Journey Into Fear (1975)
This Canadian backed production was the second big screen version of Eric Ambler’s novel of the same title. Rather than compare this version to the 1943 film that starred Orson Welles, I’ll stick to the 70’s version and as is my custom, look for the positives that it presents to us thanks to a new blu ray release from Dark Force Entertainment. A release that has rescued the film from relative obscurity.
First and foremost is the cast that has been assembled under the direction of Daniel Mann over the course of the film’s 99 minute running time. As per the credits, in order of appearance we’ll see Sam Waterston, Zero Mostel, Yvette Mimieux, Scott Marlowe, Ian McShane, Joseph Wiseman, Shelley Winters, Stanley Holloway, Donald Pleasence and Vincent Price.
Surely the fans of cult favorite, Vincent Price, are rejoicing at the release of this film on physical media. I know I am.
The plot begins with a trio of attempts on the life of Waterston while in Turkey. It’s in Istanbul that he connects with company contact Mostel and we’ll learn that Waterston is representing an oil company and there’s a lot at stake when it comes to his research and knowledge of oil and the engineering of how to find and retrieve it.
Belly dancers, a nightclub and sexy Miss Mimieux are quickly introduced to Waterston by Mostel. The viewer is quickly going to be looking about the screen to see who Waterston is going to able to trust. Certainly not the sweaty, unshaven, Ian McShane, who is shadowing Waterston in the nightclub.
Following a near miss on Waterston’s life in his hotel room, Mostel, calls in Joseph Wiseman’s military Colonel who believes that Waterston has been targeted and following a subequent airport shootout meant to kill Waterston, Wiseman, feels it’s best to send our targeted leading man on an unsuspecting freighter to Genoa and from there on to Paris by train.
It’s on board the freighter that we’ll meet the rest of our cast and are treated to a few surprises. Winters and Holloway are an older couple but this ship isn’t the Poseidon so Winters won’t have to go swimming this time around. Yvette and her handler Scott Marlowe make the trip. Hitman Ian McShane works his way on board and then there’s a pair of scene stealers of the highest order. Donald Pleasence and Vincent Price. Neither is really what they seem. This prompts a great line from Price concerning Pleasence., “He has the reputation of being a very clever little man.”
Waterston isn’t sure who to trust but knows McShane is out to kill him. As a matter of fact we could look at nearly every character on board as a red herring. Mimieux conveniently turned up on board and offers up a shipboard romance with the oil man. Pleasence is a perfectly bungling tobacco salesman and the well versed actor has a parcel full of props on hand to aid in the ruse. Then there’s dear Vincent as an amateur archaeologist with an interest in art. Talk about life imitating art.
Or is he?
Both Donald and Vincent shine here when given the chance and once the script let’s us in on just who is who the only regret I have is that the pair never got a chance to verbally spar on camera for our amusement/entertainment. Sadly they were never cast opposite each other before or after this effort. Certainly they’d have made a surefire pairing on screen in a tale of the macabre. The closest they came was appearing in the 1980 camp favorite, The Monster Club, though they never shared the screen at all in this anthology of horror stories.
A location shoot in Athens is yet to come with Waterston on foot dodging and running from a pair of our stars who are out to silence him for good once they lose their grip on coming to an agreement with Waterston to remain silent for six weeks while political movements make the knowledge Waterston has in the oil industry a mute point.
So is the film any good? I suppose it’s average and somewhat forgettable but who cares when the cast on screen is so enticing. Price, Pleasence, Mostel and Winters are old pros, Waterston was fine as the everyman caught up in political intrigue and assassins. McShane, though effective was probably not all that well known in North America at the time of this film’s release but in the years to come would prove to be a major player in high profile productions like Deadwood, John Wick and the Pirates of the Caribbean series among many others.
Both Wiseman and Holloway had been around for decades as well. Wiseman was of course Dr. No and Holloway who played his final role here began his acting career as far back as the 1920’s.
Then we have Yvette Mimieux. This movie reminded me of just how attractive she was though I don’t often think of her when giving pause to recalling screen beauties. I believe she may have been dubbed here while singing in the nightclub and though she puts on an accent, she’s got a kittenish appeal here not unlike Ann-Margret. By this point she was mostly working in television and will always be remembered by movie buffs as Weena in 1960’s Time Machine.
**** Spoiler Alert ****
While this film may have been long out of circulation I know I saw it at some point while growing up in the late 1970’s. Not that I could recall much about it aside from the demise of Vincent Price via a flare gun. Seeing the film now I realize it’s actually one of Price’s more gruesome deaths and hats off to Vincent who it would appear did his own stunt on camera running amok as his clothes are catching fire thanks to the flare. Perhaps the panic caught on camera was all too real.
So in closing Journey is worth a look if given the chance thanks to the high profile cast that signed on for this second go around of the Amber novel. If you’re a collector, specifically of Vincent Price as I am, then it’s required viewing and you’ll need to order up a copy of the blu ray.