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Fear Is The Key (1972)  rating

Review: written 2008

Tightly plotted, well put together thriller

 Fear Is The Key (1972)

If 70's fashion choices and dated music are really going to turn you off, then don't bother with this - but if you can peel past that layer, then this is well worth the effort, as what is left is a tightly plotted and engaging thriller.

Barry Newman (remember him from TV's Petrocelli..?) stars as John Talbot, who we first see in an introduction as he hears his wife die as part of some unknown skullduggery. The action then moves to 3 years later, and he is passing through some Hicksville Louisiana town and gets involved in a brawl which lands him in court. Things go awry, and he takes a woman hostage and flees the courtroom, leading to a blistering 20 minute car chase. How this ties together has a lot to do with things not being quite what they seem, but to say more would be unkind to those who have not seen the film before - after all, this is an Alister Maclean story, who is not particularly known for having events being all that they seem. After the chase, much of the film is interiors, and an unusual denouement which is particularly claustrophobic, which while fitting, feels somewhat anticlimactic after such an intense opening.

Look out for Ben Kingsley as a steely-eyed hitman - this was his big screen debut, and its almost disconcerting to see him with hair...

Best of all, the movie is now available in widescreen, which allows the photography to be appreciated (at least in exterior shots - the interiors are somewhat drab by comparison) without the pain of pan-and-scan, and is surprisingly clear and flawless for a 36 year old movie

I recommend not being put off by the age - this is a satisfying little thriller that gets all its details right, is just the right length, edited with a sure hand to wring tension out of scenes which otherwise could have been humdrum, and has one of the great classic 70's car chases. Thumbs up.

 Fear Is The Key (1972)

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