Ministry of Fear

Screening on Film
Directed by Fritz Lang.
With Ray Milland, Marjorie Reynolds, Carl Esmond.
US, 1944, 35mm, black & white, 84 min.
Print source: Universal Studios

Insightfully noted by critic Dave Kehr as “the epochal meeting of two masters of Catholic guilt and paranoia,” Lang’s Graham Greene adaptation rivals Spies as a dizzying catalog of feints and false leads. Yet Greene, who previously championed Fury as an “extraordinary achievement,” scorned this adaption, and Lang himself was soured by the unyielding control over the script wielded by producer-writer Seton Miller. Nevertheless, from its very first image of a closely-watched clock, Ministry of Fear winds through a twisting an unmistakably Langean maze of seances, phony suicides, and blind men who can see. Ray Milland’s nervous and enigmatic protagonist proves especially susceptible to random twists of fate in this most capricious of Lang’s anti-Nazi thrillers: a fitting overture to the increasingly pervasive threat permeating the director’s post-war films. 

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