Review: Journey Into Fear

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.

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Review: Woman on the Run

As Eddie Muller said, this is the best film noir you have never seen. This film went into public domain making it easy to find and see, but the quality has been lost in the over copying. Muller himself was key in finding a few original prints and getting them edited together to make a restored version. He introduced this on the first night of TCM’s Summer of Darkness. This film was made in 1950 and directed by Norman Foster, who also helped with the screenplay, based on a story by Sylvia Tate.

This story is about an artist who witnesses a murder. It turns out the man murdered was a key witness in a case. The artist played by Ross Elliott is now the key witness and only person that can identify the murderer. He runs from the cops knowing his life is in danger. His wife played by our main star, Ann Sheridan is the police’s only lead in finding their new witness. She is crafty and out smarts the police at every turn, getting away from them in the hopes to find her husband before the police find him. Our couple has been married for four years and things are not going well. As the movie goes on she finds new things about her husband that makes her heart grow fonder of her husband. She also realizes her husband really does love her. Along the way she teams up with a journalist played by Dennis O’keefe to help find her husband. He is offering good money for an exclusive interview from her husband and seems to know the city of San Francisco. As our two are on their hunt for the missing witness we get to see a lot of this classic noir city. The hunt continues as our duo continue to try to lose the cops and beat them to her husband, but not everything is as it seems.

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This film has a grand finale at a Carnival, something I have seen in two other noir films with the first and most famous one being The Lady from Shanghai. We also see an artist getting in over his head, this is also the third time I have seen this theme, with Scarlet Street being the first and best of this idea. Yes, I would put this movie behind these other two on my list of great film noir, but this film would be on the list. I have not seen a lot of films with Ann Sheridan before, but this movie has made me a fan and I will be looking to see more of her movies. If you are a fan of Sheridan or classic film noir, this is a must see. I did see the restored version and have not seen the public domain versions, but from the sound of things, it is worth seeking out the new restored version.

Favorite Tidbit:  Eddie Muller mentioned that he thought Ann Sheridan made a conscious decision not to be objectified in this film, as she was more known for her curves then her acting up to this point. She wore a big coat in almost every scene in this film to cover her body.