101 Years of Orson Welles-Journey Into Fear

Journey Into Fear

United States, 1943, RKO Radio Pictures. 68 minutes

Screenplay by Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles (uncred.), from the novel by Eric Ambler. Produced by Orson Welles, George J. Schaefer, Jack Moss. Directed by Norman Foster and Orson Welles (uncred.)

An American engineer attempting to arm the Turkish navy in the early years of WWII becomes the target of a cunning assassin. By train and steamship he embarks on a journey to reunite with his wife, encountering mystery, espionage, and a slew of oddball characters along the perilous route. RKO purchased Eric Ambler’s popular 1940 novel with the expectation that Journey Into Fear would be an A-list thriller capitalizing on the geopolitics of the World War. It ended up as the last film Orson Welles would make during his brief tenure at RKO, its chaotic production resulting in the ouster of studio boss George Schaefer and the film’s final cut being slashed to B-feature length. Journey Into Fear was definitely maimed, and for years maligned, but any picture with the Welles imprimatur—and a cast of loyal comrades drawn from his legendary Mercury Theatre—is guaranteed to be imaginative and innovative. In screening one of Welles’ least-seen films, we invite you to decide for yourself: Confounding misfire? Or dazzling example of on-the-fly, unconventional moviemaking?- Eddie Muller