Ministry of Fear (1944)
Directed by Fritz Lang
Based on the novel by Graham Greene
Screenplay by Seton I. Miller
Starring: Ray Milland, Marjorie Reynolds, Carl Esmond, and Hillary Brooke
Stephen Neale (Milland) has just been released from the asylum where he had been committed for the last two years. While preparing to return to London, Neale stops at a small city fair to enjoy his new freedom. After winning a cake in a small contest, he finds himself in the middle of a dangerous series of events. When he arrives in London he soon connects his misfortunes with a small charitable group run by Willi (Esmond) and Carla Hilfe (Reynolds). As chaos begins to erupt around him, Neale begins to put the pieces of a sinister plot together. Now he’s racing to uncover the truth before dangerous enemies catch up with him.
Fritz Lang (Metropolis) directed this unique example of film noir. The story came from the novel The Ministry of Fear, written by Graham Greene (Confidential Agent). This novel was adapted by Oscar-winning screenwriter Seton I. Miller (Here Comes Mr. Jordan). The cast of this movie includes Oscar winner Ray Milland (Dial M for Murder, The Lost Weekend). The cast also includes Marjorie Reynolds (Holiday Inn), Carl Esmond (Sergeant York), and Hillary Brooke (The Man Who Knew Too Much).
This is a really great film with an interesting story full of twists and turns. The story does great job working in the events of World War II and the struggles of the people in London. It’s interesting to see this kind of film made prior to the end of the war. Greene and Miller took full advantage of the issues surrounding loyalty and espionage in writing this one. The movie does have a few moments of drama that come a bit close to being melodramatic. This doesn’t hurt the overall experience, but it does seem a bit out-of-place. Overall, and excellent story with nice dialogue and action throughout.
The acting in this movie includes some great work from the star of the film. Ray Milland seems to bring a sense of dread and foreboding to his character. Thankfully, he does this without the overacting that is sometimes a part of these films. Additionally, Marjorie Reynolds and Carl Esmond do a nice job with their parts. Another interesting performance came from Hillary Brooke. Her small part in the film is important to the story, and she does a great job with it. Overall, the cast in this movie does a nice job with the story.
Visually, this is a great example of Lang’s ability to use light and shadow. The movie captures a lot of suspense in the way the images are presented. The composition of the shots seems to be done with great attention to detail. All of these visual elements come together to make this a great film. Adding to the presentation, the film also features a good score and nicely designed sets.
This is a good movie with a nice story. The suspense is nicely written into the screenplay, and works from the very beginning. If you’re a fan of the stars in this one, I would suggest checking this movie out. I would also suggest this to fans of film noir who haven’t had a chance to see this one. I give this one 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Thanks for the tip, I recently watched M so am keen to see more of Lang’s films.
This is a good one. Enjoy!