives known during confession to father Robert Koesler, Donald Sutherland.Three years ago his 16 year old daughter was killed and the murderer is holding the church and it's priests and nuns responsible for her death and now is exacting vengeance on them.

Father Koesler unable, and unwilling, to go to the police in order not to break the church's age old policy of not revealing confession's of it's members and congregation is now troubled. Feeling that whoever is now killed by this "Rosery Murderer" will be his responsibility and tries to solve the killings himself by tracking down leads that the killer gave him.

Checking out three year-old newspaper obituaries Father Koesler finds the name of a Cathy Javison, Jane M. Smith, who died at the age of 16 the same age that the killer said his daughter died. Going to the Catholic school that Kathy attended to find out about the circumstances of her death Father Koesler is shocked to find out that the young girl committed suicide! It's seems that her suicide was covered up by he school since Kathy has a Catholic funeral service at the Saint Camillus Chaple and was buried in a Catholic cemetery.

Meanwhile back at the Holy Redeemer Church the murders of priest's and nuns continue with Father Koesler trying to find out just where the late Kathy Javison father, the prime suspect in the killings, is since the house that the Javisons used to live at was found abandoned by Father Koesler.

Going back to Kathy's school father Koesler get in touch with Kathy's teacher and good friend and confidant Sister Mary,Anna Minot, who after upholding a three year old vow of silence since Kathy death agrees to tell the priest the reason for her killing herself. Sister Mary's revelations shocks Koesler almost to the point where he has trouble understanding what she's telling him! Even though it was as clear as a bell to anyone in the audience listening.

With the killing reaching a climax with the coming of the end of Lent, Good Friday, is starts to crystallize in Father Kloesler's, as well as the police, mind that the main object of the Rosary killers obsession is non other then the presiding priest of The Holy Redeemer Church himself Father Ted Nabors, Charles Durning. We later find out, from the killer Kathy's father Robert Javison ,James Murtaugh, that Father Nabors was the priest to whom he confessed his sins to just before his daughter killed herself. Sins that Javison committed that directly lead to his daughters suicide!

Somewhat overdone crime drama that has too many side or sub-plots that makes it a bit hard to follow. It's when "The Rosary Murders" starts to focus in on it's main theme and we start to zero on the killer that it's starts to get interesting. The reason for his murderous rampage against those in the church was in helping his daughter Kathy not that the killers actions in any way were justified though you can understand his sick and demented reasoning. He was trying to offset what he did to his daughter and put the entire blame on the church who's only crime, in regard to Kathy's suicide, was that of omission.

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