Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Movies That Fell Through the Cracks # 12

FEAR IS THE KEY was a major release in 1972, not some drive-in quickie. Based on a book by Alistair MacLean, the man who had previously created such hits as THE GUNS OF NAVARONE and ICE STATION ZEBRA, this was a non-stop, thrill-packed, suspenseful chase film that, quite frankly, I barely recall anything about. The ad doesn’t help, seeing as how it’s one of the worst designed film ads I believe I’ve ever seen and gives you very little clue as to what the picture offered. Same with the title. Sounds okay but what exactly does it mean? FEAR IS THE KEY to what exactly, y’know? Barry Newman starred, fresh from his cult car chase picture, VANISHING POINT (which I didn’t see until years later). His leading lady was Suzy Kendall, a mod sixties flavor of the month here on the last minutes of her fifteen. Newman would go from here into one of my all-time favorite TV lawyer series, PETROCELLI, based on his unpretentiously titled film vehicle, THE LAWYER. After that, he kept working and is still a nice surprise to see in a film today but he’s never above the title anymore. Kendall, married for a time to Dudley Moore, was little heard from in show business again. MacLean would bounce back to an extent with FORCE TEN FROM NAVARONE toward the end of the decade but his brand name seems to have faded with his death soon after. This film faded from memory almost before it finished unreeling. It's out there on video and DVD but you might look right over it without even realizing it.

1 comment:

Kirk G said...

I remember seeing this in a drive-in theatre alone. I was really impressed by it. I read all the MacLean books, and enjoyed this one the most of all. The title refers to the behind the scenes plot...that the main character is setting up the bad guy to confess his evil deed, but has to get him alone, completely at his mercy in a submersable two man submarine, thinking that he's going to die. Therefore, "Fear is the Key" to getting him to confess. This was MacLean at the top of his game. Later books were pale shadows of his former works. All style and grim and gritty, taciturn heroes. Almost no meat on the bones. The last big book was Goodbye California and Athabasca. Both were disappointments.