Journey into Fear (1943) Directed by Norman Foster
Speculation casts doubt on the authorship of this film – although Orson Welles has ruled out having any relevance or omnipresence in the direction, his humble commentary differs with the arrogance of his unsurpassed talent arousing a certain skepticism in me, which makes me slightly suspicious of his modest statement. Whether he had an important involvement in the film or not, this claustrophobic noir of 1943 is a complete fiasco, though not through the fault of the excellent team that carried out this project. By now one could interpret it as a joke, or perhaps a curse, but this is another film that bears Orson Welles’ name and was butchered by RKO’s negligence. Joseph Cotten is an American armaments engineer being hunted by Nazi agents who want to kill him and prevent him from returning to the United States. The plot unfolds in Turkish territory, first in an exotic cabaret, then on an expressionistic tramp steamer, and finally on the heights of a building during a torrential rainstorm. Welles protégé Norman Foster directs this conventional but stylistically unorthodox noir; even if it has the qualities of Karl Struss’s tenaciously nightmarish chiaroscuro cinematography or the persuasively baroque Wellesian audacity, no matter what other hidden treasures you find, the RKO cut remains ruinous, exasperating and befuddling. Dolores del Rio has sporadic appearances that never fail to appeal, and Orson Welles’ appropriately campy performance as Colonel Haki is fabulous, but I insist, it’s a mess of a movie, an unsalvageable one.