Ministry of Fear (1944)

“Thrilling Drama of the Invisible Network of Terror!” Just released from an insane asylum where he has served two years after being wrongly convicted of murdering his wife, “Stephen Neale” (Ray Milland) accidentally stumbles upon a Nazi spy ring in England as World War II rages all around him in this offbeat, often confusing but always entertaining film noir/thriller directed by Fritz Lang and based on a 1943 novel by Graham Greene. I particularly enjoy the first 20 minutes or so of the film when Neale wanders around a local carnival and wins a cake (a mysterious fortune teller has told him the exact weight of the dessert). Neale then boards a train for London in the same compartment as a creepy “blind” man (Eustace Wyatt), who whacks him on the head with his cane, steals what’s left of the cake and runs off amid the bombing. There’s also a great scene involving Dan Duryea’s character, “Mr. Cost,” wielding a giant pair of tailor shears. Marjorie Reynolds portrays the love interest, “Carla Hilfe.” The cast includes Erskine Sanford, Carl Esmond, Hillary Brooke, Percy Waram, Mary Field and Alan Napier. Beware of the cheesy, tacked-on ending. Lang himself reportedly disliked the film and in an interview with Peter Bogdanovich published in Fritz Lang in America (1969) remarked, “I had signed a contract and I had to fulfill it, that’s all. I saw [Ministry of Fear] on television, where it was cut to pieces, and I fell asleep.”     

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