Journey into Fear (1943): Spy Thriller, Starring Joseph Cotten, Dolores Del Rio, and Orson Welles, Directed by Orson Welles (Uncredited)

Nominally, Norman Foster directed Journey into Fear, a spy thriller based on Eric Ambler’s novel of the same name.  I say nominally, because Orson Welles (and others) also shot some scenes and were involved in the final editing process.

Grade: B (***1/2 out of *****)

ourney Into Fear

The RKO release stars Joseph Cotten, who also wrote the screenplay, with uncredited contribution from Orson Welles.

In an opening scene, an assassin named Banat prepares a gun while a gramophone skips while it is playing.

Howard Graham (Cotten), an American armaments engineer, writes a letter to his wife, Stephanie (Ruth Warrick, who payed Welles’ first wife in “Citizen Kane”).

While journeying to the Soviet port of Batumi to return to the U.S. in order to complete his business with the Turkish Navy, Graham and his wife stop in Istanbul and are met by Kopeikin (Sloane), a Turkish employee of Graham’s company.

Under the pretense of discussing business, Kopeikin takes Graham to a nightclub to introduce him to dancer Josette Maretl (Dolores Del Rio) and her partner Gogo (Jack Durant).

Banat tries to kill Graham during a magic act, but instead shoots the magician. Graham is brought to the police for questioning, where Colonel Haki blames the assassination attempt on German agents seeking to delay the re-arming of Turkish ships.

The colonel shows Graham a photograph of Banat, who he says was hired by a Nazi agent named Muller. Haki then orders Graham to travel secretly to Batumi aboard a tramp steamer, while Haki oversees the safe transit of Stephanie.

The ending goes full circle to the present. Haki tells Graham as he finishes the letter that Stephanie is waiting for him. He wonders why the engineer took decisive action after years of being indecisive.

Graham tears up the letter and tells Haki that, “I got mad, spent too much time running away.”

The Mercury Production was also produced by Welles, again uncredited.

In 2005, an alternate cut was shown in a Welles retrospective at the Locarno Film Fest. It lacked the narration and ending of the U.S. version and included six minutes of footage that had been deleted by RKO.


Joseph Cotten as Howard Graham
Dolores del Río as Josette Martel
Ruth Warrick as Stephanie Graham
Agnes Moorehead as Mrs. Mathews
Jack Durant as Gogo
Everett Sloane as Kopeikin
Eustace Wyatt as Professor Haller/Muller
Frank Readick as Matthews
Edgar Barrier as Kuvetli
Jack Moss as Banat
Stefan Schnabel as Purser
Hans Conreid as the magician
Robert Meltzer as Steward
Richard Bennett as Ship’s Captain
Orson Welles as Colonel Haki



Produced by William Rose

Directed by Norman Foster and Orson Welles (uncredited)
Produced by Orson Welles (uncredited)
Screenplay by Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles (uncredited in some versions)
Based on Journey into Fear by Eric Ambler
Music by Roy Webb
Cinematography Karl Struss
Edited by Mark Robson

Produced, distributed by RKO Pictures

Release date: February 12, 1943

Running time: 68 minutes