review for Ministry of Fear on AllMovie

Ministry of Fear (1944)
by Tom Vick review

This plot-heavy espionage thriller is stuffed with eccentric touches, from its premise -- a recently released mental patient accidentally wins a cake with a roll of secret Nazi microfilm baked into it -- to its bravura showdown conclusion. After stumbling onto the mysterious baked good, Ray Milland's Stephen Neale finds himself up against a sinister spy ring more than willing to play on his mental instability. They even hold a bogus séance designed to provoke his guilt at the death of his wife, the event that sent him into the mental hospital in the first place. If the plot becomes muddled at times, it still retains director Fritz Lang's always-compelling atmosphere of doom, and there's one stunning sequence that makes it all worthwhile. A pitch black room is suddenly pierced with the sound of gunfire, which lets in a single pinpoint of light. Stephen opens the door on a freshly killed corpse. Joel Coen and Ethan Coen paid tribute to this jaw-dropping scene in their neo-noir Blood Simple.