Howard Cottens On
Watching an Orson Welles movie is like watching an Alfred Hitchcock movie, if you are a fan you will love it no matter what whilst if you are just a movie fan you may be less impressed. As someone who respects that Welles had a huge influence on cinema but not someone who goes mad for his movies I found myself watching "Journey Into Fear" and being disappointed. Here is a movie which Orson Welles had a hand in everything writing, producing, acting and unofficially directing yet the final product feels unfinished or hacked to pieces. This 68 minute thriller has gaping plot holes which spoil it and whilst it builds to a spectacular ending what goes on before is not that spectacular.
Howard Graham (Joseph Cotten - The Great Sioux Massacre) and his wife are in Turkey on business but an incident in a Nightclub where a magician is murdered brings Howard to the attention of Colonel Haki (Orson Welles - The Third Man) who informs him that the bullet which killed the magician was meant for him and he needs to leave Turkey immediately. Dispatched on a boat without even having a chance to say goodbye to his wife Howard is unsure out of the other passengers who he can trust especially with some shady looking characters aboard.
Thinking about "Journey Into Fear" and I have a theory of what may have happened, it's purely speculative but how the final movie ends up it could be. I reckon that between Orson Welles and director Norman Foster as well as actor/writer Joseph Cotten they came up with a much longer movie, a complete movie which created an intriguing atmosphere which came to a crescendo of a finish. The studio having watched this were blown away by the ending but found the lengthy build up too much so they got someone to hack it down leaving a final movie with gaping plot holes and whilst still some atmosphere nothing like what it could be. As I said it is purely my own speculation as to why with the exception of the ending "Journey Into Fear" is underwhelming.
The annoying thing is that the actual storyline is pretty decent and every now and then we get a revelation which intensifies the mystery as we either learn something about Howard or begin to question the motives of another passenger. But there are gaping plot holes, holes which you can do the guessing work to fill in but some so gaping that you wonder how anyone thought they could get away with it.
Now technically Orson Welles didn't direct "Journey Into Fear", he is not credited for it with Norman Foster taking sole credit. That technically maybe very true but you can see touches of Welles all over the movie, from certain uses of shadow to creative camera angles. It does mean for devotees of Orson Welles "Journey Into Fear" is a significant movie where as for those not so bothered a flawed but entertaining piece of film-noir.
That element of being flawed extends to the performances with the exception of Welles who as Colonel Haki delivers a full on character. Now I say flawed but it may be the case that the cutting of scenes lead to issues because in the end Joseph Cotten as Howard Graham is quite ordinary as are many of the other characters including those which end up superfluous.
What this all boils down to is that "Journey Into Fear" just didn't do it for me and whilst I loved the ending the actual build up was riddled with issues. It ends up a movie for fans of Orson Welles rather than purely movie lovers because of the gaping plot holes leave it a bit of a mess.