Thursday, August 30, 2012

Movie Review: Journey into Fear (1943)

Journey into Fear (1943), directed by Norman Foster

Sound like a good title for a horror movie right? Also it must be a good title for a World War II espionage thriller, since that is what this movie is. The screenplay is co-written by Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten (who both star in the film) from the novel by Eric Ambler. Most of the cast from the Mercury Theater (Welles's troupe that did the War of the Worlds radio broadcast and Citizen Kane) play the various characters, so the acting is top notch. Welles is a little bit hammy in his role as a corrupt Turkish cop but not too much. Cotten as Howard Graham is the star of the show.

Graham works for an American weapons manufacturer and is in Istanbul on his way home from a conference. He's met by the company's local Turkish agent, who browbeats him into going out for some drinks, leaving Graham's wife at the hotel. At the seedy cabaret they visit, Graham is dragged up on stage for a magician's act. The lights go out and a shot is fired. The magician is dead; everyone gets dragged off to the local constabulary to get things sorted. Here, Graham meets Colonel Haki (Welles), who recognizes that the bullet was meant for the "arms dealer" (as everyone else thinks of Graham) and decides Graham needs to leave town by the midnight boat rather than the morning train with his wife. Otherwise he won't escape the Gestapo assassin who is after him. He's still worried about his wife but Haki says he'll reassure her and get her to meet him at the boat's next port of call. Graham reluctantly agrees. He meets some of the performers from the cabaret on board. Who can Graham trust and did the assassin make it on the boat too?

This is an interesting though not great thriller about the Nazi menace. The story is more built around the cat-and-mouse pursuit of Graham and the tension is built around the question of who can be trusted. The ending is a bit of Hollywood standard fare but doesn't ruin the film. At 69 minutes long, a lot is packed into a short running time.

Unfortunately, it's not available on DVD in the USA. I saw it on BBC's iPlayer, where many movies that air on TV are viewable for a week or so afterward. As I write this, the week is already up, so good luck in searching for it!

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