Cast & Crew
Oscar Boetticher Jr.
Eilene Carr has a nightmare in which she is strolling along the Golden Gate Bridge on a foggy San Francisco night when a cab pulls over, three men jump out and two of them poise a knife at the other's throat. Eilene screams, and at the Rustic Dell Inn, outside of San Francisco, her shrieks bring the innkeeper and Barry Malcolm, a guest, rushing into her room to awaken her from her nightmare. Once she is alert, Eilene recognizes Barry as the intended murder victim in her dream. At breakfast the next morning, Eilene tells Barry that she is recuperating from shock suffered when the hospital ship on which she was serving as a nurse was sunk during battle. Barry is mysterious about his work, but when he receives a phone call directing him to a meeting in San Francisco that afternoon, he asks Eilene to accompany him into the city. George Smith, a man in the hotel lobby, overhears Barry's conversation and notifies Schiller, the owner of the Golden Gate watch repair shop in San Francisco about Barry's plans. Upon reaching the city, Barry visits his contact, Paul Devon, the leader of a group of government undercover agents. After informing Barry that he is being sent to Hong Kong to coordinate an underground group there, Devon tells him that an agent will pick him up in a taxi cab at his hotel at 10:30 that night and hands him a top secret pouch containing the names of double agents operating in Japan. After Barry leaves Devon's house, Schiller rings the doorbell and gains admittance by claiming that he has come to adjust Devon's grandfather clock. When Devon's butler leaves the room, Schiller opens the back of the clock and removes a small recording cyclinder that he had previously placed there. Upon returning to his shop, Schiller and Smith listen to Barry's recorded conversation and learn his misson. Resolving to gain possession of the list of double agents, the spies trace Barry to the Cumberland Hotel. After dining at the Caravan Club that night, Barry tells Eilene that he must leave on a mission and asks her to wait for him in the hotel lobby while he goes to his room to retrieve his suitcase. When Barry disappears into the elevator, Smith calls the hotel doorman and, pretending to be Barry, instructs him to send the man waiting out front in the cab to his room and dismiss the taxi. The vehicle departs, and another taxi driven by one of the spies replaces it in front of the hotel. After Barry drives away in the cab, Eilene is overcome by a strange sensation and stumbles into the street, where she is knocked down by an oncoming car. The blow to her head causes Eilene to recall the nightmare images of Barry's peril, and she hurries to Devon's house. Devon refuses to take Eilene's premonition seriously until the agent calls from the hotel informing him that Barry is missing. Hurrying to the bridge, the site of her nightmare, Eilene watches as a cab pulls over and three men jump out. Eilene screams, and a nearby guard runs to her rescue. When the guard appears, two of the men hop back into the cab and speed away, leaving Barry, who has thrown the pouch into the water, behind. The harbor patrol is unable to locate the pouch, but, Eilene recalls hearing a boat pass beneath the bridge. Thinking that the packet may have landed on the deck of the boat, Barry querries the port director, who denies that a ship was in the vicinity that night. In reality, an experimental Navy ship passed under the bridge, but the director lacks the authority to divulge that information. While Barry calls an agent friend for help in locating the ship, Smith, who has followed him to the office of the Port Authority, deduces that the packet may have fallen onto a passing ship and notifies Schiller. To insure the return of the pouch, Schiller places an advertisement in the classifieds offering a reward for it. Meanwhile, Barry receives a message from his friend, directing him to a boat docked in the Half Moon Bay harbor. After giving Eilene the note for safekeeping, Barry proceeds to the harbor. While waiting Barry's return, Eileen reads the paper and, noticing the ad, telephones the interested party and is directed to Schiller's shop. There she is taken captive, and when Schiller finds the note with the ship's name on it, he calls the Half Moon Bay harbor police. Impersonating the director of the Port Authority, Schiller orders a messenger to deliver the package to the office in San Francisco. Soon after, Barry arrives at the harbor, and when he learns that the pouch is enroute to San Francisco, he orders the messenger intercepted. When Barry returns to his hotel room that night, he finds a note demanding the packet in exchange for Eilene's life and directing him to Chinatown. Meanwhile, at the Devon house, Devon notices that his grandfather clock has stopped and finds the recording device hidden in the back. Devon proceeds to Schiller's repair shop in Chinatown while Smith escorts Barry at gunpoint to the same shop. After procuring the pouch, Schiller and Smith chain Barry to a table, turn on the gas and leave him and the bound Eilene to perish in the impending explosion. Seizing a jeweler's magnifiying glass, Barry cleverly pens "hail Japan" on it, holds it to a window and illuminates it with his lighter. Angered by the slogan, some passing Chinese smash the window just as Devon and the police arrive. To avoid the police dragnet, Smith and Schiller separate and accidentally shoot each other in the fog. Later, Barry and Eilene return to the bridge and embrace.
Oscar Boetticher Jr.
John H. Elliott
Tom P. Dillon
Chin Kuang Chow
Jerome Pycha Jr.
