During World War II, tugboats 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 tugboat 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 whom Stella was to be married before Phillip was killed. ...Written by
After just a few weeks of filming, writer and producer Carl Foreman wanted to replace Sophia Loren with Ingrid Bergman but William Holden persuaded Foreman to keep her. See more »
Damaged ship is sending SSS instead of SOS, but during WWII merchants ships in danger was instructed to send RRR instead of SOS if attacked by a Surface ship or a SSS if attacked by a submarine. See more »
The First Noel
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The girl in the flat
Carol Reed's "The Key" is a forgotten film, or so it seems. It was a rare occasion when it showed up the other night on TCM. This film presents a different side of WWII that many of us are not aware of. We are given an account of England's way of rescuing ships that have been attacked at sea and the courageous men that commanded those small vessels to bring the damaged ones to safe haven. The film is based on a novel by the Dutch writer Jan de Hartog, with a screen play by Carl Foreman. The film was photographed in white and white by Oswald Morris and has an interesting music score by Malcom Arnold.
The film capitalizes on the rescue operations, which are reproduced in vivid detail by Mr. Reed and his crew. The ocean settings have a poetic look, at times. The story is set before America's entry into the war and we are introduced to David Ross, who is assigned to the rescuing team. Ross happens to know one of the captains in the operation, Chris Ford, who in turn, takes an interest in him and hands him a duplicate of the key to his flat. Little does Ross knows what awaits him there.
Trevor Howard is excellent as Capt. Ford. This actor showed an inner integrity no matter what role he played. Sophia Loren is Stella, the mysterious girl who lives in the flat and seems to bring out emotions from all the men that share the apartment. At the same time, she seems to be a jinx to all the men that she comes in contact with. Ms. Loren gives a subtle performance. William Holden, is also effective as Capt. Ross. Bernard Lee, Oskar Homolka and Kieron Moore do excellent work under Mr. Reed's direction.
"The Key" is an interesting look at the way the war was fought at sea and Mr. Reed makes a compelling account of those days.
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