11 Comments

  1. A truly beautiful review, Tony, you have precisely cut through the historical gauze surrounding this picture–while pointing to some of the details of Welles molding the film to a significant degree–and given this often underrated, short (I believe just approximately 70 minutes) gem, the fine and exquisite treatment it deserves. This was so good I feel as though it tempered my injury. :)

  2. Thank you so much, Alexander. You have made my day!

    I struggled for a few days with the approach I should adopt before before putting pen to paper. The version I watched was 79 minutes and screened on late-nite TV by our public broadcaster.

  3. Sam Juliano

    And I second the motion, this is a passionate review and a call for reassessment. I know the film well, and I agree with what you say here, but as I am leaving the house now, I will reserve further commentary for the morning, when I will examine it thoroughly. But this does look like great stuff!

  4. Sam Juliano

    Outstanding and infectious revisit, that rightly acknowledges that this is a “connoisseur’s film”. Over the years it has admittedly been either misunmderstood or reviled, as for example Pauline Kael says: “This labyrinthe spy story about smuggling munitions out of Turkey is loaded down with terror hocus-pocus and high-toned conversations. It’s a half-hearted, almost–fey–film, with a lot of dark atmosphere and unusual camera angles that don’t amount to much; the pacing is uncertain, and the suspense doesn’t build. Orson Welles, who appears as the Turkish police chief Colonel Haki, is credited, along with Joseph Cotten, for the rather eccentric adaptation of the Eric Ambler novel.”
    Yet, I think Tony has encapsulated the revised position on this film: “These characters also act as a philosophical chorus in scenes, that while having a peripheral connection to the action, are anchored with elegant ruminations on god, war, love, death, politics and marriage.” Beautifully written and profound.
    Sad, that like THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, this was seriously mutilated by the censors, negating what could have been a film masterpiece. But I agree with you that as is, it still is a formidable work of cinema. Cotton is indeed “a perfect fit,” and both Del Rio and Welles are memorable.

  5. Allan Fish

    I like Journey Into Fear, but it’s a bit of a mess in places, and I’m not sure that the longer version would be so much clearer. It’s not remotely to be mourned in the same category of Ambersons. That was mutilation, Journey is merely pruning. Excellent statement for the defence from Tony, though, and the film should be on DVD in English speaking lands, rather than in the so-so French DVD that is the only viable option at the mo.

  6. Thank you Sam and Allan for your comments.

    I think one’s view is colored by the version one has seen. Apparently, the original 71 min European version differed from the original 69 min US version not only in length but included different scenes as well. The version I have based my review on is the longer 79 minute version.

    Allan, after watching the movie, I consulted your good friend Halliwell (6th edn), who gave the 71 min version 3 stars!!! He says inter alia: “Highly enjoyable impressionist melodrama supervised by Orson Welles and full of his touches and excesses ” .

    To be fair Allan, I made no comparisons with Ambersons other than to say that they were both hacked. Having said this, I must say that one’s fondness for a film is not necessarily directly connected with its cinematic qualities, the depth of its vision, or the audacity of the director. Movies are like falling in love, there may be other prospective partners who are more attractive or intelligent or emotionally stable, but you love the one you love. I love this movie, just like I love Casablanca or Beat The Devil, but I don’t love Ambersons – there is an emotional connection that is beyond critical analysis.

  7. Sam Juliano

    I must say I love that “emotional connection” argument you present at the end there Tony. It really says it all, and in a sense it resists criticism. “You love the one you love” and that’s that.

    I have always had such a feeling through the years for “Goodbye, Mr. Chips.” (Sam Wood; 1939)

  8. Yes Sam, I love Mr Chips too. In fact, when I was younger I sometimes avoided watching the movie because of the terrible sadness I knew I would feel at the end…

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