Escape in the Fog
It's the story of an expert in psychological warfare (William Wright) who is given a secret mission to deliver some wartime documents from San Francisco to the Far East. German agents, however, have gotten wind of the plan and spend the movie trying to capture Wright before he can leave the city. Before we see all this, however, we are introduced to a Navy nurse on leave (Nina Foch) who has a dream of Wright being attacked by two men on the foggy Golden Gate Bridge - but only after she awakes does she actually meet Wright. As she tries to figure out the meaning of her dream, she becomes his unwitting partner as he tries to outwit the Germans; naturally the two also fall for each other (in an unconvincing romantic subplot).
The dream is the most interesting device in the film, but in the end it's just a device that doesn't have much payoff. The content of the dream plays out in reality, but that happens at the film's midpoint, and Foch's ability to have premonitions is never again mentioned or explored. If it had been, the end result might have been something more than just a routine spy story. Escape in the Fog has something of the episodic feel of a mildly intriguing though fast-paced serial, with the good guys and bad guys hatching plans, having revelations, and confronting each other numerous times. Watching the film, one does wish the bad guys were a little more crafty and the drama was a bit more heightened.
It would be a stretch to try and find any real visual stamp of Boetticher's in a film like Escape in the Fog. His more mature later work features vivid and fascinating spatial relationships between characters in the frame and against the landscape, but you won't find that here. Instead you'll just find a filmmaker starting to piece together the basics in a breezy little programmer. The use of fog to create a claustrophobic and occasionally dreamlike effect is probably the most interesting thing visually in the movie.
For Boetticher, these early B productions were simply a training ground. As he later wrote in his memoir, When in Disgrace: "Everything involved with my first five films at Columbia was a learning experience. These little black-and-white pictures were made in twelve days for one hundred thousand dollars....Harry Cohn made sure that I had top old-time cameramen. They were supposed to be there to help me, but I soon discovered they were there to show me what they knew and how very mistaken I was about everything I set out to accomplish. Don't misunderstand me, they were all fine gentlemen. But I was young, and green as grass, and cocky, and consequently, my aged cinematographers and I never really advanced to the "palzy" stage. I invented a system that worked. When one of them questioned me about a shot I had requested, I merely shook my head, patted him on the arm, and said 'You really don't understand what I'm trying to do, do you?' Then I walked away. Of course, most of the time they were right and I was wrong, and I sensed it. But, being wrong as a film director can cost you a hunk of prestige in a hurry. So I faked it....I really faked those first five [pictures] with a bundle of phony confidence."
Although Wright and Foch have the most screen time, top billing goes to Otto Kruger, the immensely enjoyable character actor who specialized in charming, urbane villains. He's fine as always here but doesn't get much to do. William Wright was an unremarkable actor who appeared almost entirely in B movies in a 45-film career that spanned the 1940s. He died in 1949, at age 38, from cancer. He also played a part in Boetticher's first film, the Boston Blackie programmer One Mysterious Night (1944).
Escape in the Fog was the eleventh film for actress Nina Foch. A few months later she would star in one of the most famous B movies of them all, My Name Is Julia Ross (1945), for Joseph Lewis, a director whose talent and sensibilities were not too far off from Boetticher's. Foch went on to higher-profile work in movies and television, drawing Oscar® and Emmy nominations, and later she became a celebrated acting teacher. She died in 2008. Foch treats the script of Escape in the Fog much better than it really is, which ends up making the film itself better.
Escape in the Fog opened at Grauman's Chinese Theater on May 18, 1945. Variety was quite kind in its review, calling it "a nifty spy thriller" with "sturdy production values." The review continued: "Oscar Boetticher, Jr. has given plot fast, suspenseful direction to mark it as first-class supporting feature. Script and good playing maintain interest against a background of San Francisco fog and war intrigue... Wright and Miss Foch team excellently with good performances. [Konstantin] Shayne, [Ivan] Triesault and [Ernie] Adams are expert menaces."
Character actor Ivan Triesault will be recognizable to movie fans. An Estonian actor who specialized in foreign villains, he would soon appear memorably in Notorious (1946) as one of the German spies. Boetticher is credited here as "Oscar Boetticher, Jr.," his given name. He would start using his preferred name of "Budd Boetticher" on screen with his first truly personal film: Bullfighter and the Lady (1951).
Producer: Wallace MacDonald
Director: Oscar Boetticher, Jr.
Screenplay: Aubrey Wisberg
Cinematography: George Meehan
Art Direction: Jerome Pycha, Jr.
Film Editing: Jerome Thoms
Cast: Otto Kruger (Paul Devon), Nina Foch (Eileen Carr), William Wright (Barry Malcolm), Konstantin Shayne (Schiller), Ivan Triesault (Hausmer, Schiller's Henchman), Ernie Adams (George Smith).
BW-63m. Closed Captioning.
by Jeremy Arnold
Escape in the Fog
The working title of this film was Out of the Fog. According to a pre-production Hollywood Reporter news item, William Castle was originally to have directed this picture and Lynn Merrick was to have played the female lead.
Released in United States Spring April 5, 1945
Released in United States Spring April 5, 1945