The 1975 political thriller Journey into Fear was an all-star contemporary adaptation of Eric Ambler’s seminal 1940 novel of the same name. A flop at the box office, it had a scant theatrical release onvirtually disappeared for many years (appearing briefly on VHS) until a recent Blu-ray release.
When I was compiling SUPPER WITH THE STARS with my co-author Jenny, we included this long-forgotten film as it featured Donald Pleasence and Shelley Winters – two of Vincent’s many legendary co*stars who, like Vincent, were also big foodies. So, I thought I’d share with you the recipes from Donald and Shelley that we included in the cookbook (at the bottom of this post). Now, was this Canadia-made thriller really a recipe for disaster?
Possessing valuable information about Turkey’s untapped natural resources, American oil exploration engineer Mr Graham (Sam Waterson) becomes the target of an assassination plot. In a bid to protect him, the head of Turkish security, Colonel Haki (Joseph Wiseman), fakes Graham’s death and sneaks him out of the country on a boat bound for Genoa. But also on board is Banat, a professional killer (Ian McShane) and the mastermind behind the plot, Dervos (Vincent Price).
Journey into Fear had all the ingredients to be a terrific film: a spy story that’s an influential classic of the genre, an award-winning director, and a superb international cast.
But while the film was ultimately let down by its weak script and rushed production, this second film adaptation of Eric Ambler’s seminal novel does have its moments. Director Daniel Mann and cinematographer Harry Waxman make effective use of the Turkish, Greek and Italian locations while also providing some well-staged action set pieces, and there’s an exciting score from composer Alex North.
While a fresh-faced Waterson gives a nuanced performance as the laconic Mr Graham, it’s the supporting players who are the film’s highlight. Zero Mostel chews the scenery as a Turkish oil agent, as does Hollywood legend Shelley Winters as shrewish American tourist Mrs Mathews. Her dinner scene, in which picks at her (foreign) food in disgust, is a highlight. In his final film role, Stanley Holloway plays her henpecked husband with great sincerity, and Yvette Mimieux (who will always be remembered by movie buffs as Weena in the 1960 sci-fi classic The Time Machine) provides the love interest.
A standout, however, is Donald Pleasence. He plays Kuvelti, a Turkish agent masquerading as a bungling tobacco salesman who is shadowing Mr Graham. He pops up in a couple of scenes – very much on the periphery of the action – before getting bumped off (which isn’t a spoiler if you happen to possess the paperback tie-in).
His best scene takes place on location in Athens, where he frantically searches the streets after becoming separated from Mr Graham, – who is being hunted down by McShane’s sweaty assassin. Pleasence’s character doesn’t have any scenes with Price (nor did he in another Price classic, The Monster Club). It is a shame, but then we do get a typically quirky Pleasence turn – which makes this a fun watch.
Price, of course, has a blast playing Dervos – an Arab agent pretending to be an art-loving amateur archaeologist (how very Vincent), and he brings much depth to his duplicitous character. His explosive death scene (by a flare gun) is actually one of Price’s more gruesome screen deaths, and kudos to him for doing his own stunt on camera as his clothes catch fire when he is shot by our hero in the film’s climax.
DONALD PLEASENCE’S SOLE BONNE FEMME
This recipe was featured in a 1975 episode of the Canadian TV show Celebrity Cooks, where Donald prepared it for host Bruno Gerussi. It was later included in a tie-in cookbook and now can be found in Supper with the Stars.
1 sole, filleted
1 cup stock (get head, bones, etc. for the stock or use an extra fillet, chopped)
1/2 lb. button mushrooms
1 doz. medium mushroom caps
INGREDIENTS – BEURRE MANIE:
2 tbsp. flour
2 shallots (finely chopped)
White wine (enough wine to cover fish plus wine to add later, but no more than 1 cup altogether)
2 tbsp. butter
Liquid drained from baking sole
Make the fish stock, using the head and bones, etc. or an extra fillet. Put in a saucepan, add a cup of water and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain. Season to taste.
Preheat oven to 350°C.
Put fillets in the bottom of a buttered earthenware baking dish. Sprinkle with finely chopped shallots and button mushrooms. Add enough wine to cover the fish stock.
Now add the bouquet garni, bring to a boil, cover with buttered paper, and bake in a moderate oven for 10 minutes.
Drain off the liquid from the baking dish and add some more white wine, making the total wine used no more than 1 cup. Put this liquid in a saucepan and keep it warm.
Make a beurre manié by kneading the flour and butter with your fingers as though you were rubbing fine pastry. Form into small balls and add them to the liquid, stirring well. It will thicken.
In another pan, sauté the mushroom caps in oil and lemon juice. Pour sauce over the sole and decorate it with the mushroom caps.
Place under a grill to brown lightly and glaze. Remove the bouquet garni before serving.
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