Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The Key

Following an earlier post that was in part about the author Jan de Hartog, I was very pleased to learn from Harrie Verstappen that The Key has been released on DVD.

Directed by Carol Reed, The Key is an adaptation of Jan de Hartog's novel Stella. It’s about tugboat crews doing search and rescue work in the Atlantic during World War II.

Like his novel The Captain, which came up in the earlier post, the story is about war, about the difficulties and responsibilities of leadership, about the comforts of humanity, a little bit about religion, but mostly about the terror of death.

While the film has one or two flaws, it succeeds very well in evoking Jan de Hartog’s dark themes and powerful writing. 

The cast is headed by William Holden, Sophia Loren and Trevor Howard.

Trevor Howard is particularly good as one of the tugboat captains.

The film was previously only available in pan and scan versions on laserdisc and VHS, and only in the American release version, which had a different ending to the European original.

Now at last I’ve seen it properly, in widescreen with the original finale, and I do recommend it. One glitch, however: the DVD is encoded in 2.35:1 ratio, which looks all wrong. I reset my player to show it in 16:9 ratio, which seems correct as you can see in these screenshots.

The Region 2 DVD is available from Amazon.

Here is the film’s IMDB page.

There are some more details and images on the Sophia Loren Archives site.

For Jan de Hartog, this account of his life is a compelling read.

Don't forget Harrie Verstappen’s comprehensive Jan de Hartog page.

All my Jan de Hartog posts are here, and my contribution to Normblog’s Writer’s Choice series on Jan de Hartog and others is here.

Images copyright © Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

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