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Ministry of Fear (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

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Product Details

  • Format: Black & White, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Studio: Criterion
  • Release Date: March 12 2013
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00AQ6J536
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #29,037 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Marinelli on May 23 2013
Format: DVD
Fritz lang the famous german director who left europe as well as Hitchcock(who also was trained/learned his trade in Germany)became famous for his films Metropolis and M. M the spy tale probably caught the eye of the producer of this film who write the screenplay and Lang took on the project though the script was not to his liking or the original author's. Here we have a criterion film collection and the print is in excellent condition although as one commentator remarks(the only one) there is not much bonus material more or less a few comments comparing Lang and Hitchcock the latter was not as well respected for his work in England. This seems odd and we dont know whether it was his work in Germany where he was taught his trade but proposed works like The War of the Worlds and Our Man in Havana eventually were made by others. The much celebrated work Our Man in Havana, by the same author and fellow catholic as the author od this piece, turned down his overture and publicly expressed in England during the 30's his disdain for Hitchcock's work The Secret Agent which he felt did not elevate the work to a cinematic level. However laNG ALSO COMING AND TRAINED IN EUROPE and at this time directing such films as Woman in the Window, Scarlet Street and Cloak and Dagger does an admirable job with the script which did not meet expectations. There not much you can do when the producer writes it, and the first scene where we see a man being released from a mental ward, the hunt, a later murder, the scenes with children and a cake, like a children's birthday party with a surprise thrown in are wonderfully recreated and show why the war was one of the ladies in the cake scenes shows "for a good cause.Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mayor Maynot on May 28 2013
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This film was my first introduction to Lang and I am very happy that I chose this film. The contrast of the simplicity of the characters contrasted by the complexity and ambiguity of the plot makes for a very entertaining and even tense film.
There is a brilliant use of lighting and subversion. You are never sure until the end who is whom. You are never sure until the end what part each person plays and even at the end there is still a tiny bit of doubt. I very much enjoy films that do that and they are RARE.
This film gets a place in my top shelf films. I have heard that this is a "minor" Lang production. I can't wait to see his majors!
I highly recommend it to any and every film buff!
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By sam on April 14 2013
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
As one can expect from the Criterion Studio, this release of Lang's war-time paranoia is a must have for all fans of the genre. The packaging is tasteful and elegant and fits nicely among other CC titles on ones shelf!

Thanks Amazon for making these titles available!
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Keith Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 20 2013
Format: Blu-ray
This review is for Ministry of Fear (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] ASIN: B00AQ6J536.

Very good film, nice restored, but -- when I buy a blu-ray (or DVD) I'm looking for extras. This only has one 20 minute presentation by a film historian.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 52 reviews
35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Criterion-lite -- but Excellent May 17 2013
By Bruce Eder - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The Criterion Collection has licensed Fritz Lang's MINISTRY OF FEAR from Universal, and while they haven't given this picture first-cabin treatment -- there's no wall-to-wall commentary, and the only video supplements are a talk by a Lang biographer and the movie trailer -- it is well put together, and the picture looks and sounds great; I saw this in a theater just a couple of years ago, and the DVD compares well to the 35mm print shown at New York's Film Forum. The menu is easy to use, and the discussion about Lang and the movie is informative, especially in resolving differences between the movie and Graham Greene's original novel (Greene didn't like the movie adaptation). As for the film, it's a keeper -- perhaps not the best of Lang's wartime output (Scarlet Street, Man Hunt), but just below those in quality, and certainly superior to some of his other thrillers of his era (Cloak And Dagger).
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
One of the best anti-Nazi films from director Fritz Lang April 29 2013
By Dr. Ronald Schwartz - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Based upon a Graham Greene novel, MINISTRY OF FEAR has Ray Milland starring as a released inmate from a remote state asylum for supposedly murdering his wife, Milland totally walks into a local fair, buys a cake meant for Dan Duryea (which contains some piece of microfilm useful to Nazi infiltrators in London,) attends a seance run by Hilary Brooke (who looks fantastically beautiful), bolts from the seance when Duryea is killed and is chased throughout the film by Nazi sympathizers. He manages to find love with Marjorie Reynolds, a blonde beauty with a terrible Austrian accent but I won't reveal the ending. Clocks, circles, doors play a central role in the mise-en-scene. There is some clever camera work throughout this b&w film beautifully mounted by Paramount Pictures in 1943. The conclusion is a stunner. But the truly great Lang films, M and DR. MABUSE show off Lang's pictorial style better than some of his later sound work. I would recommend also seeing SCARLET STREET, WOMAN IN THE WINDOW and YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE as 5 star American films made by Lang and all available at amazon.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4 1/2 stars (BLU RAY) for a Fritz Lang spy thriller July 14 2013
By M. Oleson - Published on
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Minor but Interesting Lang Sept. 23 2014
By Film Buff - Published on
Format: DVD
Ministry of Fear (1944) is one of four Fritz Lang wartime espionage thrillers that were interfered with by their respective studios beyond the director's control. One understands the need for propaganda in such sensitive political times, but the need for simplistic Good v Evil and a happy end worked against Lang's usual claustrophobic obsessions. Man Hunt (1941), Hangmen Also Die (1943), Cloak and Dagger (1946) and Ministry of Fear are all films with great promise, but which are sadly flawed as a result. Ministry of Fear starts off brilliantly enough with the credits rolling over one of Lang's many clocks to appear throughout his work. Stephen Neale (Ray Milland) is counting the seconds down to the moment of his release from Lembridge Asylum where he has just spent two years because of the mercy killing of his wife. One cycle of Langian fate is concluded and another is about to kick off. The suggestion of psychological turmoil leads to four scenes where we literally can't trust what we see. First is a village fete (set at night with kids running around!!) where Neale wins a cake. We see a tall blonde figure (Dan Duryea) for the first time. He is certainly one of Lang's harbingers of fate. Second is a train sequence where a blind man is introduced by his cane tapping on the platform through a cloud of smoke. Is he a real person, or a figment of Neale's psychologically disturbed imagination? This leads to an unlikely bomb-attack, a death and a gun - actual events or more symptoms of Neale's paranoia? Third is a seance to which Neale is taken by an Austrian named Willi Hilfe (Carl Esmond) as a result of his investigation into 'The Mothers of Free Nations', an emigre charity organization responsible for the fete. At the seance we meet the tall blonde man again (calling himself Mr Cost) and in the gloom a mysterious voice claims she was poisoned by Neale - the clearest indication yet that everything we have seen so far is Neale's hallucination as it is impossible that others at the seance know about his wife. A shot rings out. Lights go up to reveal a murder with Neale the probable culprit. We are still unsure about Neale as Lang's carefully constructed mise-en-scene has so meticulously established a sense of ambiguity. An unlikely escape is followed by the last scene to really work in the film where Neale hides from his pursuers in the London Underground with Carla Hilfe (Marjorie Reynolds), the sister of Willi. As a mysterious man searches for him, Neale tells Carla about the killing of his wife. This works very well for we are as in the dark (in the underground!) about Neale as she is. In Graham Greene's book which 1944 audiences would have known, Neale's killing is more murder than assisted-suicide and they would have trusted Neale even less than we do. We are also unsure about Carla, her being of obviously Aryan extraction and a possible member of the Nazi spy ring.

