Joseph Cotten and Ruth Warrick in Journey Into Fear (1943)


(director: Norman Foster (and Orson Welles-uncredited); screenwriter: Joseph Cotton/Orson Welles/from the novel by Eric Ambler; cinematographer: Karl Struss; editor: Mark Robson; music: Roy Webb; cast: Joseph Cotton (Howard Graham), Dolores Del Rio (Josette Martel), Orson Welles (Col. Haki), Ruth Warrick (Stephanie Graham), Agnes Moorehead (Mrs. Mathews), Everett Sloan (Kopeikin), Jack Moss (Banat), Jack Durant (Gogo), Eustace Wyatt (Dr. Haller), Frank Readick (Mathews), Edgar Barrier (Kuvetli), Stefan Schnabel (Purser), Hans Conreid (Magician); Runtime: 71; RKO; 1943)

An exciting wartime spy film with film noir overtones.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An exciting wartime spy film with film noir overtones. Mr. and Mrs. Howard Graham (Joseph Cotton and Ruth Warrick) stop overnight in Istanbul, where the munitions expert is met in his hotel by his loquacious company representative, Kopeikin (Everett Sloan). The rep is insensitive to Howard’s need to be alone with his wife and takes him along to a nightclub for a good time on the pretext of talking about business. The magician (Hans Conreid) is murdered in the middle of his act and Howard is told by the crime investigator, the imposing Colonel Haki (Orson Welles), the head of the Turkish secret police, that because of his weapon’s expertise the Nazis have sent an assassin by the name of Banat (Jack Moss) to kill him. He’s a portly, unsmiling and grotesque looking man, wearing a trenchcoat and a large brimmed fedora, who strikes an eerie figure peering out of the shadows while following Howard.

Haki figures the best way to safeguard Graham is to smuggle him on a tramp steamship and let his wife journey ahead by train to meet him outside Turkey. On a cramped tub filled with many characters and suspects, Haki sends along a man posing as a Turkish tobacco seller, Kuvetli (Barrier), to secretly protect Graham from Nazi agents Muller and Banat.

This highly atmospheric film was co-scripted by Cotton and Welles from a novel by Eric Ambler. Welles also directed his own scenes and might have also directed other scenes — though Norman Foster is credited as the director. Maybe that’s the reason it’s such a baffling spy story.

Cotton flirts with a sexually forward exotic dancer he met at the club who is now aboard the steamship, Josette (Dolores Del Rio), heading for her next gig. Her dance partner is a professional card player, Gogo (Jack Durant), who is always looking for a sucker to play cards with. He also holds onto his business investment by keeping his dance partner in line, so that she doesn’t run off with some lover.

Warning: spoiler to follow.

In the finale, Cotton is captured by the Gestapo agents but manages to flee along the ledge of his third story hotel room. But the crazed Banat chases after him in the heavy downpour while firing at will, but is unable to see as his glasses become foggy and he slips from the ledge falling to the street.

The film was produced by Welles’ Mercury Theater group.