Fear is the Key (1972)

UK / 100 minutes / color / Kastner–Ladd–Kanter, Anglo–EMI, KLK Dir: Michael Tuchner Pr: Alan Ladd Jr., Jay Kanter Scr: Robert Carrington Story: Fear is the Key (1961) by Alistair MacLean Cine: Alex Thomson Cast: Barry Newman, Suzy Kendall, John Vernon, Dolph Sweet, Ben Kingsley, Ray McAnally, Peter Marinker, Elliott Sullivan.

Many of the adaptations of MacLean’s popular novels were epic blockbusters with major stars among the cast: The Guns of Navarone (1961) dir J. Lee Thompson, with Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Stanley Baker and Anthony Quayle, for example, or Ice Station Zebra (1968) dir John Sturges, with Rock Hudson, Patrick McGoohan, Ernest Borgnine and Jim Brown. At the opposite end of the scale lies this quite palpably lower-budget outing: although released as an A-movie it has B-movie written all over it. It can also, with its themes of revenge and godgaming and its convoluted plot, and despite having plenty of sequences of MacLeanesque high adventure and some quite Bondish moments, be considered as lying within the noir genre, and indeed as one of the precursors, alongside such near-contemporaries as KLUTE (1971), of the modern neonoir subgenre.

Fear is the Key - Barry Newman, with a young Ben Kingsley behind as the psycho Royale

Barry Newman as our avenging hero, Talbot. That youthful figure behind him is Ben Kingsley, here playing a psycho, Royale.

Three years ago, in a remote radio outpost, airline owner John Montague Talbot (Newman) was speaking with his wife when the plane in which she, his brother and his son were traveling was shot down by a bogus USAF fighter jet; aboard the downed plane was a fortune in gold and gems being brought out of Honduras.

Now Talbot seems to be a bum drifting through Louisiana. In a remote gas station/bar he picks a Continue reading

Fat Man, The (1951)

US / 77 minutes / bw / Universal International Dir: William Castle Pr: Aubrey Schenck Scr: Harry Essex, Leonard Lee Story: Leonard Lee Cine: Irving Glassberg Cast: J. Scott Smart, Julie London, Rock Hudson, Clinton Sundberg, Jayne Meadows, John Russell, Jerome Cowan, Emmett Kelly, Lucille Barkley, Robert Osterloh, Harry Lewis, Teddy Hart, Robert Roark, Ken Niles.

California dentist Dr. Henry Bromley (Niles), visiting NYC for a conference, is hurled from a high window of his hotel; the only thing missing from his room is a set of dental X-rays. His assistant Jane Adams (Meadows) discovers the body, the theft and a note in the dead man’s diary that he has made an appointment to see PI Brad Runyan (Smart). Accordingly, she goes to see Runyan herself.

Fat Man - Jayne Meadows as dental assistant Jane Adams

Jayne Meadows as dental assistant Jane Adams.

He’s initially uninterested but, when she feels she’s being tailed and is frightened someone might try to knock her off in NYC, at least tells his fey assistant Bill Norton (Sundberg) to escort her to the airport. Bill is sapped by an unknown assailant, which persuades Runyan—an obsessive gourmet who well merits his nickname of The Fat Man—that there may be something in Jane’s fears after all. Runyan and Bill go with her to California.

Fat Man - J. Scott Smart in the eponymous role

J. Scott Smart in the eponymous role.

There they discover that the duplicate of the set of dental X-rays purloined in NYC has Continue reading