Fear Is the Key


Action / Crime / Drama

IMDb Rating 6.3 10 1501

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Uploaded By: FREEMAN


John Vernon as Vyland
Suzy Kendall as Sarah Ruthven
Barry Newman as John Talbot
Ben Kingsley as Royale

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Leofwine_draca 7 / 10

Forgotten thriller is well worth a look

FEAR IS THE KEY is an unusual and somewhat low key thriller of the 1970s. It's based on a novel by Alistair MacLean that I should imagine few people have heard of, and it stars Barry Newman of VANISHING POINT fame. I was surprised to find out that this is a UK production because you wouldn't be able to tell from watching it. The fact that it was a flop on release means that I'd never heard of it before I saw it showing on TV.

The film begins with an electrifying opening, full of twists, sudden violence, and high speed action. Then we get a lengthy, well-shot car chase clearly included to capitalise on Newman's reputation as a 'car chase' actor, before the movie settles into a rather bogged-down, if not confusing, storyline. However, there seem to be sudden eruptions of violence around every corner, so it's never less than watchable.

Eventually, though, it all makes sense, leading to a climax with an interesting setting. Newman is an acceptable hero but I was particularly excited to see Euro-starlet Suzy Kendall's (THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE) appearance. The by rote villain duties are provided by John Vernon, but the real standout is an incredibly youthful Ben Kingsley - yes, complete with his own head of hair - as a henchman. By the end of its running time, FEAR IS THE KEY has offered up plentiful action, some convoluted plotting, and just a few decent twists, and I thought it passed the time well for what it is.

Reviewed by mark.waltz 8 / 10

A rollercoaster ride with lots of climbing then very steep falls.

There's lots of flat surface then sudden hills then very deep falls and loop de loops that will have you on edge, breathing as you prepare for the next chase, the next shootout, the next twist. Just who Barry Newman's John Talbot is or why he is framed for a series of crimes in Louisiana to get him involved in something darker is never really clear but that's inconsequential when you find yourself on the journey of a lifetime. He's being held in court when he grabs a gun and takes pretty Suzy Kendall hostage. This leads into one of the greatest chase sequences in film history where he seems to have an angel on his shoulder as he gets away everytime the state police discover him.

When the chase is finally over, he finds himself in the huge mansion of Kendall's father, and that is when you realize that this has been all some sort of set-up that Kendall seems to have been an innocent pawn in. But nobody is really whom they appear to be, with the exception of the nasty John Vernon who is twice as slimy as he was as "Animal House's" notorious Dean Wormer, a truly hissable villain.

Based on a novel by adventure writer Alastair MacLean, this is an absolute thrill ride that seems to know when to give the audience a moment to breathe. The plot goes a bit haywire by the time Vernon's agenda becomes clear, but by that time, you're hooked and don't care how ridiculous it is. Kendall goes from fragile victim to a fighting machine and makes for a most terrific heroine. Newman is very funny considering that his character is in an unexplainable predicament, only hinted at in the film's prologue that you have to remember as it pops back into the narrative at the most bizarre point in the film. I'd have to call this one of the top ten movies of the 70's that most people have never heard of.

Reviewed by Coventry 7 / 10

Great suspense, either down in Louisiana or at the bottom of the sea

Now, I know that action/adventure movies based on Alistair MacLean novels usually require a large portion of suspension of disbelief, but "Fear is the Key" is extra far-fetched! A grieving man stages an entire criminal career, including a spectacularly violent escape from the court room with murder and hostage-taking, only so that he can infiltrate as a salvage expert into a gangster squad that wants to retrieve a valuable loot from a sunken airplane. Don't worry if it sounds too convoluted or incomprehensible, as the film is easy to follow and very entertaining.

There are three main reasons why "Fear is the Key" is a class above the vast majority of contemporary adventure/mystery thrillers. #1: the chase. A film that features a nearly 20-minutes-long car chase with, behind the wheel, Barry Newman, the same cult-movie stunt driver as in the legendary "Vanishing Point"? Yes, please! Excellent Louisianan filming locations, too. #2: the cast. The aforementioned Barry Newman is cool, as always, but particularly the bad guys impress. Sure, he's typecast, but nobody depicts a loathsome villain like John Vernon does. The film also stars a young Ben Kingsley, and he's truly awesome as a silent but deadly menacing hired killer. #3: the climax. I guarantee that "Fear is the Key" has one of the most intense, captivating and edge-of-the-seat suspenseful endings you'll ever see.

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