Now here is an interesting contrast of films. Two films based on popular Alistair MacLean novels, made within two years of each other, both starring upcoming actors in the lead roles with some well known supporting casts, and both helmed by lesser known directors. The difference comes therefore in the writing – Fear is the Key was scripted by Robert Carrington, while Eight Bells Toll is adapted for the screen by MacLean himself. Both films follow a similar pattern with the adaption, basing the script strongly on the book with some trimming for time, however MacLean shows infinitely more talent in doing this than Carrington, who leaves Fear is the Key with a mess of storylines, that is almost incomprehensible, and completely loses the Nihlistic tones of the book. Fortunately the film is saved by one of the best car chase sequences in cinema.
I have to admit to surprise over this result, many other writers have trouble cutting their works for the screen, getting rather too attached to the storylines. Hammer’s Quatermass and the Pit (1967) is a perfect example, with Nigel Kneale attempting to cram his 3 hour teleplay into a 90 minute film, leaving it overly rushed and chaotic.
Both of these films have been released with little flair but good looking prints in R2 land, and are now fully reviewed:
Eight Bells Toll (1971)
Fear is the Key (1972)