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Ministry of Fear (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Suffused with dread and paranoia, this Fritz Lang (M) adaptation of a novel by Graham Greene (The Third Man) is a plunge into the eerie shadows of a world turned upside down by war. En route to London after being released from a mental institution, Stephen Neale (The Lost Weekend’s Ray Milland) stops at a seemingly innocent village fair, after which he finds himself caught in the web of a sinister underworld with possible Nazi connections. Lang was among the most illustrious of the European émigré filmmakers working in Hollywood during World War II, and Ministry of Fear is one of his finest American productions, an unpredictable thriller with style to spare.

Though not as well known or praised as some of director Fritz Lang's other film noir efforts like The Big Heat (1953) or The Woman in the Window (1944), his 1944 thriller Ministry of Fear remains a visually striking and frequently taut blend of noir tropes and wartime espionage drama. Based on the novel by Graham Greene, the picture stars Ray Milland as a man, newly released from an asylum, who becomes embroiled in a plot by Nazi agents in England to deliver Allied military plans into the hands of the enemy. He soon finds himself the quarry of both the Axis and British police, with only comely Austrian refugee Marjorie Reynolds (Holiday Inn) to help him. Aided immeasurably by Henry Sharp's cinematography, which steeps the action in an almost supernatural layer of white fog, and Victor Young's suspenseful score, Ministry of Fear works best at depicting the mounting layers of threats, all seemingly unrelated, that weave around Milland, underscoring his questionable mental state and Lang's ability to tap into the psychological elements of noir. Once the disparate threads come together, the film becomes a bit more standard-issue thriller material, due in part to associate producer Seton I. Miller's script, which sands down the emotional complexities of Greene's source material (much to the dismay of the author, who disavowed the final product). But Lang completists and noir aficionados should appreciate this lesser effort from the director, especially with so much to recommend it, from Milland, one year away from his Oscar win for The Lost Weekend, and Dan Duryea's alarming turn as a duplicitous tailor with a pair of lethal shears, to Criterion's crisp 2K digital restoration. The Criterion Blu-ray and DVD are supplemented by a 17-minute interview with Lang scholar Joe McElhaney, who discusses the film's production, its relation to other works by the director, and its comparison to Alfred Hitchcock's thrillers, among other topics. An original theatrical trailer and liner notes by Glenn Kenney round out the extras. --Paul Gaita

Special Features

  • New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • New interview with Fritz Lang scholar Joe McElhaney
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Glenn Kenny

  • Product Details

    • Actors: Ray Milland, Marjorie Reynolds, Carl Esmond, Hillary Brooke, Percy Waram
    • Directors: Fritz Lang
    • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Black & White, NTSC, Full Screen
    • Language: English
    • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
    • Number of discs: 1
    • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
    • Studio: Criterion Collection
    • DVD Release Date: March 12, 2013
    • Run Time: 87 minutes
    • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
    • ASIN: B00AQ6J536
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #57,997 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews

    35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Eder on May 17, 2013
    Format: DVD Verified Purchase
    The Criterion Collection has licensed Fritz Lang's MINISTRY OF FEAR from Universal, and while they haven't given this picture first-cabin treatment -- there's no wall-to-wall commentary, and the only video supplements are a talk by a Lang biographer and the movie trailer -- it is well put together, and the picture looks and sounds great; I saw this in a theater just a couple of years ago, and the DVD compares well to the 35mm print shown at New York's Film Forum. The menu is easy to use, and the discussion about Lang and the movie is informative, especially in resolving differences between the movie and Graham Greene's original novel (Greene didn't like the movie adaptation). As for the film, it's a keeper -- perhaps not the best of Lang's wartime output (Scarlet Street, Man Hunt), but just below those in quality, and certainly superior to some of his other thrillers of his era (Cloak And Dagger).
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    14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Ronald Schwartz on April 29, 2013
    Format: DVD Verified Purchase
    Based upon a Graham Greene novel, MINISTRY OF FEAR has Ray Milland starring as a released inmate from a remote state asylum for supposedly murdering his wife, Milland totally walks into a local fair, buys a cake meant for Dan Duryea (which contains some piece of microfilm useful to Nazi infiltrators in London,) attends a seance run by Hilary Brooke (who looks fantastically beautiful), bolts from the seance when Duryea is killed and is chased throughout the film by Nazi sympathizers. He manages to find love with Marjorie Reynolds, a blonde beauty with a terrible Austrian accent but I won't reveal the ending. Clocks, circles, doors play a central role in the mise-en-scene. There is some clever camera work throughout this b&w film beautifully mounted by Paramount Pictures in 1943. The conclusion is a stunner. But the truly great Lang films, M and DR. MABUSE show off Lang's pictorial style better than some of his later sound work. I would recommend also seeing SCARLET STREET, WOMAN IN THE WINDOW and YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE as 5 star American films made by Lang and all available at amazon.
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    19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By M. Oleson TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 14, 2013
    Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
    There may be spoilers.

