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Criterion Collection: Ministry of Fear [Blu-ray] [1944] [US Import]

Ray Milland , Fritz Lang    Blu-ray

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.9 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 1/2 stars (BLU RAY) for a Fritz Lang spy thriller 14 July 2013
By M. Oleson - Published on
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There may be spoilers.

I remember getting a pretty good deal on this Criterion Blu ray edition of this Fritz Lang directed film. Although I had never seen it before, I will pretty much see anything with Lang's name attached, especially when he's in charge. The setting is England smack dab in the middle of WW II and the Nazi's are bombing the hell out of the place. Stephen Neale is about to be released from the "asylum" where he was placed after his implication in his wife's death. We are not sure early on what happened but it comes out in bits and pieces as the story develops.

Before getting on a train to London where he will get a fresh start (dodging bombs I guess) Neale stops for a charity event near the station. He's persuaded to guess the weight of a large cake which he correctly guesses thanks to a fortune teller who gives him the answer. Alas the fortune teller gave the information to the wrong man. After Neale boards the train, complete with cake in hand, he is joined in his compartment by a supposed blind man. As it turns out the blind man isn't what he seems. As a quick aside this is the first time I've ever heard anyone pronounce Nazi as Nazee rather than Natzy. Sorry.

The blind man is just the first in a series of misdirection involving people and who they may or may not be. While it is certainly not difficult to identify the bad guys for most viewers of this stylized type thriller, there is enough illusion to keep you guessing. As Neale runs after the man who took his cake, a Nazi bomb drops on the guy as well as the cake. So what's going on here?

After getting to London, Neale hires a private investigator to help him figure that out beginning with the charity organization who sponsored the cake guessing contest. Eventually he meets the lovely Austrian woman, Carla Hilfe (Marjorie Reynolds) and her brother Willi (Carl Esmond) who head the organization. It turns out there are German spies afoot in England and the cake was smuggling microfilm containing British defense secrets.

Lang's use of the camera is very well done. There are some interesting scenes where the angle of the camera is tilted up or down giving the shots a different perspective. In one particular scene, as Neale is about to confront one of the bad guys at a tailor's shop, he sits next to a wall that turns out to be a wall-to-wall mirror just reflecting what he was looking at, off screen from the viewer's perspective. It had me fooled! "Ministry of Fear" was adapted from a Graham Greene novel and he was allegedly furious over the film. Lang had changed many of the elements Greene thought were critical to the story. Personally, I don't care. While this may not be the masterpiece film in Lang's body of work, it is still an excellent film by any standard.

As usual Criterion handles the transfer well. Look for a 1.37:1 aspect ratio and a 1080p resolution. Here are the notes from Criterion regarding the video:

"This new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a Lasergraphics scanner from a 35mm safety fine-grain master. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, and jitter were manually removed using MTI's DRS and Pixel Farm's PFClean, while Image Systems' Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise reduction, and flicker.

Transfer supervisor: Lee Kline.
Colorists: Jason Crump/Metropolis Post, New York; Lee Kline."

The audio only has one option, a lossless mono. It is certainly fine for this film but has obvious limitations. Extras include a trailer, an interview with Lang biographer Joe McElhaney and a booklet containing an essay by critic Glenn Kenny.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wait for a Criterion Sale 18 April 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on
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Fairly good movie, very good transfer. Only supplement is a very brief interview about the film and director Lang. Don't pay $25 for this. You'll regret it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mystery and suspense at its best 31 Dec 2013
By Jeffrey S. Lind - Published on
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A classic film noir with many twists and turns throughout. I would highly recommend to anyone who is looking for a classic and classy film.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Criterion Blu-ray editon looks great. 3 Sep 2013
By M. Kenny - Published on
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In my opinion this is a lesser Fritz Lang film but the Criterion BD gives a beautiful picture and good sound.
Reading the Amazon reviews of this film is very enjoyable, one saying that Ray Milland puts him to sleep and another saying the only good thing about the film is Ray Milland's acting.
The plot is convoluted, a bomb exploding in an apartment is one of the worst effects ever done in Hollywood and the contrived romance between the two leads is far fetched even by Hollywood standards. The only suspense is the lead character trying to convince the police that what he says is true.
So what is good about this film? The acting is good (unless you hate Ray Milland) even though the plot can confuse the hell out of you with all the loose ends, but if you just let the film unwind and you go with the flow, it becomes an enjoyable spy picture.
It seems that this picture was NOT a "Fritz Lang picture" in that he did not have complete control, others controlled the script, but even with that he did a good job of setting up the scenes and the lighting and photography are really good. If you are looking for a really great spy thriller, this ain't it. It is an enjoyable spy picture as long as you don't analyze it too much.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blu ray on B&W Film Noir you cant get better 21 May 2013
By John Muuss - Published on
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I love Film Noir and when you put a film noir movie together with Blu ray you get the best in viewing entertainment and then Criterion is a Cherry on the top.
This is a True Blue Fritz Lang film noir movie with Ray Milland at his always best. Milland, just out of the hospital stops at a ladies fair and buys a chance on a cake. He wins, but what he wins is a romp with Nazi's who want to "Do him in". One of Lang's best.
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