Re-watching the Classics: Ministry of Fear

Here is a classic film noir from Fritz Lang made in 1944.  It stars Ray Milland and is based on a book by Graham Greene.  How could you go wrong?  Well I would say Lang phoned this one in, if you ask me.  I’m not saying it is a horrible movie, but it isn’t the “Masterpiece of Suspense” it is advertised as.

Our story starts with Milland going to the train station and taking a detour to a carnival by the station.  He tries his hand at a game where he needs to guess the weight of a cake.  He doesn’t win the cake, so he goes to the fortune-teller.  The fortune-teller is played by Aminta Dyne but for some reason the fortune-teller changes to Hillary Brooke later in the film.  The fortune-teller tells Milland the weight of the cake, he walks out and plays that game again and wins the cake!  Another man played by noir great Dan Duryea shows up and the fortune-teller knows she made a mistake.  They try to take the cake away from Milland to no avail.  Milland gets on the train and a blind man joins him.  The blind man eventually steals the cake and runs into a bombing area.  There is a chase and the blind man(who isn’t blind) gets blown up.  Milland starts to investigate the cake incident on his own and the mystery continues.  We have a séance, followed by a murder.  We learn Milland has recently been to a mental institution for basically helping his sick wife commit suicide.  This has a lot of elements that should add up to a great noir, but for me it felt a little flat.

Marjorie Reynolds plays Milland’s love interest in this. In my opinion Hillary Brooke does a great femme fatale in this, and steals the show, she just isn’t in the film very much.

This is the second time I’ve watched this, I was not impressed the first time I seen it and thought I would give it another shot because I have become such a big fan of Fritz Lang’s stuff.  Like I said I’m not saying this is a bad movie, it’s just disappointing given the talent involved.  This is worth watching for classic film noir fans and if you want to see everything by Lang.  If you are not familiar with Lang I recommend watching some of his other work.  Scarlet Street is still one of my favorites of his.

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