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USA 1945
Directed by
Fritz Lang
86 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Ministry Of Fear

Fritz Lang makes good use of his characteristic dramatic lighting style (particularly during the séance sequence when he quotes from his own silent-era classic Metropolis in the framing of Hillary Brooke's Mrs Bellane) in this adaptation of a Graham Greene novel.

Despite the marvellous title, Ministry of Fear is a mundane film that plot-wise bears comparison with The Maltese Falcon (1941) but comes off badly in every other respect. Ray Milland, who was the era’s go-to guy when you needed an ordinary Joe to be caught up in criminal shenanigans, plays Steven Neale, who has just been released from a mental asylum for the murder (a mercy killing) of his wife walks straight into a Nazi spy-ring. Of course he sets out to smash it, has to run from the police, fight the bad guys and dally with beautiful women, both bad (Brooke) and good (Marjorie Reynolds), along the way.

There are no surprises and for the most part the film looks musty with poorly lit, cheap sets, but the cast is good with Dan Duryea and Hillary Brooke shining in their support roles and Lang lends it a good deal of panache, the confrontation between Milland and Duryea as a scissors-wielding tailor being an impressive flourish although as a film noir, and within Lang's oeuvre, this is a minor divertissement.

DVD Extras: Audio commentary by Dr Adrian Martin, Monash University; Original Theatrical trailer.

Available from: Madman




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