Ministry of Fear, Blu-ray (1944/2013)
Director: Fritz Lang
Cast: Ray Milland, Majorie Reynolds, Dan Duryea
Book: Graham Greene
Studio: Universal/ The Criterion Collection 649 [3/12/13]
Video: 1.57:1 for 4:3, B&W
Audio: English PCM mono
Extras: New interview with Lang scholar Joe McElhaney, Trailer, Illustrated booklet with essay by critic Glenn Kenny
Length: 87 minutes
This was made at a time many director/emigres from Europe were making various anti-Nazi films, but McElhaney points out the differences between Lang and Hitchcock. There was no doubt who were the good guys and the bad in Hitchcock, but with Lang one wasn’t sure. Even the supposedly innocent Ray Milland had been in an English mental institution after a mercy-killing of his wife.
He attends a seemingly innocent village fair, wins a cake, and soon is terribly involved in a shady and sinister Nazi-connected underworld. None of the villains wear swastikas and even the Scotland Yard man who is tracking him seems at first one not to be trusted. There are hints of the life difficulties of wartime London, including the hero and his girl spending time in an air raid shelter, but neither they nor the Nazi threat are laid on heavily. This is a well-done, unpredictable thriller which stands up very well. Lang was great at communicating a mood of dread, as he had in M. Greene himself thought it was a bad filmic version of his story, but that may have been because he wasn’t deeply involved in it. I can’t agree with him. Gorgeous black and white restoration too, as usual with Criterion.