    I remember getting a pretty good deal on this Criterion Blu ray edition of this Fritz Lang directed film. Although I had never seen it before, I will pretty much see anything with Lang's name attached, especially when he's in charge. The setting is England smack dab in the middle of WW II and the Nazi's are bombing the hell out of the place. Stephen Neale is about to be released from the "asylum" where he was placed after his implication in his wife's death. We are not sure early on what happened but it comes out in bits and pieces as the story develops.

    Before getting on a train to London where he will get a fresh start (dodging bombs I guess) Neale stops for a charity event near the station. He's persuaded to guess the weight of a large cake which he correctly guesses thanks to a fortune teller who gives him the answer. Alas the fortune teller gave the information to the wrong man. After Neale boards the train, complete with cake in hand, he is joined in his compartment by a supposed blind man. As it turns out the blind man isn't what he seems. As a quick aside this is the first time I've ever heard anyone pronounce Nazi as Nazee rather than Natzy. Sorry.

    The blind man is just the first in a series of misdirection involving people and who they may or may not be. While it is certainly not difficult to identify the bad guys for most viewers of this stylized type thriller, there is enough illusion to keep you guessing. As Neale runs after the man who took his cake, a Nazi bomb drops on the guy as well as the cake. So what's going on here?

    After getting to London, Neale hires a private investigator to help him figure that out beginning with the charity organization who sponsored the cake guessing contest.
    Read more ›
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    4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Film Buff on September 23, 2014
    Format: DVD
    Ministry of Fear (1944) is one of four Fritz Lang wartime espionage thrillers that were interfered with by their respective studios beyond the director's control. One understands the need for propaganda in such sensitive political times, but the need for simplistic Good v Evil and a happy end worked against Lang's usual claustrophobic obsessions. Man Hunt (1941), Hangmen Also Die (1943), Cloak and Dagger (1946) and Ministry of Fear are all films with great promise, but which are sadly flawed as a result. Ministry of Fear starts off brilliantly enough with the credits rolling over one of Lang's many clocks to appear throughout his work. Stephen Neale (Ray Milland) is counting the seconds down to the moment of his release from Lembridge Asylum where he has just spent two years because of the mercy killing of his wife. One cycle of Langian fate is concluded and another is about to kick off. The suggestion of psychological turmoil leads to four scenes where we literally can't trust what we see. First is a village fete (set at night with kids running around!!) where Neale wins a cake. We see a tall blonde figure (Dan Duryea) for the first time. He is certainly one of Lang's harbingers of fate. Second is a train sequence where a blind man is introduced by his cane tapping on the platform through a cloud of smoke. Is he a real person, or a figment of Neale's psychologically disturbed imagination? This leads to an unlikely bomb-attack, a death and a gun - actual events or more symptoms of Neale's paranoia? Third is a seance to which Neale is taken by an Austrian named Willi Hilfe (Carl Esmond) as a result of his investigation into 'The Mothers of Free Nations', an emigre charity organization responsible for the fete.Read more ›
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    Ministry of Fear (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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