Up to this point the film is Grade A film noir. Atmospheric shadowy lighting and slick camera work by Henry Sharp adds to the psychological ambiguity of Lang's mise-en-scene. A splash of paranoia here and a dash of violence there and all we need to make it a complete film noir is a femme fatale. Unfortunately characterization across the board soon becomes way too telegraphed for the film's good. Two possible femmes fatale are introduced. There's the beautiful medium, Mrs Bellane (Hillary Brooke) who is given a scene of character development only to be abrubtly forgotten. Then there is Carla who becomes merely the 'love interest'. Had our doubts about the characters been maintained until the very end, the film may have reached greatness. Too bad the carpet is ripped from under our (and Lang's) feet by the powers that be at Paramount who re-cut the film into a straight-forward goodies v baddies Boys' Own Hitchcock-wannabe spy jaunt. As the psychological complexity is stripped away so is our suspension of disbelief and we find ourselves faced with fake London sets, unbelievable wooden stereotypes mouthing movie talk which sounds terrible. It's all a far cry from the subtlety of The Woman in the Window which Lang made the same year. Traces of what could have been remain - especially the reappearance of Dan Duryea as a sinister tailor who dials a telephone number with a long pair of tailor's shears before topping himself - but these can't cover up the film's final idiocies. I found the final rooftop shoot-out ridiculous when I saw it as a kid over 30 years ago and my feeling is still the same - did Lang really shoot this? Then there's the absurd final scene of the two leads driving on the coast, talking about marriage and cake(!!) in a happy-go-lucky manner which feels like it's strayed in from another movie entirely. No, this is far from classic Lang. Lovers of Graham Greene won't like it either as the film strays too far from the book. In the book Arthur Rowe's (Stephen Neale in the film) guilt over the murder of his wife hangs over him the entire time and the final marriage between him and Anna (Carla in the film) is far from spontaneous and care-free. It's ironic that the original book is more Langian than Lang's film version of it. Paramount's efforts to turn the film into another Foreign Correspondent (1940) or Saboteur (1941) fudged the themes Greene and Lang were trying to ellucidate with the result that both of them duly hated the film when it was released. A curate's egg then, but the DVD itself is good. Optimum Home Entertainment have done a good job with the visual side, but the sound is too recessed for my liking. No extras, but at this price Lang devotees should snap this up as quickly as they can.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Intense noir April 15 2013
By B. Adducchio - Published on
Format: DVD
Fritz Lang's "Ministry of Fear" resembles a Hitchockian thriller, as Ray Milland plays our hero in a "Wrong Man" scenario. Milland who would win an Oscar the following year for his most famous performance, "The Lost Weekend," shines in this movie too as Stephen Neale, caught in a mix of political espionage during the height of the Second World War. Milland is mistaken for someone else and given access to a very sensitive material that's hidden in a cake. As the story unfolds, Neale meets a cast of characters that the audience is unsure of who is helping Neale and who is out to hurt him.

Fritz Lang is known for his noir like features, "M" comes to mind. While Ministry of Fear is probably not one of his most famous movies, it's a suspenseful thriller that will keep the audience guessing the entire time. I'm glad to see it restored on Criterion.

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