Journey into Fear (1943 film)

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Journey Into Fear
Journey Into Fear 1943 poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Norman Foster
Orson Welles
Produced by Orson Welles
Screenplay by Joseph Cotten
Orson Welles
Richard Collins
Ben Hecht
Based on the novel Journey into Fear 
by Eric Ambler
Starring Joseph Cotten
Dolores del Río
Ruth Warrick
Orson Welles
Music by Roy Webb
Cinematography Karl Struss
Edited by Mark Robson
Mercury Productions
RKO Pictures
Distributed by RKO Pictures
Release dates
February 12, 1943 (1943-02-12TUnited States)
Running time
68 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Journey into Fear is a 1943 American spy film based on the Eric Ambler novel of the same name. The film broadly follows the plot of the book, but the protagonist was changed to an American engineer.[1]

In addition to acting in and producing the film, Orson Welles was to direct, but had to ostensibly leave that aspect to Norman Foster due to other commitments. However, the film looks nothing like any of Foster's other films, but is instead full of directorial touches found in films directed by Welles. Many of Welles' Mercury Theatre associates were cast, including Joseph Cotten, who played the lead role and also co-wrote the screenplay.

In 2005, an alternate cut was shown at a Welles film retrospective at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland. It was the original European release print, lacking the narration and ending of the U.S. version but including about six minutes of footage deleted by RKO Pictures.


In an opening scene before the credits an assassin, Banat, is seen preparing a gun while a gramophone skips as it plays . The story that follows is the narrative of a letter from Howard Graham, an American armaments engineer, to his wife Stephanie. While journeying to the Soviet port of Batumi to return to the United States to complete his business with the Turkish Navy, Graham and his wife stop in Istanbul and are met by Kopeikin, a Turkish employee of Graham's company, who under the pretense of discussing business, takes Graham to a nightclub to introduce him to dancer Josette Maretl and her partner Gogo. When Banat tries to kill Graham during a magic act, he shoots the magician instead, and Graham is brought to the headquarters of the Turkish secret police for questioning. Colonel Haki of the secret police warns Graham that German agents are trying to kill him to delay the re-arming of Turkish ships. He shows Graham a photograph of Banat, whom he says was hired by a Nazi agent named Muller, and orders Graham to travel secretly to Batumi aboard a tramp steamer instead of by train. Haki assures him that he will personally see that Stephanie gets to their hotel in Batumi ahead of him.

Joseph Cotten and Dolores del Río in a promotional photo of the film (1943).

Graham's fellow passengers include Josette and Gogo; Kuvetli, an ingratiating Turkish tobacco salesman; Professor Haller, an apolitical German archeologist; and the henpecked Matthews and his French wife. Josette sees that Graham is frightened, and not knowing that he is married, tries to become close to him. At an interim port call, Graham is made aware of the arrival of a new passenger by the annoying clamor of a gramophone, while Haller warns him that Kuvetli is not who he claims to be. At dinner Graham recognizes Banat and tries to persuade the ship's captain and purser to put him ashore, but they believe that he is crazy. Graham turns to Josette for help and she has Gogo engage Banat in a poker game while Graham unsuccessfully searches Banat's cabin for the assassin's gun.

When Graham returns to his own cabin, he is met by an armed Haller and deduces that he is actually Muller. Muller offers to spare Graham's life by delaying his return to the States for six weeks by having him taken to a hospital with a case of "typhus." Muller warns him that Kuvetli is a Turkish agent sent by Haki and warns Graham he will be killed if he confides the plan to the Turk. Kuvetli was eavesdropping from the next cabin, however, and informs Graham that Muller's "plan" is just a scheme to get Graham away from the ship before murdering him. Kuvetli instructs Graham to pretend to agree to the plan but before the ship docks in Batumi to hide himself in an empty cabin while the Turkish agent arranges for the arrest of the German agents. When Graham goes to the empty cabin, he finds Kuvetli dead on the floor, murdered by Banat. Graham asks Mathews to deliver a message to the Turkish consul in Batumi to notify Haki. Matthews gives the unarmed Graham a pocket knife. Graham runs into Gogo, who bluntly offers to "give up" Josette for Graham to marry for a cash consideration.

Muller and Banat coerce Graham into a waiting car. When the car has a flat tire, Graham jams Matthews' pocket knife into the horn, and in the ensuing commotion, jumps into the driver's seat, crashes the car into a shop window and escapes. That night, as a storm rages, Graham joins his wife at their hotel, but Muller arrives there first, impersonating a coworker from Graham's company. Banat intimidates Graham from leaving and Muller persuades Stephanie to join Haki downstairs while he "talks business" with Graham. He leaves Graham to be killed by Banat, but Gogo enters the room to promote his deal for Josette and Banat shoots at him. Graham flees out of the room's window onto the cornice of the building in the torrential rain, pursued by Banat and Muller. Trapped between them, he is saved when Haki appears and shoots Muller. Banat wounds Haki but blinded by the rain, misses Graham. The two struggle and Banat falls to his death. Back in the present, Haki tells Graham as he finishes the letter that Stephanie is waiting for him but wonders why the engineer took decisive action when he had been so indecisive before. Graham tears up the now completed letter and tells Haki that he simply got mad and wasn't going to take any more.


The cast of Journey Into Fear is listed at the AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Several cast members were Mercury Productions staff, including Herb Drake (publicist), Shifra Haran (secretary), Eddie Howard (chauffeur), Robert Meltzer (writer), Bill Roberts (publicist),[2] and Jack Moss (business manager).[3]


The film was directed by Norman Foster, but many have speculated that there was directorial input by Orson Welles. Welles told Peter Bogdanovich that they were in such a rush to complete his scenes before Welles departed for Brazil to film It's All True that the person directing was whoever was closest to the camera, but Welles also stated in the very same book that he did not direct any part of the film and his friend Foster was the director.[citation needed]

Welles did produce and design the picture and wrote the script with Joseph Cotten. Welles' main contribution as producer was the beginning pre-credit sequence showing the assassin listening to an old phonograph, which then starts to skip. The camera "floats" up to his apartment room from outside, much in the style of certain crane shots in Citizen Kane. In the book This is Orson Welles, Welles states that he thought he was the first to come up with a scene before the credits;[citation needed] he later learned that there were a couple of movies that did this in the late thirties.

Film memorabilia[edit]

In an auction April 26, 2014, a script of Journey into Fear was sold for $7,500[4] and a collection of approximately 180 stills and production photos sold for $2,375.[5] The materials were among those found in boxes and trunks of Welles's personal possessions by his daughter Beatrice Welles.[6]

Home video releases[edit]


  1. ^ Journey Into Fear at the Internet Movie Database.
  2. ^ "Journey Into Fear". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 2014-04-25. 
  3. ^ "Jack Moss: The Man Who Ruined Welles?". Wellesnet. Retrieved 2014-04-25. 
  4. ^ "An Orson Welles Script from Journey into Fear (Lot 46033)". Entertainment & Music Memorabilia Signature Auction, New York (#7089), Heritage Auctions. Retrieved 2014-05-11. 
  5. ^ "An Orson Welles Large Collection of Black and White Film Stills from Journey into Fear (Lot 46034)". Entertainment & Music Memorabilia Signature Auction, New York (#7089), Heritage Auctions. Retrieved 2014-05-11. 
  6. ^ Tang, Terry (March 31, 2014). "Orson Welles' camera, other items up for auction". Associated Press. Retrieved 2014-05-11. 

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