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Customer Review

29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lang Battles Nazism, February 3, 2007
This review is from: Ministry of Fear [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Fritz Lang was one of the greatest directing talents to ever emerge from German cinema. Born in Vienna, he migrated to Berlin following service in World War One and became one of Germany's premier directors.

When Hitler came to power, however, Lang found himself at a potentially deadly crossroad. He was summoned by Joseph Goebbels, the Third Reich's infamous Director of Propaganda, and was offered the position of becoming the regime's head of filmmaking.

The sagacious director knew a trap when he saw it. He was aware that the Nazi regime was aware of his opposition to everything it stood for as well as one other important fact. While Lang was a practicing Catholic, his mother was Jewish, a fact of which Goebbels and Hitler were surely aware.

Lang believed that his life was at stake. He left quickly by train that evening and proceeded to Paris, leaving behind his wife and family. From there he moved to London, at which point famous producer David O. Selznick of "Gone with the Wind" fame came to his rescue by putting him under contract and bringing Lang to Hollywood.

It was with understandable relish that Lang, after reading famous British author Graham Greene's suspense novel, desired to bring "Ministry of Fear" to the screen. The 1944 release centers on the story of a victim of fate, played by Ray Milland, becoming caught up in Nazi espionage intrigue in war torn London.

In fact, the touching scene where Milland and Marjorie Reynolds realize that they are falling in love occurs during a blackout when they, along with other Londoners, seek refuge at an Underground Station.

The story begins when Milland, who the following year would win a Best Actor Oscar for "The Lost Weekend," which was directed by another famous war time émigré from German directing ranks, Billy Wilder, is released from an asylum. He has some time until catching the train for London and decides to spend it at a nearby charity bazaar.

The spy story technique of victim by mistake is employed when Milland assumes the role intended for someone else. He is steered to a fortuneteller, who provides him with the winning weight of a cake being auctioned off in a situation that involves what lies beneath crust and battered eggs. The "real eggs" factor is stressed, an important war time element during a period of shortages.

After Milland leaves the bazaar and steps aboard the train bound for London he realizes he is a marked man. He wonders why and, after a close call, decides to pursue the case when he arrives in London.

In London Milland is thrown into a labyrinthine spy network in which, as customary, it is difficult to distinguish loyalists from Nazi spies. He makes a correct judgment call in trusting and ultimately falling in love with good blonde Marjorie Reynolds, who runs a refugee organization along with her brother, over bad blonde Hillary Brooke, a phony psychic with a penchant for conducting interesting but potentially deadly séances.

The film contains a surprise twist at the end as viewers attempt to figure out the identity of an ultimate insider directing spy activity.

Two excellent character performers surface in villainous roles. They are Dan Duryea, who starred in the successful Lang film noir epics "The Woman in the Window" (1944) and "Scarlet Street" (1945) opposite Joan Bennett and Edward G. Robinson, and Alan Napier, one of Britain's leading stage performers, who was a student at the prestigious London-based Royal Academy of Dramatic Art at the same time as John Gielgud and Robert Morley.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 28, 2012, 3:59:37 AM PST
The story of Lang's immediate escape to France was one he exaggerated over the years. Read Patrick McGilligan's biography,' Fritz Lang The Nature of the Beast.' Lang's passport proves he made a few trips to France months after his meeting with Goebbels before finally relocating.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2013, 9:56:35 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 9, 2013, 9:57:28 PM PST
C McGhee says:
While that is true no one is mentioning the fact that his wife was a big fan of Hitler & Lang & his wife (Thea von Harbou) were severely divided over the issue the Nazi's. This made it easier for him to leave her behind. She joined the NSDAP in 1932 & she was prominent in developing Nazi propaganda after he left.

Posted on Mar 13, 2013, 10:22:30 AM PDT
It's one of my favorite thrillers. I'm glad it's now on dvd. I told Criterion they should do it; and they did.

Posted on Jun 3, 2013, 3:38:47 AM PDT
JNagarya says:
Thanks for telling us what the story is! Now we needn't bother watching the film.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 1, 2013, 11:42:47 AM PDT
David Cady says:
And you needn't have bothered to continue reading. It's called free will.
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