Journey Into Fear

Released February 12, 1943: JOURNEY INTO FEAR, starring Joseph Cotten, Dolores del Rio, and Orson Welles.  Directed by Norman Foster (Scotland Yard, Kiss the Blood Off My Hands, Woman on the Run).  Joseph Cotten is an American munitions dealer traveling through journeyintofearTurkey, who stops in Istanbul before flying home the next morning.  Cotten has valuable information to take back to his company that will help Turkey’s war effort against the Nazis.  However, while in Istanbul, an attempt is made on his life, so the head of the Turkish secret police (Orson Welles) arranges to have Cotten smuggled out on a cargo ship to escape his assassins.  At first it seems like the plan is a success, but not long after the ship leaves port, Cotten soon finds himself in peril once again.  This is a highly atmospheric film, populated with distinctive characters and exquisite black and white visuals.  The opening sequence in which assassin Jack Moss prepares to go out for the evening while listening to a scratchy phonograph in his tiny hotel room is wonderfully gritty and oozes with dark textures.  Moss himself, is perhaps the most memorable character in the film, even though he doesn’t utter one single word of dialog.  His Coke-bottle glasses, heavy-eyed gaze, obsession with music, and matter-of-fact pursuit of his target, create an unforgettably quirky villain.  Cotten, who co-wrote the screenplay with Welles, delivers a somewhat low-key performance as a confused and indecisive man trying to stay alive in unfamiliar surroundings.  Fortunately, Cotten’s substantial screen presence helps to overcome any lack of charisma in his performance.  On the other hand, Dolores del Rio offers up plenty of smoldering charm and charisma as a cabaret dancer who befriends Cotten on the cargo ship.  However, her role in the story is ambiguous at best and largely irrelevant.  She ends up being nothing more than a tantalizing distraction, which is an unfortunate waste of a top-billed actor.  The rest of the cast is made up of a wonderful collection of colorful characters, most with exotic accents and conspicuous idiosyncrasies.  Among them are Everett Sloane and a young Agnes Moorehead.  Cotten interacts with nearly all of them during his journey, which can be interesting to watch, but also creates confusion in the story, possibly mirroring Cotten’s own disoriented state of mind.  Journey Into Fear is an interesting but somewhat frustrating film.  For all its expressive atmosphere, foreign intrigue, and richness of character, it never really manages to bring you to the edge of your seat.  The level of suspense rises occasionally, but it feels like the film never achieves its true potential and may leave some viewers disappointed.  We give Journey Into Fear 3 out 5 fedoras.

3 Fedoras

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