DOC’S JOURNEY INTO HAMMER FILMS #16: HEATWAVE [1954]

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Directed by: ,
Written by:
Starring: , ,

Hammer-films

 

UK

AKA THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE

AVAILABLE ON R1 DVD

RUNNING TIME: 68 min

REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic

 

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American pulp novelist Mark Kendrick takes a cottage in the Somerset countryside to work on his new book, but fails to make much progress. One night he gets a call from across the water, a large house which is constantly holding lavish parties, requesting if he can ferry some guests to the house as their boat is out of action. Mark obliges and encounters the owner Beverley Forrest, who has a weak heart, his daughter Andrea by his first marriage, and his second wife Carol, who constantly cheats on him and makes little attempt to hide it. Despite having supposedly intended to get away from “slow gin and fast women”, Mark is more and more drawn to Carol….

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Heatwave, though adapted by screenwriter Ken Hughes, who also directs, from his own novel, is very much along the tried and tested Double Indemnity/ The Postman Rings Twice lines [which had already inspired Hammer’s Bad Blonde], though it manages to wring the occasional variation on the familiar formula. It opens in great film noir fashion as our anti-hero tells his story to an unseen other person in a bar. We already find out from his words that he’s involved in a situation where a woman he knows has killed somebody, and as even viewers at the time could have predicted much of the plot, it hardly matters and is even a good move. For much of the time, we watch this poor sap get more and more drawn into an affair he knows he shouldn’t have. He knows that Andrea is a trashy, money-grabbing slut, and even becomes good friends with her husband Beverley, but eventually can’t help himself. Interestingly, he’s not the one who actually kills Beverley, but still gets up to his neck in crap. There’s some decent suspense with the usual suspicious cop, and you really want Mark, who isn’t at all a bad sort, to break free – though you also feel like screaming at him to take up with Andrea, as she’s far more suitable for him.

Unfortunately, Heatwave concludes itself in disappointingly genteel fashion and seems to end with a few scenes still to go, while, despite the good performances of Hilary Brooke [memorable in some of the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes pictures and older than the usual femme fatale], and Alex Nicol [though his narration doesn’t have enough strength about it to work as well as it should], it’s hard to see what Mark sees in Carol who really has no redeeming qualities, even her sexuality not so much smouldering as being ice cold. Sid James shows what a strong dramatic actor he could be with his performance as the pitiful husband and he has some especially well written moments. With a score by Ivor Slane that sometimes quotes Debussy’s Le Mer and a sultry main theme for Carol, Heatwave, despite its derivativeness, is pretty good fun until about three quarters of the way through, and that’s just about enough.

Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

Dr Lenera
About Dr Lenera 2665 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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