Tremont Mail

The Landscape of Vengeance and Mystery

Fear is the Key


Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Year Released: 1972, Arrow Blu-ray 2024
Runtime: 1h 43m
Director(s): Michael Tuchner
Writer(s): Alistair MacLean, Robert Carrington
Cast: Barry Newman, Suzy Kendall, John Vernon, Dolph Sweet, Ben Kingsley, Ray McAnally, Peter Marinker, Tony Anholt, Elliott Sullivan, Roland Brand
Where To Watch: available February 13, 2024; pre-order your copy here,, or

RAVING REVIEW: Deep in the heart of 70s action films, a decade celebrated for reshaping the movie landscape, FEAR IS THE KEY stands out as an experience that merges intense emotion with riveting action. Barry Newman takes on the role of John Talbot, delivering a performance filled with depth and determination, setting this film apart as not just another revenge story but a journey through a tangled web of deceit. The story is captivating from the get-go, blending a heart-wrenching quest for justice with sequences that keep viewers on the edge of their seats.

Louisiana's vivid and untamed settings serve as a backdrop for the film; they are a battleground for Talbot's crusade, where each twist in the landscape mirrors the plot's unexpected turns. The interaction between Newman's Talbot and Suzy Kendall's portrayal of Sarah Ruthven adds something to the film that’s hard to explain, creating a partnership that navigates through peril with a bond as complex as the story. The ensemble, bolstered by Ben Kingsley in one of his first roles, brings richness to the narrative, making the confrontations all the more engaging.

Director Michael Tuchner elevates FEAR IS THE KEY beyond the conventional action thriller, infusing each scene with palpable tension and excitement. The high-octane car chases, meticulously orchestrated by stunt genius Carey Loftin, are a visual treat, showcasing a finesse in action choreography that's hard to find, even in some present-day action thrillers. Roy Budd's suspenseful score complements the film's dynamic pace, enhancing the atmosphere of intrigue and suspense.

FEAR IS THE KEY initially struggled to capture a broad audience upon its release, partly because it strayed from Alistair MacLean's novel that it was based on. Yet, this film has carved out a niche for itself, earning accolades for its unrefined charm and the depth of its storytelling. It proves that, even amid critique, a film draws viewers into its complex exploration of justice and the lengths one will go to achieve it.

Looking back, FEAR IS THE KEY embodies the adventurous spirit of the 70s cinema, daring to mix breathtaking action with narratives that provoke deep reflection. This film not only entertains with its chase scenes and confrontations but also engages the mind, urging viewers to ponder the intricate dance of morality and revenge.

FEAR IS THE KEY is a compelling concoction of mystery, action, and drama that reflects the filmmaking ethos of a bygone era and resonates with contemporary audiences seeking substance alongside spectacle. This underappreciated classic not only stands as a testament to the era that birthed it but also poses timeless questions about justice, vengeance, and the cost of both. For those searching for cinema that thrills while it makes you think, this film is a journey worth embarking on, proving its worth as a notable chapter in the annals of 70s film history.

Bonus Materials
High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
Original lossless mono audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
New audio commentary by filmmaker and critic Howard S. Berger
A Different Kind of Spy Game, a new visual essay by film critic and author Scout Tafoya
Fear in the Key of Budd, a new appreciation of composer Roy Budd and his score for Fear Is the Key by film and music historian Neil Brand
Bayou to Bray, an archive featurette in which crew members look back on the making of the film
Producing the Action, an archive interview with associate producer Gavrik Losey
Theatrical trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nathanael Marsh
Double-sided foldout poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nathanael Marsh
Illustrated collector’s booklet with new writing by filmmaker and critic Sean Hogan

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