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.