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Fear Is the Key (1972)

A man is in radio contact with his family when their airplane is shot down. He wants those responsible and becomes a criminal to get a job as deep sea diver with those salvaging the plane's cargo.


Michael Tuchner


Alistair MacLean (novel), Robert Carrington (screenplay)




Complete credited cast:
Barry Newman ... John Talbot
Suzy Kendall ... Sarah Ruthven
John Vernon ... Vyland
Dolph Sweet ... Jablonski
Ben Kingsley ... Royale
Ray McAnally ... Ruthven
Peter Marinker ... Larry
Elliott Sullivan Elliott Sullivan ... Judge Mollison
Roland Brand Roland Brand ... Deputy
Tony Anholt ... FBI Man


Following the death of his family in an airplane crash, a man plots an elaborate revenge scheme on those responsible. By setting himself up as a criminal, he plans to get close to a certain tycoon who has been approached by the culprits to help them retrieve the cargo of the lost plane. Written by Jonathon Dabell <J.D.@pixie.ntu.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


In the right hands, fear is the deadliest weapon of all.


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


EMI poster artwork had Barry Newman's clothing half-off revealing a muscular torso. See more »


Lights on the car which were broken when the car arrives on the beach during the chase are fixed when the car leaves the beach. See more »


John Talbot: How did you recognize me?
Jablonski: I didn't. You picked a face that's well known in these parts. This is Miss Sarah Ruthven, daughter of Alexander Ruthven, spelled O I L. All those oil rigs out in the Gulf? They belong to Daddy.
See more »


Bayou Blues
Written by Roy Budd
Produced by Jack Fishman
Performed by Roy Budd And His Orchestra
See more »

User Reviews

Unpredictable to the very end.
8 October 1999 | by WOZ inOZSee all my reviews

Fine actioner based on Alistair MacLane's novel holds a few surprises for those lucky enough to catch this underrated gem. An unorthodox and at times bitty script is held together by an amiable cast including a young Ben Kingsley (debuting with a full head of hair) surprisingly in his only film before his Oscar winning performance of 'Ghandi' ten years later.

The screenplay is a crafty one, with Barry Newman ploughing through the first half of the film seemingly out of control and playing a role hauntingly similar to his one in 'Vanishing Point' keeping the viewer guessing what's going to happen next and why. After a slightly boggy, espionage filled middle act the film coolly builds to a dramatic nail-biting finale and it is only here in the film's dying moments do you actually discover the truth. Though the ending may not quite reach some viewers expectations, it does wrap things up succinctly, making the thrills on the way (including a fine car chase that bursts from a courthouse breakout) all the more worthwhile.

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Release Date:

26 December 1972 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

O Medo é a Chave See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

KLK, Anglo-EMI See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

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