20 March 2006 | krorie
Eric Ambler was in a way the John Le Carré of his generation. A few of his works were turned into fantastic films. The two best ones were "Journey Into Fear" and "The Mask of Dimitrios." From the opening sequence when a body is washed ashore and a group of beachcombers walk up to it, realize what it is, and run away screaming, to the final fade out, this movie grabs the viewer's attention and holds it.
The acting is brilliant, from the stand out performances of the two leads, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet to the smallest bit players. Zachary Scott in his first screen appearance is a knockout as the coldblooded, calculating, ruthless international schemer, Dimitrios Makropoulos. Faye Emerson as one of the women, Irana Preveza, Dimitrios used for his own selfish purposes then discarded is uncanny as she changes from a beautiful nightclub singer (in the flashback) to the worn out haggard shadow of a person she has become when relating her story to Cornelius Leyden (Lorre). She tells Leyden that Dimitrios was the only man she was ever actually afraid of. Adding to the effectiveness of this scene is the haunting "Perfidia (Tonight)," played in the background. Victor Francen gives a powerful portrayal of Wladislaw Grodek, someone else Dimitrios has double crossed.
The story unfolds as Leyden, a writer intrigued by Dimitrios' treachery, sets about to uncover as much information as possible about the archfiend in order to write a book. He views Dimitrios' corpse at the morgue then begins backtracking to separate fact from fiction. Enter a stranger who has been following him, a Mr. Peters or is it Peterson. The stranger too wants the facts on Dimitrios for what purpose is not clear.
Not only is the viewer enthralled by the picture of Dimitrios that slowly emerges, but the international scope of the hunt is riveting, Istanbul, the Hellespont, Sofia, Belgrade, Athens, Paris. This was also the time that Hitler's war was raging across Europe which only adds to the atmosphere involving spying and treason.