Featuring a random assortment of familiar faces, this Canadian production offers a pedestrian new adaptation of a 1940 spy novel previously adapted for the screen in 1943 by Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles. The 1975 version of Journey Into Fear is pleasant enough to watch, but because it’s almost all plot, those who don’t lock into the storyline early are likely to get bored during long exposition and/or suspense scenes featuring leading man Sam Waterston. Although he does credible work, the only fun sequences in Journey Into Fear are those with costars Donald Pleasence and Vincent Price. Pleasence combines his characteristic fidgety energy with a campy Turkish accent, while Price, taking a welcome break from playing cartoonish ghouls, lends sophistication to the role of a cold-blooded pragmatist.
The murky plot involves geologist Graham (Waterston) visiting Turkey to explore oil resources, even as nefarious characters repeatedly try to kill him. Local cop Col. Haki (Joseph Wiseman) tells Graham he can’t leave Turkey until a criminal investigation related to one of the attempted murders is resolved, so before long Graham gets enmeshed with sketchy characters including the nervous Kuvelti (Pleasence) and the obsequious Kupelkin (Zero Mostel). Graham also begins a romance with French singer Josette (Yvette Mimieux) before finally meeting his main adversary, the suave Dervos (Price). That this brief synopsis excludes significant characters played by Ian McShane and Shelley Winters indicates both how overstuffed the storyline is and how many different types of acting are on display. Cohesion is not the order of the day.
Appearing fairly early in his long screen career, Waterston performs with considerable authority, but because his role is so underwritten, Waterston often blends into the scenery. (One wishes Mimieux, chirping in a bad French accent, did the same.) While McShane is suitably menacing in a mostly wordless role, only Pleasence and Price bring real flair—the very quality that made the Welles/Cotten version enjoyable. It’s especially pleasurable to watch Price play someone closer to the sophisticate he was offscreen, though the villainous nature of his character keeps the role on-brand.
Journey Into Fear: FUNKY