Orson Welles had planned to produce, direct and star in RKO's Journey Into Fear, but prior commitments compelled him to vacate the director's chair in favor of Norman Foster. Joseph Cotten, who starred as an American gunnery engineer up to his armpits in international intrigue, adapted the screenplay from the novel by Eric Ambler. Targeted for extermination by the Gestapo, Cotten secretly books passage on a steamer bound from Turkey to Batumi. His fellow passengers include dancer Dolores Del Rio and her gigolo partner Jack Durant; talkative Frenchwoman Agnes Moorehead and her browbeaten husband Frank Readick; German archaeologist Eustace Wyatt; and a secretive, obese, thick-spectacled gent, played by Orson Welles' business partner Jack Moss. From the outset, it is no secret that Moss is a Nazi assassin. The question: who are his contacts, and how long will it be before Cotten is forced into a showdown? The very complex storyline was made even more so by RKO's decision to pare the film down to 69 minutes; several resultant plot gaps had to be bridged by an ongoing offscreen narration, presented in the form of a letter written by Cotten to his worried wife Ruth Warrick. As one can see, virtually the entire roster of Welles' Mercury Theatre troupe is involved in Journey Into Fear. Welles himself plays colorful Turkish police officer Colonel Haki, while Everett Sloane, Hans Conried and Edgar Barrier essay significant smaller roles. Director Norman Foster so slavishly imitates the patented Wellesian visual style (following Welles' pre-production "storyboards" dictating choice of camera angle, lighting etc.) that many historians have assumed that Welles himself directed the picture. Remade for Canadian TV in 1975.
by Hal Erickson synopsis