Journey Into Fear is a classic film noir from 1943 from Orson Welles. Welles didn’t direct this, Norman Foster did. Welles didn’t write the screenplay, he had the star of the film, Joseph Cotten do that. He does have a small role in this film, but isn’t on the screen that long. He doesn’t even have a producing credit for this film. So why do most consider this a Orson Welles film? Well, though he gave out the brunt of the work to others, he really did produce it, he also helped Cotten write the screenplay based on the book by Eric Ambler and he even re-shoot a new beginning and ending for the film. He just gave full credit to those he hired to do the job. This story follows ammunition engineer Howard Graham, played by Cotten, in Turkey on business during World War II. He meets with the Turkey business representative for his company and leaves his wife, played by Ruth Warrick at the hotel. Him and the business rep go down the street to a night club where we meet a dance couple played by Dolores del Rio and Jack Durant. Graham is also volunteered against his will to participate in a magic trick. Graham is strapped to a board as the magician gets into a box. The lights go out and a gun shot rings out in the crowd. The lights come on and the magician is strapped to the board with a gun shot wound and Graham emerges from the box. Graham knows right away that he was the intended target, as he and the rest of the club are sent to see Colonel Haki played by Welles to determine what really happened. Haki puts our hero on a boat that night to hide him from the German’s who are trying to kill him. We meet a whole other assortment of odd characters on the ship. Including the unhappy Matthews couple played by Frank Readick and the always good Agnes Moorehead. Our dancing couple is also on the ship and del Rio really takes a liking to our hero. Graham soon realizes the Nazi’s have made their way aboard the ship as we get a claustrophobic feeling of impending doom. Will our hero get off the ship safely? Will he ever re-unite with his wife? One of my favorite performances of this film is the silent killer played by Jack Moss. He was a successful movie producer at the time and Welles wanted to use him as the killer in this film. He said he would do it if he didn’t have to speak. He didn’t and was as menacing as any killer in a 70’s slasher film. The opening scene, with a totally silent Jack Moss really grabs your attention and set the tone and mood for the rest of the film. It is a shame this is Moss’ only on-screen role. I would have loved to see him in more stuff. This film was not well received on its release. Welles even has said he was not happy with the film and he had a horrible performance as an actor in it. That being said it was an important early noir film in style and story. I actually really liked this film, even more than some of Welles’ other more regarded works. Favorite Tidbit: Though most everybody was not happy with this film, from the studio to Welles himself. The one person that was very happy with this film was the author of the book, Eric Ambler. He said the movie was so different from his book, that he could re-sell the rights to the book to a different studio and make some more money on it.
4 thoughts on “Review: Journey Into Fear”
Reblogged this on pundit from another planet.
Very entertaining post. Thanks for introducing me to the film and its history.
Did Welles say anything about all the work he and others did and why, in his opinion, it nevertheless turned out badly? Was it because they strayed too far from the original? Too many hands stirring the pot? Poor editing?
I watched this on TCM and they talked about it a little. Welles was working on another movie at the same time and wasn’t as hands on as usual. He tried to make the movie better with him writing and directing a new opening scene and ending scene. He also felt his performance was to over the top and not good at all. Of course Welles always lost editing privileges and didn’t like the final cut. Trying to remember this from a few weeks ago when I watched the piece on this, but that was basically it. I think Welles may have been to much of perfectionist for his own good sometimes.
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