Spine # 649
Available on Blu-ray & DVD
· New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
· New interview with Fritz Lang scholar Joe McElhaney
· PLUS: A new essay by critic Glenn Kenny
New cover by Geoff Grandfield
Please note that whilst I try to not give away vital plot details/scenes/developments of the film, some reviews may contain mild spoilers.
My Criterion career continues with Ministry of Fear, the WWII Nazi spy ring thriller from German master Fritz Lang. I have previously watched the ground-breaking futuristic Metropolis, M, The Big Heat & Beyond A Reasonable Doubt. The films are different in subject but all equally great on the screen.
The famous novelist Graham Greene, another master off screen, provides the story, and what a story (even though Greene disliked this film). From the opening scene we have the dark shadows that give this film the classic Noir look, with the ticking of the pendulum clock adding to the mood. The clock strikes 6pm and our protagonist is released from the asylum. Why was he there, for that you will have to watch the film.
The setting is England during WWII. The threat of dropping bombs has not deterred the Mothers of The Free Nation from holding their Fête and it is here where all the troubles for Mr Stephen Neale begin. He takes the cake, they want it back but he won’t give it. Why is the cake so important? Who is the man on the train with the peculiar eating habit?
As Mr Neale heads to London the questions start to pile up and strangers keep popping up. Who are the mysterious Mothers of The Free Nation? Who is after him and why? Can he trust Carla?
We are taken to the afterlife during a séance but all is not what it seems to be. A suitcase tries to kill him and we join the ordinary folk of London when they head into the tunnels of the Underground as the air raid sirens blare out over the city. You are reminded that “Careless talk costs lives” There are collaborators and traitors all around, but who are they? Every which way he turns, Neale is faced with people who may not be what they seem. He learns the truth as the twists and turns unravel themselves. There is even time a trip to Tailors for a fine handmade suit, though watch out for the flying bullets.
As our hero leaves behind all the chaos of London a promise is made, there will be no wedding cake!