Sunday, April 12, 2015

Not Every Man Is Sincere

The third film in the Orson Welles retrospective that I've been able to attend was projected in 35mm.

Journey Into Fear (1943, Norman Foster Orson Welles), the third film released by Orson Welles as a Mercury Production--his stock cast and crew from radio and subsequently Citizen Kane (1941) and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)--and released by RKO Radio Pictures, which was one of the Big Five Hollywood studios then, is a minor work in Welles's oeuvre.

Journey Into Fear is a B movie spy yarn about American engineer Howard Graham (Joseph Cotten) on the run from Nazis in a Turkish port on his way to Georgia. It is a standard genre thriller that follows a linear plot. It also lacks the overarching grand reinventing the wheel style narratives that Welles's previous two films displayed. Welles's name isn't even on this as director. Nor does it at all explore memory, shift time, contrast class and wealth, or combine highs and lows of its central protagonists in sentimental nostalgia.

But the reason it should be attributed to Welles as director is because it is embellished with low-key lighting, cavernous shadowy sets--the first time Graham descends the staircase into the nightclub/underworld--and bizarre canted, wide-angled, low and high perspective angled, and reverse track back leading shots that float on butter.

Welles's turn as debonair hulk Colonel Haki is hammy, but funny. Everett Sloane and Aggy Morehead also provide nothing more than comic relief, in contrast to their earlier roles in Welles's films. But the villain Banat must be the most memorable character in Journey Into Fear with his foreboding overweight physique, nearly silent performance, rumpled hat, spectacles and the menacing scene where he combines corpulence with homicidal mania as he confronts Graham while destroying his crackers into his soup as he slops it up, staring down his target.

The grand finale outside the top of the ledges of the building in the rain storm showdown is an edge of your seat payoff, and the film lacks too much charm to be dismissed.


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