The Key (1958)

Approved  |   |  Drama, Romance, War  |  1 September 1958 (Italy)
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Reviews: 16 user | 3 critic

During World War II, tug boats conduct what are called salvage missions - picking up disabled ships. Not well equipped with weaponry, the tugs are sitting ducks for enemy fire. As such, the... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Capt. Chris Ford
Oskar Homolka ...
Capt. Van Dam (as Oscar Homolka)
Kieron Moore ...
Cmdr. Wadlow
Beatrix Lehmann ...
Noel Purcell ...
Hotel Porter
Bryan Forbes ...
Sidney Vivian ...
Rupert Davies ...
Russell Waters ...
Irene Handl ...
John Crawford ...
American Captain
Jameson Clark ...
English Captain


During World War II, tug boats conduct what are called salvage missions - picking up disabled ships. Not well equipped with weaponry, the tugs are sitting ducks for enemy fire. As such, the crew working the tugs have precarious lives, many with deep seated emotional problems. Before the Americans join the war, ex-American military man David Ross is assigned to captain a tug for the British military. He is shown the ropes by an old friend, Captain Chris Ford. Chris currently shares a flat with a young beautiful Italian-Swiss woman named Stella, who came with the flat and who lives a reclusive life there. Chris is the latest in a long line of tug boat captains who have lived there, each who has found another person to take over the flat and the associated looking after of Stella if anything is to happen to him. That person is given a key to the flat, the key only to be used if needed. The first in the series was Phillip Westerby, to who Stella was to be married before Phillip was killed... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


"with this key I thee wed." See more »


Drama | Romance | War


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Parents Guide:





Release Date:

1 September 1958 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

Stella  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


The tug used in the film was HMS Restive (HMT W 39), a Royal Navy Rescue Tug of the Assurance class. This class of tugs was built between 1940 and 1943. With a 1350 horsepower engine, these tugs could make 14 knots and were powerful enough to haul just about any capital ship back to port. Five (out of twenty-one built) were lost during the war. The ship numbers used in the film (W 83, W 86 and W 88) were not used by any ship of this class during the war. See more »


When Captain Ross is standing in the office listening to the Morse code transmission several people say that the ship is sending an SOS. While the shipboard operator may be requesting help, he is not sending SOS which consists of 3 short - 3 long - 3 short keystrokes. See more »


The First Noel
Sung by a vocal group at the air raid shelter
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User Reviews

Good English wartime melodrama
7 March 2004 | by (USA) – See all my reviews

Sophia Loren shines in a rather somber role as a woman in England who obstinately attaches herself to British naval officers that are involved in some of the most dangerous assignments in the war. Their job is to try to rescue the crews and cargo of ships that have been destroyed by Nazi ships or submarines. Since the Nazis know exactly where the battle took place, they know where the rescue ships are going to be, so the death rate among the rescue teams is very high. The great Trevor Howard gives a wonderfully understated performance, and William Holden also holds his own very well. The film is rather slow, though I prefer to call it casually paced. The wartime atmosphere of southern England is illustrated with good detail, and the action sequences are well-choreographed and suspenseful. It's not a great film, but I prefer it to most of those 'stiff upper lip' wartime melodramas that England and Hollywood produced in the forties.

35 of 36 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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