The Journey (1959)

The Journey
Directed by Anatole Litvak
Written by George Tabori
Alby Pictures
First viewing/YouTube

Paul Kedes: What does an honest man do in a dishonest situation?

This political/propaganda piece takes Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner’s The King and I screen chemistry to the next level.

The story is set in Hungary during the 1956 uprising.  Various foreigners are having a hard time leaving the place.  They are eventually transported by bus to a hotel near the border with Austria.  One of the travelers is Briton Lady Diana Ashmore (Kerr).  She is particularly concerned with the welfare of a mysterious man named Mr. Fleming (Jason Robards), who is suffering some kind of illness.  The other passengers come from many lands.

From practically the first frame we are aware that Fleming is actually a Hungarian dissenter and that he and Diana are no strangers.  When the party arrives at the hotel, they are greeted by a number of Soviet soldiers led by Major Surov (Brynner).  He is in charge of determining who will be allowed to exit the country and when.  The other travelers grow increasingly suspicious of “Fleming” and concerned that he is putting them in danger.  The only ace up Diana’s sleeve, is Surov’s evident attraction to her.   With Robert Morely, E.G. Marshall and Anne Jackson as travelers and Anouk Amie as a Hungarian.

First we have to believe that a man in Surov’s position could become so enamored of a woman in one day – even a woman as beautiful as Kerr – to do the things he does in this movie.  I never passed that threshold and there were other eye-rolling incidents that marred my enjoyment.  Brynner, as usual, gives a knock-out intense, lusty performance and speaks and sings lots of Russian to boot so there’s that going for it.

The Journey contains the screen debuts of Jason Robards Jr. and Ron Howard.


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