1 January 2006 | krorie
Beware when a psychic advices you to guess the weight of a cake
What a team! Graham Greene and Fritz Lang. What an actor! Ray Milland. What a movie! This one will stay with you for awhile. Though Greene did better work, i.e his masterpiece the screenplay for "The Third Man," and Lang did better work, "Metropolis, "M," "Fury." Together they make "Ministry of Fear" sizzle.
Today just about any movie from the 40's and 50's shot in black and white with darkness, rain, or shadows is labeled film noir. I don't really know if "Ministry of Fear" is a film noir as such but I do know it's great film making, somewhat along the lines of Hitchcock's "39 Steps." Ray Milland as Stephen Neale is mistaken for a go between espionage agent, called Cost or Travers depending on the circumstances, played to perfection by Dan Duryea. Neale guesses the weight of a cake as foretold by a fortune teller. Obviously the cake is valuable because immediately upon realizing their mistake the spy ring sets out to frame and kill Neale to retrieve the tasty morsel. Not to be missed is an exciting sequence aboard a train involving an alleged blind man. The rest of the movie filled with suspense, mystery, and intrigue involves Neal teaming with Carla Hilfe (Marjorie Reynolds--later of television's "Life of Riley" fame) and her brother to catch the culprits and discover what it's all about. Gradually Neal comes to suspect even Carla herself though by this time he's fallen madly in love with her. The feeling seems to be mutual. The denouement is a showdown between Neal and the spy ring which is exciting and a logical way to wrap up the movie.
Ray Milland walks off with the show even though the rest of the cast gives him able support. It's easy to see that Ray Milland was well on his way to winning the Oscar the very next year for his standout performance in Billy Wilder's "Lost Weekend." It was just a matter of time before his acting talent would be formally recognized. It's a good thing "Lost Weekend" came around for Milland for he never again played a role that so suited his abilities as an actor, though he still had many years ahead of him to be on the big screen.
The script is a witty one with many good lines. Though Lang's direction is good there are a few boring parts following the frame-up. A few more blind man type scenes would have helped tremendously. Still a very good espionage thriller of the old school with a title that reaches out and grabs you to make you want to see what the "Ministry of Fear" is all about.