Journey into Fear (1943)

2014 #51
Norman Foster | 68 mins | TV | 4:3 | USA / English | PG*

Journey into FearRemembered largely thanks to the involvement of Orson Welles (he has a supporting role, produced it, co-wrote it, and reportedly directed a fair bit too, though he denied that), Journey into Fear is an adequate if unsuspenseful World War 2 espionage thriller, redeemed by a strikingly-shot climax. The latter — a rain-drenched shoot-out between opponents edging their way around the outside of a hotel’s upper storey — was surely conducted by Welles; so too several striking compositions earlier in the movie.

Sadly there’s little else to commend the film, which takes a leisurely approach to its hero’s escape from Istanbul by a boat aboard which, unbeknownst to him until it’s too late, are assassins. Sounds tense and exciting? It isn’t; or, at least, nothing like as much as it could be. It doesn’t help that it was buggered about with by the studio, leaving subplots alluded to but deleted — the original version reportedly ran 91 minutes, a fair chunk longer than what we’re left with. (There’s also a version with opening and closing voiceovers and a pre-titles sequence, Fearful outfitall added by Welles after the studio had their way, which seems to be the one US viewers know. The version without those seems to be the only one shown on UK TV, however.)

On the bright side, it has a brisk running time, and as 70-minute ’40s thrillers go it’s at the upper end of their quality. And in spite of the mere adequacy of the rest, that climax honestly makes it a recommendable watch.

3 out of 5

* Having rated it U in 1986 and 1998, come 2010 the BBFC decided it needed to be a PG. ^