Monday, April 15, 2013

Heat Wave (1954)

Director: Ken Hughes

Starring: Alex Nicol, Hillary Brooke, Sid James, Susan Stephan, Paul Carpenter, Alan Wheatley, Peter Illing, Gordon McLeod, Joan Hickson, John Sharp, Hugh Dempster, Monti DeLyle

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Her blood runs HOT...but her heart is COLD!

Plot: An American writer living in England gets entangled in a scheme by a beautiful blonde to murder her rich husband.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Maybe.

The original title, THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE, is far more appropriate than HEAT WAVE as the latter doesn't make a lick of sense after you watch the movie, unless maybe it's describing what's going on in Mark's pants.  There is a house across the lake, though.  This is the second feature on a disc which is part of a Hammer noir set and it shares a common failing with the other picture, THE LADY AND THE GAMBLER (1952), the American lead actor's skills (or performance) aren't up to the standard of the entire British cast that surrounds him.  Alex Nicol (as Mark Kendrick, the love-struck sap), looking like Russell "The Professor from GILLIGAN'S ISLAND" Johnson plays his role with too much confidence and aloofness and it doesn't work well.  It's especially out of place when looking at the heaviness of the themes - adultery, loneliness and murder.

Sid James (as Beverly Forrest, the rich husband whose loose wife plots to kill him) comes off best.  He's fantastic and is worth watching this picture all on his own but there's more to like.  Hillary Brooke (as Bev's wife, Carol) is great as the bad-news-bitch.  It's a tried and true story about a lowly sort who falls for the wrong dame, one who's married to a rich man waiting for someone to come along that's just dumb enough and capable enough to bump off her husband.  I could watch variations on that theme forever and a day.  There's an awful lot you can do with that scenario.  Hammer produced a good one here despite the lackadaisical performance of Nicol.  It's not that he's turning in a poor performance but rather one that's not quite right for the picture.  Very good downbeat ending, by the way.  So far, both of these pictures from the Hammer set are pretty decent and at just over an hour long each, you're not going to invest too much time to find out for yourself.

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