Wednesday, August 09, 2017


Two years after THE LAWYER and one after VANISHING POINT, once hot stuff actor Barry Newman starred in this forgotten feature that I'm surprised didn't turn more heads during the early-seventies New Hollywood (with tinges of the Old One still around) days. But this one ain't no hype and I gotta say FEAR IS THE KEY's a pretty maddening film that'll prove to you that there was a certain bared-wire intensity to many of these seventies flicks that just didn't survive into the eighties and beyond, perhaps because moom pitcher goers were too stressed out from all of those hard-edged films and they just wanted to mellow out a bit. And if so...shame on them!

But not me Sam, because its these kinda flicks that get me up and excited, and FEAR IS THE KEY does a pretty good job of it. Newman plays Talbot, some guy who we first see talking to his brother via short wave radio. Turns out that bro, along with Talbot's wife and turdler son, are the lone occupants of a plane (with bro the pilot) carrying some extremely precious cargo. Without warning another plane swoops down and blows Talbot's entire family to Kingdom Come leaving not only Our Hero but us viewers totally caught off guard.

Next thing we know Talbot is in some backwater Louisiana town causing trouble and beating the bejabbers outta some local gendarmes before being hauled into court, where he makes a brilliant escape while taking a local gal (played by the naturally good looking Suzy Kendall who sure has a hard time turning her English accent into Deep South). This leads to a pretty hotcha ten-minute car chase scene that ends with Talbot taking his hostage to his hideout before getting captured by some ex-cop out for the reward moolah. THEN
it gets really strange what with the introduction of the shady Vyland (played by Dean Wormer himself John Vernon) and his weirdo sidekick Royale, who in a good ten years later shaved his bean and became Gandhi, both of who offer to get Talbot off the hook because they have, in the catchphrase of another film of that very same year, a deal he can't refuse. And you know he just can't!

Hokay, I thought the film might have sagged a bit after the non-refused deal began getting into gear, but then it perks up perhaps thanks to the presence of the sadistic bodyguard who gives Talbot a bad time as well as a really big plot twist that might seem unbelievable but helps tie up the big loose end in the story (like, what about Talbot's dead family???). And hey, you just better not be a Lou Costello type who gets wrapped up in moom pitcher plots living vicariously through the people on the screen because the last five minutes of this 'un'll leave you literally gasping for air!

Newman plays it great throughout as the wired troublemaker while Vernon is his usual evil self in one of those nasty guy roles he was definitely born to play. Even Ben Kingsley, who I still think is an overrated professional ponce type, is particularly creepoid as the sidekick who comes off more like a three-piece businessman who just happens to be a little greedier than should be allowed. Kendall as the galpal/hostage is also an asset to the film, or is this just because back in 1972 females didn't come off as purposefully unattractive as they tend to be these days?

This shoulda gotten out a lot more'n it did. If you think its due for a major re-eval then maybe this li'l writeup'll start the ball rolling. Help give it a li'l nudge if you can.

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